Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Interview Series - Kelsey Stewart

I've met so many interesting, challenging, and truly wonderful people through adoption that I've decided to run a Summer Interview Series. Each week I'll post an interview with someone touched by adoption. I hope that you will enjoy learning about them as much as I have. Let me know if you would like to participate or would like to suggest someone else for me to interview.

Welcome to interview #1 -

1. What is your name/title as you would like it to appear on my blog?

Kelsey Stewart, Author

2. How old are your children, both those that you placed for adoption and those you're raising?

My daughter is in her twenties and my twins are soon to be in their twenties. I do like to keep their ages a mystery because I am more public than they are. My two sons that I am raising with my husband are ten and seven.

3. What is your relationship today with the children you placed?

I have known my daughter since she was born. Her parents are two very understanding and compassionate people who agreed with me that she should have access to her roots should she need or want to explore it. I saw her throughout her life and we do talk, or I should say type, often. We say I love you, we chat intensely sometimes, and sometimes we just talk sports.

I stayed in touch with my twins parents their entire life and just last summer they contacted me through the Internet. We have been spending the time since then getting to know each other through writings but we have not had an in person reunion so to speak. They have been very kind and it is still very new, but I do love their understanding and amazing sense of humor! It seems, 20 some odd years later, that they have all grown up healthy and happy kids.

4. What was at the root of your decision to place? Who or what influenced your decision and in what ways?

I influenced myself. My life was at that root of my decision to place. I was a child of divorce in a time when divorces were not the norm. I grew up thinking that it was the Army that was keeping my father away from us, not the fact that he had another family somewhere else. I had many, many abandonment issues as an adolescent. I worked through them eventually, but at the time I was dealing with quite the confusion and sadness of not knowing my life story in it's entirety until it was far too late not to be affected by it!

When you grow up without a father because of divorce, it has some very different demons that will cause you to think twice about becoming a parent alone. Did I really want to put my child through that pain? That loneliness? Did I want them wondering what the hell they did wrong to make him leave complex?

Oh I know, some out there may say ... "Well Kelsey, isn't that what you did? Did you not abandon your OWN children when they were born?" Good point. And I would have to answer yes. With a but. You see, my mother did not choose for my father to become disenchanted with family life. My mother did not choose to walk life alone, scared, strong sometimes and defeated other times. She did not choose for me to have such issues with being the victim of his disloyalty to me, his disrespect to her. She did not choose those things. And although it was extremely difficult for her, she always came through optimistic that there was something out there that was worth it.

I lived with it, and did not want it for my children. I am strong and speak well for myself so I was able to fight and get what I thought was an open adoption that would work for all parties involved. I made sure that my parents knew that I WOULD NOT be able to do it if they did not let me know just how they were. I did not want constant contact, (remember this was over 20 years ago when open adoption was not very acceptable) I just wanted to see pictures and hear about them twice a year. I knew that I could not not see them, could not forget them, and needed to just keep in touch, if for nothing else to let them know that I cared and thought about them.

I knew that I needed to place them for adoption because I could not do it alone, and I was not in a very good place mentally at the time. I was still dealing with many, MANY issue with my own life and head to be able to raise another person. I know when to ask for help and I am not afraid or ashamed to do so.

5. How did your family and friends react to your decision?

I could not have been more supported or loved. It was all around me. Everyone I knew, who knew me and what I had been through in my short life (I was 19 when blessed with my daughter), and they all thought it was very brave of me to know what I wanted, and what was best for the child at that time. From my biggest supporter, my mother, to the friends I had, to all the cousins who still to this day tell me how proud they are of me for what I was able to do, then live with, and eventually talk proudly about....well to say that I was fortunate would be an understatement! I am one incredibly luck gal to have such love, such comfort around me, both now and definitely then.

6. Was the birth father involved in the decision? In what way?
Well, my daughter's father signed the papers and pretty much let me handle everything. We broke up not long after learning I was pregnant, reasons I will not share because I do not like to speak for others and this is very private information for my daughter. He relinquished his rights and that told me he was acknowledging her and trusting me that this was best.

I married the twins father years later, so to say that he is involved would be a true statement. He loves raising his kids now, and did think and miss the twins all their life. He is just more reserved about being so open about it, it's just his style. I am not saying that he is ashamed of it or anything like that, he just thinks it is none of your business because it is his life. Again, I do not like to speak for others and I respect him more than any other human on this Earth.

7. How have your thoughts and feelings about adoption changed over time (both with respect to your personal experience and adoption in general.)
Thoughts on adoption have been varied. Personally I am one proud woman for working through the deep heartache of loosing a child. I make no candy coated claims that adoption is always fantastic. I have spent all my years since my daughter came into the world walking everyday without her. Then, to do it again was probably more difficult because I knew what society would have to say about it, even worse, what some think about it.

This leads to the second part of the question the feelings of adoption. Mine have changed almost yearly, depending on what trend adoption is in at the time. Sometimes it is looked upon as a good thing, caring and accepted leading me to feel pretty good about it. Sometimes it is looked upon as the devil's work of money loving individuals who will coerce and lie in any way to make adoption happen leading me to such pain to think that some were forced to leave their children. The later just hurts my feeling because I am lumped into that group that is considered "brainwashed or just plain soulless" because I have a rather happy outlook on adoption. I really don't understand all the controversy that has irrupted in the last 10 years. Adoption truly is a cauldron of mixed opinions and voices that shows what an amazingly personal and heartfelt matter this is. Has it changed? Oh yes! It is now in an age were the whole world can read a plethora of information about all walks in the triad and sometimes, just too much information.

