Trying to keep the lines of communication open, Adam stepped into his son’s room and asked, “Son, how often do you think about adoption?” Without looking up from the game, the son simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Not much.” Adam stopped in his tracks and thought for a moment. Trying again to open a conversation, he rephrased: “What I meant to ask was, how often to you think of your birth mom?”
The teen barely look up and responded, matter-of-factly, “Oh. All the time.”
Adam Pertman teared up as he told us. For his son’s loss.
Reed is now closer to age 9 than to age 8. It’s always seemed that he’s smooth-sailing and resilient, able to roll with life’s punches and not have “issues.”
But I was not wholly surprised that some revelatory conversations came up this weekend. I expect that as my children grow they will, at stages, deepen their understanding of their adoptedness through wondering and questioning. And I will encourage this every chance I get.
Just before bedtime one night, Reed and I read entries from his new Guinness Book of World Records and marveled at crazy human feats. We put the book down to cuddle, just the two of us, in his parents’ bed.
“Do you think often about Michele?” I opened the door.
“Yeah. A lot.”
“Mom,” he continued, “do you think I could try living with her for a week or a month or something?”
“Sweetie,” I replied, searching for wisdom. “It doesn’t work like that. But we can certainly try to arrange for a visit with Michele the next time we are all in the same state.”
“OK, Mama,” Reed said.
A moment later: “Mom, why did Michele give me away? And how did you and Daddy become my parents?”
“Well,” I scanned the archives of my memory for advice I’ve read by and for adoptees on how best to proceed. I began to cover the details that led Michele to choose adoption all those years ago.
“Uh hunh,” Reed said, encouraging me. He’d heard his story before.
“She was going to college and wasn’t really prepared to take care of ANY baby right then. She had to scramble to figure out how to do that — take care of a baby while finishing up school. She tried really hard, and she loved you very much, but she just couldn’t figure out how to be a mom right then.”
“Did you know her before that?” my son asked.
“No. We met her after she went to the same agency we did and picked us to be your forever parents.”
“When did you meet her?”
“The first time we met it was just Michele and Daddy and me at the agency. It was a time for her to check us out. It was a big decision for her, and she took it very seriously. WHO could she entrust her beloved son to? The agency called us later that evening to say that Michele had decided on us, and that we could come back the next day to meet our son. And bring him home.”
I paused to read his body, still nestled against mind. I knew that he was present with me, with the story.
“The next day we drove back to the agency, but this time Grandma and Grandpa and Tessa were also invited. It was the first time we saw you and boy, were we happy! You were so adorable and loveable. Michele brought her three best friends. We all met in a conference room for an Entrustment Ceremony.”
“That’s where Michele entrusted you into our care.”
“Tell me about that.”
“Well…” I knew that this coming part was likely to hurt. I breathed and became conscious of my breath. “Michele was holding you. The lady running the meeting said a prayer for Michele and a prayer for AJ [first father], who wasn’t able to be there. There was a prayer for Daddy and me and, of course, a prayer for the baby — you — who joined everyone in the room together.”
I breathed again. “Then Michele placed you in my arms.”
My son then let out one whimper. His small body sobbed one time. I held him more tightly (but not too tight) and stroked his shoulder, arm, side, leg. “I know, baby.” I breathed deeply, willing him to, as well.
I abided with him for a moment, simply giving him the space to feel what he was feeling. Then his sister entered the room and asked what we were talking about and would I tell her about her story, too?
Reed and I would continue our conversation the next day… (tune in for part 2).
Lori Holden, mom of a now teen daughter and a now teen son, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.