By Meika Rouda
There is a new California mandate that children must be five by September 1st in order to start kindergarten. Since many kids, including my son, have birthdays after the cut-off date but before the end of the year, the state has implemented Transitional Kindergarten. It is a modified program for 4-year-olds, or the first of a two-year kindergarten program. I just found out about it a few weeks ago; apparently it is under wraps. I don’t think the school districts quite know how to handle this new grade and 4-year-olds could stay at their preschools instead of filling up the elementary school early but when I heard our local school was offering TK, I went ahead and signed him up. There were two main factors in my decision; one is cost. Preschool is expensive and TK is free so that is an easy choice. And the second is that it allowed us the opportunity to check out our local public school before kindergarten, so if it was horrible and he hated it, we could still apply for kindergarten at a private school. Win-win in my book.
School started a few days later and I had little time to prep my son about his new school or the fact that none of his friends from preschool would be there. On the first day of school, he was excited, his teacher was a pro, 28 years’ teaching kindergarten at this school and a warm man who can hold his own with 4-year-olds. My son didn’t cry when I said goodbye but I did. He was in a big kids’ school, a place where he would experience so many things, where he would be learning who he is and making decisions, where no one really is looking out for him in the same way.
The class is mostly boys, and large with 21 students. While preschool was a nurturing environment, TK is real school. There are bells that ring when class begins, and an expectation for a quiet, calm classroom. While preschool was entirely play-based learning, TK is more structured learning. After a few short weeks, my son is spelling his name and recognizing all numbers, something he struggled with at preschool. The pride he shows in knowing these things is immense and I realize he needs the challenge, the expectation that he will stretch his mind and keep up with other students. He has also made several new friends, his two closest friends ironically are also adopted, something they are too young to know or understand but it is as if a silent radar has gone off in their souls and they are attracted to each other. They were bonded from day one.
And on the weekends after school is over, he tends to fall apart. It is as if holding it together at school, learning and making his way, is so exhausting that he reverts to old behaviors I thought were long gone. Hitting when he gets frustrated, yelling at me and my husband when he doesn’t get his way, not listening at all when we ask him to do things. And it is frustrating for us. But I also realize he is under a huge transition, he has been thrust into a place of order, where he doesn’t get his way, where he has to listen, where he has to deliver. At home, in his safe place, he just wants to fall apart.
I wonder as I watch him adjust what kind of person he will be. Will he like school, be popular or sporty, be a boy the girls like or one they don’t, be a show-off in class or studious. Here are character traits just beginning to form now and, like life, he is making decisions about who he is. I am grateful he is an adaptable child, one who makes friends easily and takes things as they come. As parents all we can do is help shepherd these little souls and hope for the best, that life will be kind, and generous, that good fortune will follow our children, that they will have the tools to face life with confidence. And that is what transitional kindergarten has taught me: that we all transition all the time in life, being open and adaptable is the key. And that sometimes kindergarten is actually harder on the parent than it is on the kids.
By Meika Rouda
I have been struck by the duality of age recently. On the one side, I am watching my kids get older, and with each day there is something new: an inch to grow, a new word to learn, a bike to ride. On the other side I see my parents aging: saggy skin, muscles that don’t work they way they used to, dying friends. They are on opposite sides of the spectrum, one side ascending and the other descending. Yet they both greet each new day with delight, happy to be here, to be alive.
My parents are 78 and in wonderful shape physically and mentally, but time has chiseled its imprint on their bodies and they are slower, less energetic. They have ailments like chronic coughing and digestive problems. Nothing major but things that remind them they are approaching a later stage in life, where they have outlived many of their friends and other family members. I am grateful my parents are alive and they are not sick or struggling, that I get to see them often, that my children spend time with them and have gotten to know them. And yet it makes me sad to see them change, to know that maybe in the best case scenario there is only a good decade left before they leave us. To wonder what it will be like to not have parents anymore or worse perhaps, to lose the parent I know while they are still living. I am fearful of them having dementia and being captive in bodies that still work but minds that don’t.
I’m not ready for my parents to die. I have never known life without them. They are the people I call with good news and bad. The ones who I have leaned on many times in my life and have always comforted me, reassured me, supported me when I have needed it.
And now I am a parent and filling this role for my children. My children who too are aging and it is a joyful aging process, from babies to toddlers to kids.
I am in the middle, middle age, neither young nor old, bridging these two generations watching one decline and the other rise.
