Processing adoption: Conversation with my son, part 2

In part one, I told how my still-and-deep-water son was churning some adoption stuff, and how he trusted me to do it with him. I am honored.

~~~~~

Reed and I were running errands the next day. Tessa stayed home with Daddy to build the first fire of the season. Brrrr….it had gotten chilly!

Bedtime and car time are conducive to touchy subject talk because of the non-confrontational positioning. In the car Reed and I were not face to face, and I knew it was a good time to try to get back into the emotional space we’d been in the night before.

“So remember last night? We were talking about the moment when you became our son. You seemed sad. Do you want to talk about that?”

“I dunno. It’s just that I was sad for Michele. No one wants to give away their baby.”

“That’s so right. It was very hard for Michele to do that. But what about you? What do you suppose that moment felt like for you?”

adoption heartNow some would be content to leave this stone unturned, that not everything has to be dealt with. But my view is that what lies dormant affects us unconsciously. And what is brought to the surface can be felt, examined, and released. My hope is that if my son can become aware of his emotions and motivations at age 8, maybe they won’t get buried over the decades and erupt for him massively later in life. I want to give my children a head start on living mindfully, consciously.

These lofty goals don’t mean, however, that he was ready to feel the emotions from the moment when he was placed in my arms, from his birth mother’s.

“I think I had a poopy diaper and I wanted it changed,” he laughed a jittery laugh.

“You’re silly,” I said and laughed with him, giving him space and not filling the silence that followed.

Soon he continued, “I probably wanted milk. I had gotten milk from my mom and now I wanted milk from my new mom.” We both sat with that. A few blocks passed in silence.

“You know,” I resumed, “that moment when I became your mom was such a strange time. Everyone in the room was feeling something very intensely. For Michele, it was one of the saddest and hardest days of her life. For Daddy and Tessa and me, it was one of the happiest. Isn’t that strange?”

“Yeah. I’m sad for Michele. No one wants to give away their baby.” He repeated this, trying on his first mom’s feelings.

“That’s so very true. Especially a baby as wonderful as you, Reed.”

“Mom, do her children ever ask about me?” Reed has a younger brother and sister who visited us last year.

“I would imagine they ask about you, or they will when they are old enough to understand.”

“But what if they don’t know about me? What if she doesn’t tell them?”

“I’m sure she’s not hiding you. After all, they’ve been to our house once and hopefully they’ll come again. I think she’s very proud of the young man you’re becoming. She keeps up with you on my Facebook page, you know.”

“Mom. Would you adopt another baby?”

“We don’t have plans to do that. Is that something you’d like?”

“Yeah,” he said, thinking. “I want to know what it felt like for Tessa when I joined the family. And what it’s going to feel like for Dominic [his cousin] when Aunt Tami’s baby is born.”

I suspect this is also because he has missed out on the big brother experience with Michele’s two parented children and AJ’s new baby daughter.

“I’m not sure that’s likely to happen. You’ll get to be the big cousin to Tami’s baby.”

“NOT cousin. I want to be the big brother to a baby.”

“I’m sorry, Reed.”

We had arrived at our destination.

Which was not an adoption agency.

~~~~~

Later that night I pulled down a small item from the very top of Reed’s bookshelf. It was a brilliant little present to me, to us, from myself of 2003.

Right before I had headed to the Entrustment Ceremony to meet and bring home our son, I had the flash of insight to bring a spiral notebook/journal I’d had lying around. I asked Michele after the ceremony to write a page or so to Reed, to tell her what was in her heart for him that day, what her hopes were for him.

I, too, put my thoughts down in that notebook frequently in those early days, and I recruited Roger, my parents, Grandma Lisa, and everyone who attended his first several birthday parties (we used to do it up big with all our friends — our once a year bash) to write words of love to my son. There are now a couple of dozen pages of people just loving on Reed over the years, until about 2006, when we moved and the book got put away.

