Entries from July 2010 ↓

permission to speak freely?

i feel like a lot of the posts that I’ve written since bringing baby dude home have been a little less reflective–haven’t dug as deeply into the trenches of emotion–than some of my early posts.  I know that some of the most meaningful posts that I read on other adoptive blogs are the ones where parents talk about the raw, true emotions they’re feeling and so, although I’m a little nervous and feel like what I have to say isn’t very eloquent at this point, I’d like to explore here one of the rabbit-holes my mind has been floating down lately.  If I say something really embarrassing or offensive, will someone please send me a gentle heads-up?

after reading one of her quotes in Adoptive Families magazine, I had to find Alison Boynton Noyce’s blog, “They’re all my own” and add it to my (trying to be whittled DOWN, not up) Google Reader. Over the past two days, I’ve read her entire blog.  In short, she is an adult adoptee with two daughters by birth (both old enough to not be living at home anymore) and two elementary-age sons adopted from Ethiopia.  She writes a great blog with some fantastic reflections on transracial families, being an adoptee and being a mother to both adopted and biological children.

In one of her posts, she was reflecting on an unexpected side effect of finally meeting her birthparents as an adult.  She was surprised that the event seemed to change how other people viewed the family she was raised in.  Here’s a quote:

“I remember telling a story that involved my mom.  One of my dearest friends stopped me mid-sentence and asked me which mom I meant.  I couldn’t believe it.  I realized that in spite of my clear explanation, that was how people saw it.  That my mother suddenly shared equal billing in her role in my life was really painful for me.”

Wow.  That quote has opened up a whole interesting nest of emotions in me.  I’m still exploring all of those emotions, but I’ll see if I can articulate my immediate responses.

1.  Is this same feeling shared by children of open adoption who have known both their birthmother and adoptive mother their whole life?

2.  I am Baby Dude’s full-time*, everyday mother and the one that he will grow up knowing as “mom” and when he tells his friends a story about “my mom” he’ll be talking about me.  why is that such a revelation?

3.  I will be eternally grateful to Baby Dude’s birthmother, but maybe I don’t always have to feel like I’m his “second [choice] mother.”  (Did you know that one of the other euphemisms for a birthmother is “first mother”?  While it is technically true, I often feel like it implies that I am then a second mother and for some reason my mind always inserts that bracketed word (or sometimes the word “best” instead) into the phrase as well, so I don’t find myself often using that particular term.)

4.  At one point in the many readings we did to prepare ourselves for adoption, I came across an author who talked about adoptive parents needing to feel “entitled to be the child’s parents.”  Now the word “entitlement” often carries a lot of ugly baggage with it, but let’s just look at the phrase for what it is.  It’s simply pointing out that adoptive parents need to feel like it’s okay for them to be, 100%, that child’s parents and not constantly be second-guessing themselves or being so tentative that they become ineffective parents.  I’d like to read more research about that concept, but I haven’t had a chance to yet.  Actually, I just did an online search and I found this link that is exactly what I’m talking about, so if what I’ve said sounds confusing, bumbling or offensive in any way, go read this so you can see what I MEANT to say.

5.  Although I don’t believe that children in open adoption are ever “confused” about the different roles that their birthparents and adoptive parents play in their lives, I’ve read that it’s pretty common for them to wish at some point that they had grown in their (adoptive) mom’s “tummy.”  I understand that this is usually just a desire to be like most of their friends but is it also a way for them to claim their adoptive mother as their own?  To say, “You are the one that I know as my mom.”?  I think that in one of her posts, Alison Boynton Noyce said that it was frustrating to her that people always felt the need to qualify/clarify her mom as “her adoptive mom” instead of just “her mom.”  Do all adoptees feel like this?  Do most?  Will Baby Dude?

6.  I’m not sure if this story is directly related to this issue, but it’s sort of tangled up in it and I can’t find anywhere that I’ve already discussed it, so here it is now:   In the early days of getting used to the idea of adoption, I once confessed to a dear friend that I was worried that I’d always feel like I was just babysitting some kid and she, a mother of two beautiful daughters, looked at me and wisely replied, “well, that’s all any of us do really.  I’ve never felt a sense of ownership about my children.  They are simply human beings that I get to care for and do my best to guide them safely to adulthood.”  (okay, that’s a pretty broad paraphrase and I”m pretty sure there was originally something in there about loving them too, but you get the gist.)  I found this conversation oddly comforting.

7.  Shouldn’t I have ironed out all of these emotions before diving into the world of adoption?  Or is this like the grief of infertility where you’re always discovering new layers and permutations hiding in places you had no idea you were holding on to?  And although it gets much easier to deal with over time, there will always be some little thing that can trigger those emotions/questions/griefs and you’re right back in the thick of it?

*can i still say that if he’s in daycare 4 days a week?

great grandpa bob

This past weekend we were in Kansas celebrating the life of Gabriel’s Great Grandpa Bob who passed away after a very long struggle with a disease similar to Parkinson’s.  I was so thankful that we had been able to stop and visit Great Grandpa (and the rest of the family in Kansas) on our way home from Texas in March.  The last few times we’ve visited Grandpa he seemed less and less like the man who had trained J to drive a tractor and move irrigation pipes on the farm out in Western Kansas.  In March, his speech was so slurred that the only phrase we understood clearly the entire time we were there was, “Jay.  Can.  I.  Hold.  Gabriel?” and of course we agreed right away.  In the photo above, you can see that Grandma was a bit nervous about it at first and I sort of love that their two hands are holding Gabriel together and he’s just sleeping away through the whole thing.  What a wonderful last memory for us to share.