8. What are your thoughts about degrees of openness in adoption? How do you think different degrees of openness affect adopted children at different stages of development?

I am a big believer that a child should always know that they are adopted. Honesty is a quality everyone likes, so just because they are littler than us doesn't mean they would not appreciate the truth. Sometimes you have to allow the child to lead the way into knowing about their birth/natural parents. I believe that communication is THE key to open adoption.

If both sets of parents keep in contact and set rules that can be looked at frequently to determine what is needed in the child's life. I do think that a child can be overwhelmed by the whole thought of it, perhaps feel some kind of loyalty that they do not understand but do not dare question because they are the life givers. If the lines are open and the parents are on the same page it make it much easier to talk to the child and find out what the degrees are. But it definitely is changing all the time. I know that some birth/natural parents sometimes distance themselves which can make it difficult, but it is just another way to cope or heal for them...it's not to be read into too much. I remind you, I do not speak for all birth/natural parents, I only speak from my own experiences.

9. What are some challenges you have faced in your relationship with the children you placed and with those you're raising? (related to adoption or not)
Regarding adoption, the biggest challenge with my adopted children is the awkwardness of getting to know you. It is very stressful because you do not want to scare off, but you do not want to ignore the tough questions. Or just starting a conversation, that is also sometimes very difficult for me...I think too much.
Adoption and the children I am raising is talked about from time to time, but it is not always a subject. They ask questions about their siblings and I have always been straight forward with them. They both love the idea that there are siblings out there that want to meet them. They have a very good idea of what adoption is in my life, and they embrace that I have a big heart.

Other challenges not regarding adoption?
Why there is always laundry, everyday! Keeping schedules, hurt feelings (those little faces try so hard to keep it together but when the tears come I just melt, then I am no good!), teaching perseverance, teaching how to clean up afterwards, how to keep my cool when I have already asked more than twice, and making sure they always know that I have their back...not matter what.

10. If you had it to do over again would you do anything differently?
I believe that if you live in the past you will always find something that did you wrong, but if you look ahead you can change those wrongs with what you have learned.

11. What would you like people to know about being a birth parent?

It is not an easy life to lead. It changes all the time. I just wrote the other day about how life moves on and sometimes you can be going along just fine, but then one thing...one thing will turn your world upside down because of adoption. I am not complaining about it, I am just saying that it is something that never goes away. I am proud of what my children's lives have turned into and I am fortunate enough to have the luxury of knowing them. I have always, always carried them with me, every step of the way. My children were wanted, they were loved and I did what I thought was the best that I could do for them at the time, and I am here to say that they are pretty terrific people!

12. Are there any resources you recommend for birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees?

Tapestry Books is a fantastic resource for all things in adoption literature. I like to recommend the Internet, but I do not know your tastes. There are just so many out there, search around for a voice you can believe in and that keeps you thinking outside the box.

13. You say that "Adoption is God's love given twice." That's a very positive perspective. What is your response to people who have had horrible adoption experiences, either as birth parents, adoptees, or adoptive parents?
I speak from my experience only. I always say that, and I mean it. Sure, I am a little on the sweet side of the birth/natural mothers, but again I believe that it is what you do with your life that makes your character. I write to inspire those who need a voice they can believe in. I write to help birth/natural mothers feel not so alone in their journey, to remind them that no matter their story they are strong women. I write to help adoptive parents think differently about their birth/natural parents. I write to help adoptees who might be wondering if they were ever thought of so that I can say YES!, almost always YES! Sometimes just listening is what I do best.

The road is not always easy, and may not be the road you were expecting. But you have to have hope along with faith that you will make it through and perhaps you will find your peace.

14. Anything else you want to say?
I thank you so much for inviting me to do this! You have asked some very thought provoking questions, so much so I have been making notes as I answer because some of the things I want to touch on more in depth, so thanks for that as well. I feel very blessed and useful knowing that there are people out there who take an interest in what I say. If I can help just one person feel comfort, or feel validated, or feel differently about something I made them think about...well I consider myself very, very lucky.

Thank you, Kelsey!

Click here to purchase Sally's , What I Want My Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for interviewing Kelsey. The parents I work with and talk to are deeply moved by the message of The Best for You.

MrsPerrbear said...

You could not have picked a better person to interview than Kelsey, and for that I thank you. She is such an amazing woman, and there are many of us who admire, respect, and love her. Her book is one of the most beautiful things I have ever laid my hands on! Her wonderful perspective on life, love, and motherhood is an absolute inspiration to so many. THANK YOU AGAIN for bringing her here so that those who do not know of her can. Her heartfelt message and her care and concern of other birthmothers (or Bravehearts as she calls them) is something everyone could use a little of in their lives. :)

Adoptive Momma said...

I am a big fan of Kelsey's. Great interview!

Von said...

Happy to help if you are interested in an Australian perspective.

LeMira said...

I love Kelsey, too! This was a great interview to read.