I assumed I would enjoy the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project, and I have. I didn't expect to sow a new friendship, but I've done that too. It's been my great pleasure to interview Desiree of The Mommy Journals. Desiree is an adoptive mom to one daughter, "Sassy", age two. She describes her open adoption this way: "We're in an open adoption in that we have direct contact, know last names/addresses/phone #s/etc., schedule our own visits without the involvement of the agency, and email/text semi-regularly, etc."
Although we've never met in person, I think I'd be able to pick Desiree out of a crowd. She has a warmth and honesty and lightness I think my heart would recognize. Besides, she's so artsy-crafty that I bet she'd make adorable matching name tags for herself and her daughter :)
Enough about what I think of Desiree. You can meet her yourself right here:
Q. Where and why do you blog?
A. I write at The Mommy Journals, though I've had two previous adoption-related blogs. I wanted somewhere I could write about adoption along side of my "normal" daily life as a mom... so you'll find infertility, adoption, and ethics posts intertwined with posts about poop and picking raisins out of my daughter's nose. :) I also recently started Too Busy for TV, which is used to chronicle little crafts and other activities I do with my daughter, and hopefully inspire others with some new ideas!
Q. What advice would you give prospective adoptive parents about how to prepare themselves for adoption?
A. The best thing I did in preparing myself for the non-advertised side of adoption was to listen to the others' stories, especially the ugly ones. The ones that don't necessarily paint a rosy picture of adoption, but that tell it like it really is. That it is HARD. That it is SAD. And not just from the perspective of "waiting gets hard," but that the actual placement was much more difficult than what I'd expected it to be.
I think the most important thing is to just keep an open mind and know that it's okay if you come out on the other side a completely changed person from before. There were plenty of thoughts and ideals that I held at the beginning of our process, and as it turned out, I discovered I was wrong about a lot of things.:) I'm a totally different adoptive parent than I would have predicted at the beginning of the process. I hope I never lose that sense of wanting to learn and grow more, to be stretched in my thinking. Being on the post-placement side doesn't mean you cease to learn new things.
Q. Has anything about adoption surprised you or turned out differently than you expected?
A. There have been lots of things I wasn't prepared for until it happened... and still was left feeling inadequate. The one glaring example I keep coming back to is placement day. I'd read the books, heard the stories, met friends who'd been through it (on both sides), but I don't think anything could have fully prepared me for the sheer weight of emotion I felt that day and immediately after. I didn't expect to feel so alone and hopeless in the beginning. I didn't expect to cry for weeks on end. I didn't expect to be kept awake at night, worried about my daughter's other mother. I didn't expect to so deeply crave contact, in any form, from her.
In the fog surrounding the aftermath of Sassy's placement, I couldn't see ahead to a time when life would be normal again. How could it ever be? It was much like losing a beloved family member, in that it's the darkest imaginable possibility, unfolding before your eyes. I'm not ashamed to say that, among other things, I believe post-adoption depression came into play. I loved my tiny new daughter... but I wasn't in love with her yet. The healing process, and subsequently, the bonding experience took time. There was some outside pressure that tried to force it, but attachment had to happen on its own. Somewhere in my heart, I knew I would get there eventually. My husband was such a huge encourager to me through this. He knew the kind of mother I would be, even if I didn't yet.
Twenty-seven months later, Sassy and I couldn't be any more bonded than we are. She's glued to my hip from sun-up to sun-down (and sometimes after!), and I'm more amazed by her each day. The beginning was rough, but neither of us are worse for the wear.
Q. How did you come to choose open adoption over closed or international?
A. My husband and I chose domestic adoption over international fairly easily. We just couldn't quite swing the expense and travel requirements that generally accompanies international adoptions. We also didn't meet some criteria from a number of countries (for example, age), so this part was a no-brainer. I have a very clear memory from the initial days of reading and researching adoption, and saying to my husband "I can't see ever choosing open adoption. That's when you're basically co-parenting." Needless to say, I've come a long way in a few years! :)
When we actually learned what different levels of openness can entail, a lot of myths were dispelled for us. At the recommendation of the agency we used, we started out pursuing a "semi-open" adoption... and this is technically what Sassy's adoption is on paper. In practice, we run the gamut, from zero contact for months on end, to emailing, texting, visiting, and even chatting on the phone for an hour on a random evening (as happened recently).