Gabriel was an amazing traveler considering we made two 12-hour trips within the span of four days (and they usually take about 11 hours, so he didn’t add much time to the travel at all!) and only got fussy for a short period of time once per trip and the rest of the time slept or played with the few new dangly toys I’d purchased for the trip or stared at the books I’d brought along.  Such a good sport.

We also very much enjoyed the unexpected opportunity to have Gabriel meet Auntie Liz and Uncle Rob and the cousins before Christmas.  We missed Auntie Teresa and Uncle Sheldon (who are due to have twins sometime in the next month or so, I believe, and were unable to travel), but got to video chat with them on Friday.  It was just so nice to get to spend time with the extended family.  This family has seen some very sudden and sad funerals over the past 10 years and so this one, which was not unexpected or premature was truly a celebration of his life well-lived and the wonderful family that he helped to create.

doctors and nurses and lawyers

this past week baby dude had his 4-month check-up.  apparently, he’s in the 61st percentile for weight and the 15th for height.  i think he’ll fit in well with our family.  🙂  of course, each visit to the doctor nowadays comes packaged with some immunization shots.  this time there was a trainee nurse, so the two nurses coordinated their efforts and i think he got stuck with all three needles at the same time (J was holding him this time, i had to busy myself in another corner of the examination room) which was better (i think) for him than three separate stick-experiences, but still very ouchy and he let us know it.  poor baby dude.

we also have begun the paperwork with the lawyer who is helping us with our finalization in court at the end of this month*.  it feels sort of like when you’re in a plane and you’re approaching your destination.  you’re told to fasten your seatbelts and return your trays to their fully upright and locked positions and you get that sense of excited anticipation because you know that you’re about to reach the end of your journey.  i know this is really only the beginning of our journey of parenthood, but this is the last legal step in our adoption proceedings and i can’t believe it’s here so quickly.  we traveled to texas for our orientation with the adoption agency only slightly more than a year ago.  and here we are, traveling back again as parents.  i know that the finalization is really only a legal formality and that we’ve been a family for several months now, but i’m still looking forward to taking this last step.

while we’re in texas, we’re hoping to be able to visit with baby dude’s birthmother again and also maybe catch up with some of our orientation buddies at the annual retreat (for all 3 members of the adoption triad plus the agency workers themselves) that our adoption agency happens to be hosting that weekend.  it will definitely be a trip of a lifetime.

*in case you’re unfamiliar with the adoption process, finalization is when you show up in court, usually about six months after placement, and the judge decrees that you are now the child’s legal parents and you can officially change their last name on their birth certificate.  I’m not sure about how other states do it, but in Texas, we’re not worried about anyone changing their mind at the finalization hearing (as soon as placement takes place, it’s more-or-less a sure thing except in some rare cases where fraud occurs) and baby dude’s birthmother isn’t required to appear in court (unlike the laws in our state), and it only takes about 15 minutes, but we do have to show up in person.

granna* and granpa and a baby dedication

last week my parents came up to visit and to be present for baby dude’s dedication at church.  instead of infant baptism, Mennonites do (or at least our congregation does) baby dedication ceremonies where we recognize that children are a gift from God and the congregation agrees to support the growth and faith development  of the child and to offer support and wisdom to the parents as well.  here are a few of my favorite photos from their time here:

*thanks for the grandparent-name inspiration, menno-daddy!

my baby is a daycare rockstar

today was baby dude’s first day of daycare.  when i was growing up, i always pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom (likely because my own mother stayed at home with us), but now that i’m an adult and have a job that i love, this feels like the right decision for us at  least for now.  in the weeks leading up to this day I worried that it would be difficult for me to leave him at a daycare.  Would the first few days be really tough?  Would I miss him every second and wonder if he was doing okay?

As it turned out, yesterday, I didn’t feel so well–achy all over, sensitive skin, some digestive issues–and then a few hours after I’d passed the baby off to J begging some time to nap and try to recuperate, J started to get the ouchy skin and the general exhaustion that I was feeling too.  Ack!  One of the things I’d been dreading–what do you do when BOTH parents are sick at the same time?  I lay in bed last night fantasizing about asking if anyone at church would like to be our “Emergency Grandma”–willing to come spend the night in rare situations like this and take care of the baby so we could both rest and get better.

And so this morning, when I woke up still feeling pretty puny, but because of huge work obligations not feeling like I could stay home,* I gathered up all of the things I needed to take to the daycare, packed up the baby and some bland food for myself, and headed off to the daycare center.  We’ve met with them several times and I had a casual acquaintance with one of the daycare owners before she opened this center and I feel like their philosophies seem to mesh well with our own, plus they are a Spanish immersion center which is just icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.  So when I walked in this morning to drop off the baby and was going over instructions and details and suddenly felt so light-headed that I had to lie on the floor for a little bit, I ended up feeling a huge sense of relief that I wasn’t going to be in charge of baby dude’s well-being for a large chunk of today.  I only had to take care of myself and get through three programs at work, but no small helpless being was going to rely on me for taking care of basic needs.  ahhhhhhh…..  bliss.  and it was even more icing on the cake when i got to stop by at lunch and give him a bottle and see that he was completely happy there and when i picked him up, one of the daycare owners referred to him as “mr. mellow” and everyone just said he was the nicest baby and i just know that he was well taken care of, well-entertained and … does it make me a bad mother that I didn’t feel even a twinge of guilt for dropping him off for his first day of daycare?

*the Snake Guy came to the library.  He comes about every 2 years and I think I’ve missed the last two much to my co-workers’ chagrin.  He always draws huge crowds and this year was no exception (I think I counted 289 participants).

aren’t videos fun?

i know my last post was also a video, but this week baby dude found his noisemaker and there’s no better way to show you what our house sounds like lately than a video montage. enjoy!

Gabriel finds his inner Tarzan from carissaabc on Vimeo.