Now I’d like to share here HER interview with ME, which you can also find on her blog.
I am getting very close to forgiving her for asking me that last, very tough question. But I’m not quite there yet.
Cynthia: What was your experience of adoption, prior to being an adoptive parent? You mentioned in the podcast with Crystal that you had a very different view of adoption and I was wondering if you had any personal experiences with friends or family that informed your pre-parenting conceptions?
Me: I had a close high school friend who had been adopted. But it was never really talked about. It wasn’t until recently that she told me it bothers her that she has no medical information, and that she’s begun to wonder about her birth parents. She took her cues from her parents: adoption was a one-time event. Once the papers were made legal, the event was over, rarely to be mentioned again.
There was also an acquaintance of ours in high school who became pregnant our junior year and placed her baby. Again, it was never talked about. Just guessed about in hushed tones.
So I grew up thinking that adoption = secrets. That it must not be discussed, let alone OPENly discussed. You might say I’ve come a long way, baby.
Becoming a parent is such a transformative experience, and becoming an adoptive parent is transforming beyond that. Were there any moments for you that stand out in this process? Any big “a-has” or realizations with regard to adoption?
I am particularly grateful to blogging adoptees who have given me insight into what it may be like for my children to grow up adopted.
When my children were babies, I remember seeing our adoptions as singular events, each which ended at that last adoption hearing whereupon we got new birth certificates with our last name on it.
But due to what I’ve read on adoptee blogs (which range from “adoption? no biggie” to “adoption defines me” — and are equally helpful) I now feel better prepared to understand what may be going on for my children at their advancing cognitive stages. As adoptive parents, we must be careful not to insert/project our own feelings but rather to be sensitive to theirs.
So to answer your question, the ongoing a-ha is that while adoption may have been an event for ME, it may be a lifelong process for my children, a facet of their identities that they occasionally revisit.
Why do you think some adoptive parents decide to open up to the complexities of what adoption means for their families, and others remain closed? Is this just human nature, or do you think there are specific things at play that can be isolated and identified?
I think it’s a human tendency to treat others as you would wish to be treated. So if I were to do a dissertation on the subject, I would try to find if there is a correlation between the degree to which people would want their OWN adoption open (if they had hypothetically been adopted) and the degree to which they open their adoptions for their children.
Case in point: I’m a wonderer. Had I been adopted, I would want to know. I would want to see. If denied that, I would scan the crowd for faces that look like mine. I would build fantasies in my head about who my first parents might be. I would want to fill those gaps desperately.
So it was natural for me to want to have wide open adoptions for my children. Which doesn’t mean this is what they might have chosen for themselves.
There’s the rub.
I do try to be sensitive to my children so I don’t “overdo” the openness for each of them. So far, so good, I think.
Had I been less of a wonderer, maybe I would not have embraced OA so readily.
In your description of the reunion with Joe, you seemed clear when it felt unsafe to continue contact- and clear beforehand that contact wasn’t the right thing. Are there any guidelines you use to make these judgments? Have you found it hard to make these decisions, or has it been obvious what was right?
I get better at making heart-centered, intuitive decisions the older I get. I have been gradually moving from analytical, mind-based decision-making, THINKING, to incorporating more FEELING and SENSING as I parent.
It takes more time to do, to tune in to my body rather than my mind. That’s hard to do with the daily cacophony of family chaos. It also takes a good bit of trust in one’s self, which is why it’s taken me time to get here, to like myself, to trust both myself and the process of heart-led parenting.
So when I’m on the fence about something logically, I sit and empty my mind and find a moment of stillness. Once there, I almost always have a knowing about it. The more I trust it, the more it is present for me.
I was intrigued to hear about how your childrens’ processing styles dovetailwith the amount of contact you’ve had/ not had with their first parents. It seems as if your daughter expresses things pretty easily and openly, and I wonder how you handle adoption processing with your son, who is less verbal on the subject. How do you know when to push talking about things, and how do you know when to let it go?
Tessa now has a fully open adoption with both her first parents. We have aimed to make our relationships with Crystal and Joe No Big Deal. By this, I mean that they are extended family members. Wanna call them to chat? Invite them to your school play? See if they can have dinner with us next Tuesday? Go ahead — no big deal.
I believe this serves Tessa well. She seems to need this time with them, this fitting in with people who look like her, who have her mannerisms and gestures and expressions and temperament. She comes away from her time with them feeling replenished and calm, full of their love and acceptance.
Reed, on the other hand, has very infrequent contact with his first mother, and has never had contact with his first father. He does have rare moments of sadness and anger around this. When he does, we abide with him and give him space to feel his feelings. We do not attempt to make it all better (how could we?) by reminding him of all that he has in us. We just hold him, support him.
However, these moments are not frequent. He revels in time spent with Crystal and Joe and their families. Reed also seems to be less of a wonderer, and does not seem to give his adoptedness a great deal of thought. His temperament is a close match with mine and my husband’s. He seems to be easily filled up with our love and acceptance.
So we are lucky. The child who needs openness more has it, and the one who seems not to — well, we hope he has it some day.
What else lights you on fire, floats your boat, gets you psyched to get up out of bed in the morning?
Yoga. Wine (not at the same time). Dark chocolate. Travel, especially to places where I need to learn phrases in a new language. Turbo-kickboxing. Music that speaks to my soul. Sharing all that with my husband (except the chocolate — that I don’t share). Freedom, and observing the evolution of humans from homo sapiens (wise man) to homo noeticus (spirit man).
Can you write us a limerick about open adoption?
When you have more than two parents
People might think you’re aberrant
But it ain’t so weird
To be OA-reared
More chances to be heir apparent!