The turning point, I think, came with the recognition that this was a woman who was entrusting us with her flesh and blood... and we couldn't entrust her with our last name and phone number? I do understand there are some circumstances that open is not the "best" option, but for Sassy's adoption, it has been. I can't thank God enough for allowing FirstMom to be a part of our family's life. I know the day will inevitably come when my child has questions that I cannot answer, but the door of communication will be open, and she'll have the opportunity for her own choices. What an empowering gift we can give our precious girl!
Q. What is your relationship with Sassy's birth father?
A. In a word? Complicated. BioDad was not involved in FirstMom's pregnancy beyond conception. He was not at the hospital when she was born. His name is not even on her original birth certificate, and it was FirstMom's last name she took upon birth. There have been many hurtful exchanges between them, and we've been caught more than once in the game of "He Said, She Said." It's hard not to automatically side with the person you know and love, but as Sassy's parents, we feel it's so vitally important to remain as neutral as possible. What has been done (or not done) cannot be changed, and nothing erases the fact that he is half of my child's heritage.
We didn't have a picture or even a name for months after Sassy was born. One day out of the blue, FirstMom decided to entrust us this information to us. I was so excited to have just one picture of him to save for my daughter. She would be able to see their matching deep blue eyes someday, even if he was never a part of her life. The months continued to pass. When Sassy was not quite one, we very suddenly found ourselves in the scariest adoption-related experience we've had to date. It became apparent that security was going to be an issue where BioDad was concerned. We knew the adoption was final, and we knew we had done nothing wrong or unethical... but it was still alarming. We had enough cause for concern that we put some distance between our family and BioDad, and eventually the issues blew over.
More than a year later, while visiting FirstMom, we had another unexpected turn of events. BioDad stopped by to meet his daughter (and her parents) for the first time. Sassy was nearly two years old by this point. I couldn't help but think of how much he'd missed out on already. We were a bundle of nerves, but at least I could say that I didn't have time to be worried in advance. All of a sudden, he was just there... so we had to go with it! The brief visit was cordial. There were a lot of nervous smiles and laughs from everyone, all of us staring at the same awkward elephant in the room. He was kind and respectful. He showed interest for the first time in moving forward together. He rattled off a few pieces of information he wanted us to know. I could kick myself now for not grabbing a pencil and paper and doing a full-on interview, but I believed that he would follow through in taking the next steps toward contact. He hasn't. He called to wish Sassy a happy birthday the following week, and hasn't been heard from since. All we can do is hope and pray that he eventually does reach out, in an appropriate manner. I wish I could give my daughter that gift, but it's solely in his hands.
Q. What about adoption is challenging to you?
A. Balance. Balance in everything. Positive vs. negative aspects of adoption. Realistic expectations vs. hopes and dreams for the future. Super open vs. hiding away for a while. Honest and direct answers vs. shielding your child from pain. The joy having a child brings vs. the pain of taking someone else's away. Telling people she's adopted vs. keeping information private. Genuine care and concern for your child's biological family vs. doing what you need to do in order to be the kind of parent your child needs. Talking about adoption regularly vs. just being a "normal" family. It's all a delicate balancing act with the most important person to me in a precarious position.
Q. What are your favorite books to read with your daughter?
A. I love books. I've loved books all my life. There are so many great stories that I can't wait to share with my daughter... but right now, she's two. :) So... we're all about the "Little Critter" series lately. "Curious George" anything is most assuredly a favorite. Dr. Seuss books always out. "Imogene's Antlers," "A Book of Hugs," "Click, Clack, Moo," "Growing Vegetable Soup," and "The Wind Blew" are all books I've read to her in the last 24 hours. We do a lot of reading here. :)
Q. How do you "unplug" when life gets too crazy?
A. If I've had a particularly challenging day at home, I'll hop in the car in the evening and run down to Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks for a caramel iced coffee or white chocolate peppermint mocha. I love lounging around the house with my husband after Sassy goes to bed. We'll sit on the couch and watch a funny show (The Office is my favorite!), or lay in bed for a while before going to sleep... I read and my husband sits with his laptop. I've also been known to escape to a local craft store for an hour or so, and come home armed with supplies for a little DIY-stress relief. :) I've found these things are better than locking yourself in a closet in the fetal position. You tend to get some weird looks doing that.
Thank you, Desiree, for inviting me into your life. You've changed me by your presence, and I'm looking forward to growing our new friendshp.
Thanks, also, to Heather at Production not Reproduction for conceiving of this project and making it happen!
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