Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: Small Moments

As part of , Heather at Production Not Reproduction asks open adoption bloggers to describe “a small moment that open adoption made possible.”

We were at the hospital when our son was born, and ever since, I've been secretly hung up on his birth mother's reaction to him. She seemed... casual... almost indifferent. I spoke with her privately and let her know that if she had changed her mind or had ANY doubts about proceeding with the adoption, then maybe this wasn't our child, and we would understand. She assured me that she had no doubts.

And yet, she only went to the nursery (reluctantly) at her mother's urging, and she never once asked to hold him or feed him. I wondered if she was trying not to get attached. I wondered if she felt good about her decision to place him but regretted choosing my husband and me. I wondered if she was on serious pain medication. I wondered if she had mental health issues. I wondered how anyone could resist his tiny, soft, warm innocence and his sweet little head.

I think of her every day for many reasons. As the weeks passed my gratitude deepened, but still, I wondered, and in the weeks leading up to our reunion I was outright anxious and apprehensive.

Happy ending ahead... as soon as she saw him she broke into a grin and reached for him. I got to spend the entire afternoon watching her coo and rub noses with him, make silly faces and giggle about his wispy hair. And best of all, she smiled every time someone said he looks like her. A really big, proud, happy smile.

I didn't realize how much I needed to see that. She gave me so much, but I guess I wanted that too. I needed to see her with him as much as she needed to see him with me. Thanks to openness, we both got what we were looking for.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
My Google Profile+

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reunion With Birth Mom - FAQ For Family And Friends

Very soon we're reuniting with our son's birth mother ("J") and her parents. Rather than continuing to have nearly the same conversation with various and sundry family and friends (eight times and counting), I've decided to post this FAQ for easy reference by all interested parties.

Q: Why are you going to meet with them?
A: Because we told them we would. We discussed it before "J" left the hospital; it's important to her, and therefore, important to us.

Q: What does she want from you? She must want something...?
A: She wants respect. A warm hello. Probably a burp cloth when she holds him.

Q: Aren't you afraid?
A: Most definitely. I'm afraid of what college will cost when our kids finish high school. I'm afraid of finding a lump. I'm afraid of reaching under the house to clear out some leaves and feeling a snake wrap around my fingers. I'm afraid of being home alone when there are Dove bars in the freezer. That's what I'm afraid of.

Q: Why does she want to see him?
A: Uhhh... well, I've never carried another human being in my body, but from what I understand, there's a bit of a connection that develops between mother and child. Don't you look forward to seeing people you were once close with?

Q: Is it legal for her to want to see him?
A: As far as I know U.S. citizens are entitled to want whatever they please. The law generally applies to actions, not emotions.

Q: Won't it be painful for her to have to say goodbye to him again?
A: I'm not her, so I don't know. I'm sure it was no picnic to carry a child for nine months knowing she wasn't going to raise him. She was able to make the decisions for adoption, so I'm sure she can make this one.

Q: So, you don't think she'll want him back?
A: I can't know for certain what anyone else wants, but a few minutes after he was born she told me she wants him to have a stable home with a loving mother, father, and big sister; she wants him to have a better life than what she can give him; she wants him to be safe, happy, and important; and she wants him to always know why she chose adoption for him - because she loves him. He's our son, by love, law, and destiny. She made that happen.

We really enjoyed the time we spent in the hospital with "J" and her parents, and I'm looking forward to our reunion. Baby Boy has come to look so much like "J" and her father... I can't wait for them to see him!

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
My Google Profile+

Thursday, July 9, 2009

WSJ Article "Targeting Feel-Good Benefits" Doesn't Feel Good

I like most of the writing I read in the Wall Street Journal, so I was surprised to find parts of a July 9, 2009 article "Targeting ‘Feel-Good’ Benefits" at really insensitive. It may be a lack of understanding or poor choice of language on the author's part, but it's an example of how easy it is to play into negative stereotypes about adoption, and I think anyone who writes or edits on the topic should be more careful.

The article points out a cost-cutting trend among employers to reduce or eliminate post-adoption benefits for employees. In the section subheaded Domestic Adoptions, the author writes: Such private-placement adoptions, which typically cost $10,000 to $30,000, may be on the rise, based on anecdotal reports, Mr. Johnson says, as financial troubles may be causing some women to offer for adoption children they might have raised in the past.

First of all, I think it's too easy to read that as "Women who place their babies for adoption make $10,000 to $30,000 on the deal." Not so. Birthmothers may receive financial assistance for basic necessities related to their pregnancy and adoption, like medical care, housing, transportation, and counseling services. They do not receive a fee for the adoption!

Secondly, women don't "offer" their children for adoption. Women, with and without "financial troubles", deliberate and question and hope and pray... and finally they take a leap of faith. They decide to make an adoption plan, in many cases they choose the adoptive parent or parents, and often maintain some contact with the children they created. To say that they "offer" children for adoption makes it sound like they post a notice on Craig'slist and unload the kid to the first person who comes forward with the cash.

The decision to make an adoption plan is sometimes obvious, but it's never easy. This section of the article perpetuates toxic misunderstanding of birth mothers and adopted children, and I'm disappointed in the WSJ for printing it as such.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
My Google Profile+

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blogging About Adoption: Adopter's Guilt

I'm ready to admit that I struggle with blogging about adoption, and the struggle surprises me. I have no mixed feelings to get in my way... no ongoing grief or frustration to impede me. In fact, I have been twice-blessed with adoptions that exceeded even my wildest hopes. Twice-blessed with healthy newborns adopted domestically after meeting their birth mothers, who are two of the most fabulous young women on the planet, and an adoption attorney who is compassionate, wise, and professionally impeccable. No drama. No trauma. No hardship worth counting, other than financial, and that burden is universal among adoptive parents.

So, what's my problem? I've thought about it a lot, and I finally realize my "problem" is exactly that I have been twice-blessed with adoptions that exceeded even my wildest hopes. I call it Adopter's Guilt.

My "problem" is that when I go on the website of the adoption agency we used, I see faces and faces and faces of people waiting to adopt, eager to adopt, some desperate to adopt. Some of these faces I know personally, others I know from reading their profiles online. Though their smiling pictures beam, "Notice me! Pick us! We'd be great parents!", I know that as day after day slips away Doubt plods in with a heavy step and whispers, "Why has no one noticed you? Why has no one picked you? Perhaps you're not meant to be parents after all. Ever."

My "problem" is that adoption has brought people into my life. People like Michelle, who of everyone I know is among the most full of love and life and promise, yet she waits and waits and waits, with growing despair. People like Charlene, who waited 7 years for an adoption match and has suffered - since the day she brought her daughter home - with debilitating depression and self-doubt. People like Dara and Jeff, whose post-adoption experience has been a devastating legal nightmare. People like the birth mothers who write to me about feeling remorseful or inadequate or shut out.

My "problem" is that adoption means gain for some and loss for others. There are winners and losers, chosen and unchosen, the triumphant and the defeated. Some of us are made whole by adoption and others are broken apart by it.

My struggle to blog about adoption is really a struggle to reconcile the irreconcilable. Why me? I have no idea. Why not you? I have no idea.

I can't change anyone else's timeline any more than I could have changed my own. I do believe that everything happens in the right way at the right time (whatever that means), and that we almost never understand that until we're looking back.

I'm supremely grateful to be one of those looking back. I trust that you will be too.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
My Google Profile+