At bedtime, Reed was able to read the time-capsule message from his birth mom. He slept with that notebook that night.

~~~~~

Soon I’ll add some reflective thought to these two conversations. You are invited to come back for the final part of this series.

24 thoughts on “Processing adoption: Conversation with my son, part 2”

  1. “I think I had a poopy diaper and I wanted it changed”…love that kid.

    There are so many emotions at play here:

    1. He still wonders why his first mum gave him away when she loved him so much.

    2. He still wonders if her family hold a place for him in their family.

    3. He wants to experience being a big brother, as a parallel to what Tessa got to feel. He wants to be in those shoes.

    And all of that exists with him equally loving you and Roger and Tessa. It is a mountainload of thought and emotion for a child to process and find some meaning from.

    I hope he will walk out of this emotional maze undented and happy.

  2. These conversations are so important to have. I too believe that it’s essential to talk things through so emotions don’t get buried and come out in explosions years later. You’re a wonderful mom, Lori!

  3. Oh Lori, these are such powerful posts. You are doing an amazing job with your conversations with Reed on his adoption. The notebook was an inspired idea, and I hope to read more about what he thought about it and what it contained.

  4. I remember listening attentively when my “intimidating” bio sister said after the death of our mother she had gone through her personal belongings. At the time, I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask her, “Was there anything amongst her stuff perhaps revealing she had not just two daughters, but me being the third one?” I needed to know not only my mother’s heart who gave birth to me, but the feelings and emotions my adoptive mother was experiencing when I was born. For me, it would have been so cathartic. I believe having thoughts written down in a notebook like you have done Lori could be such a valuable keepsake as well for those adoptees who don’t get to experience open adoption. ♥

  5. Your son is so truly blessed to have you and his birth mom in his life. He really is. And I have a feeling, from what you’ve written so far, that even at the tender age of 8 he knows this somehow. He seems like a very special little boy.

    Thank you for sharing all of this. It means a lot to me to read it and to understand what it’s like for a family created through open adoption. As someone who’s family was affected by closed adoption I love to hear of the positives that can come from a different arrangement. I wish my sister’s adoption had been open. Very much.

  6. What a great idea to have all those thoughts and feelings written down. I have my stuff written down, but I never thought to have anyone else write things. Also, I think it’s a great idea to get the kids to work through these ideas throughout their whole lives rather than just “when they’re ready.”

    Reed seems to be taking things in stride – and it seems like he has a good sense of humor. That will ease his way through life – laughing at yourself makes you more capable of laughing other things off instead of taking them to heart.

  7. So awesome Lori, just awesome.

    If the birthmom we’re matched with is alright with this, I’d like to do the same. I think it’s a wonderful ‘keepsake’ to help demonstrate all of the emotions around this transitioning time.

    And yes…keep talking about it.

    Funny, I shared this quote with an uncle the other day that you, oh wise one, once shared with me. I’m reminded of it by this post today:

    “That which we resist, persists”.

    So true.

    ….really grateful that you are sharing this. Amazing.

  8. Lori, you are such an incredibly thoughtful and loving mother. The way you handled your son’s questions, the memory book, the mindful way you raise your kids, and most of all, the inclusive, open relationship you have with the children’s first parents. I am just in awe of your mad skillz.

  9. so beautiful it made my eyes a little misty. you have such a beautiful way with words on paper (or computer screen) and in life with your son. he is such a gentle soul, so loving. I bet he loves big and hurts big – cradle that boy’s heart, it’s so precious (which i’m sure you do).

  10. These posts are so important. Thank you for sharing these important and difficult conversations with us. I know they’ll help me when it’s time to have complicated conversations with Sunshine about our family.

    I passed along your URL to someone I met at last weekend’s SMC conference who is starting the adoption process. I gushed a bit about your awesomeness!

  11. I’ve been wanting to read this when I had time…when I could soak it all up, to really hear it. I am admitting to you at this moment, that from the moment Reed said “no one wants to give up their baby” I have been a blubbering idiot. I am sitting here at this desk, in work mode and my heart is just FULL of love and light and understanding and such deep admiration for you for sharing all of this with us.

    I don’t even know what I want to say because I feel so many different feelings at this moment. But I will tell you that this series touches me in places i didn’t think it would. You are raising such amazing people..Lori. You being amazing is implied.

    I am sorry I can’t be more succint or write a better comment, even my writing sounds like it’s blubbering…but that’s how I feel.

    I loved this, I love you..and I wish only love for your family. Always.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. We are in the middle of pursuing open adoption and I often wonder how these conversations will happen and when. I think the questions you asked were great, gently nudging him to express his own feelings. I hope when the time comes I can handle these topics with as much grace as you. Love the idea of the journal too! Happy ICLW :)

  13. I’m always stuck with your posts on how you meet parenting and questions from your children head on. You address and and examine all the thoughts and feelings behind it. Like you said, living mindfully. I have so little experience with this in many ways and it always seems so different from what I’m used to but yet so loving and strong. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. I love that you have that notebook for him; that you had the forethought to do that. I think it’s impossibly difficult for kids to put themselves truly in the shoes of another beyond imagining things they have already experienced themselves, so it is a very sensitive child who can do that, who can empathize like that.

  15. Before I read any further, I have to share how much I love this part of the beginning of your post:

    “Now some would be content to leave this stone unturned, that not everything has to be dealt with. But my view is that what lies dormant affects us unconsciously. And what is brought to the surface can be felt, examined, and released. My hope is that if my son can become aware of his emotions and motivations at age 8, maybe they won’t get buried over the decades and erupt for him massively later in life. I want to give my children a head start on living mindfully, consciously.”

    I am sure the rest of your post is as awesome, but this in and of itself is such great parenting in action… So proud of you! xoxo

    Okay, back to read the rest and I will return to comment again afterwards. :)

  16. What a great post. I too love that you had the presence of mind to bring and ask for contributions to Reed’s notebook back then and over the years. What an incredible gift to be able to give your son, especially as the years pass and he grows to understand and digest his experience of adoption on various levels. How sweet that he slept with his special book that night too.

    As I have shared before, I so appreciate everything you share here about your open adoption experiences with your children and their birth parents. As the sister, sister-in-law and Aunt/Godmother to a family who is part of an open adoption is really helps me to understand and be more supportive of their experience. Thank you.

    I look forward to reading your follow up piece to these last two posts about your conversations with Reed. I like when you do these “series” posts, very interesting and they definitely make me think.

  17. Lori,
    Part 1 and part 2 were two-tissue posts, each. I love that you had the emotional intelligence to encourage your son not only to stand in his birth mothers shoes when she was giving him to you, but to think about his OWN feelings. As an adult adoptee, I say thank you.
    Laura

What say you?