My dad has a saying that helps me keep it all in perspective. If you ask someone if they would like to live forever, most people would say yes. If you ask that same person if would they like to live forever but no new babies would be born, they all say no. If no new generations were to grace the earth in order for them to continue living, it would not be worth it. And that is what I see when I look at my children next to my parents. A full circle, a full life, another day to celebrate.
By: Meika Rouda
I always hated that saying, that what you dislike in others is what you see in yourself. But while I was on vacation last week I was confronted with exactly that.
I was at a pool in Lake Tahoe with my kids and my dad. It is the pool my dad was a life guard at sixty years ago (when he was in high school) and we return every summer so he can take a swim and reminiscence. There is a kiddie pool and my kids jumped in as soon as we got there, wading in the two-foot deep water and playing with a girl who was already swimming in the pool. The girl was named Olive and she was the same age as my son but was more interested in playing with my toddler daughter. Olive gave Asha a swim floaty and was happily chatting and showing us her floppy dog paddle. Her mother came by to tell her she had five minutes left before they had to go. The mother was my age, stylish and pretty and looked like someone I would know. Olive was delightful and my kids and I were enjoying her company. She was outgoing, funny, and friendly. A great kid. Her mother finished packing up and came over again to warn Olive that there were “two minutes left.” Olive protested, she didn’t want to leave, but her mother ignored her and put her baby brother in the stroller along with their bag. Olive continued to swim so I said calmly, “Olive, I think your mom is ready to go, maybe you should get out of the pool. We are going to leave soon too.” She just looked at me and kept swimming. Olive’s mom started to walk toward us and lost her patience along the way from the chaise lounge to the kiddie pool. Her gait became quick and agitated, her face puckered with annoyance. I recognized that face immediately, it was the face of someone on the verge. “OLIVE” she yelled “NOW”. “No Mom, I don’t want to go.” Olive kept swimming. And that is when her mom lost it .
“OLIVE GET OUT OF THE POOL NOW!” she screamed. It made me uncomfortable, like I was witnessing a private moment in a very public space. My kids stopped swimming and stared at Olive’s mom.
“I MEAN IT! I WILL NEVER TAKE YOU TO THE POOL AGAIN-EVER!” Her voice was getting louder, I felt embarrassed for her. This was definitely not her best moment. I wondered if she would look back on the day and feel some sadness at her behavior. Now everyone at the pool was looking at her but she didn’t seem to notice or if she did, she didn’t care. Her hands were on her hips, she was in a stand-off with Olive.
She then bent down and got into the pool fully clothed, walking toward Olive, her black terry cloth dress skimming the water. She grabbed Olive’s arm and yanked her out of the pool as she continued to scream “YOU WILL NEVER GO TO THE POOL AGAIN!” Olive was crying hysterically. She smacked Olive on the butt and Olive wailed. It was a scene. I felt bad for Olive and I felt bad for her mom.
I know what it is like to try and wrangle two kids to leave somewhere when they don’t want to. Often I am the mom at the park thinking up ways to make leaving fun. “I’ll race you to the car!” or up the ante with incentive to make it easier -”We can make cookies when we get home!” But it can be frustrating, especially when you get into a power struggle. I have learned, by being the mom who has yelled and screamed and been utterly furious that my child(ren) won’t listen, LISTEN! that once I get into the power struggle realm, it is over, I always lose, even if I get my way, I still lose because I have gotten to an ugly place where I don’t like myself as a parent. Where I am yelling at a four-year-old who really doesn’t understand why I am so mad and just wants to continue playing. Most of the time, my yelling is confined to the house; I have yet to have a huge public outburst (thankfully) but when I watched Olive’s mom, I did see myself and I didn’t like it. Olive didn’t deserve that much anger just for wanting to swim and have fun, just as my kids don’t deserve it when I lose it on them for not brushing their teeth, when I asked them five time- FIVE TIMES!!
But seeing that interaction did give me a chance to reflect. I never feel good after I yell at my kids, no one does. But now when I get that feeling, of complete frustration, when I am on the verge, I am going to take a breath and remember Olive and her mom and what losing it on a four-year-old looks like.
By: Meika Rouda
I have been talking to a lot of people about the donor egg and sperm scenario ever since I wrote about Ellie Lavi and her children, who are not recognized as being American even though their mother is an American citizen. Without proof of the donor eggs or sperm being from an American citizen, the US won’t issue them citizenship. It is bizarre and very wrong of the US to set such a contentious precedent. But through Ellie’s battle, I became interested in the idea of women using donor eggs and sperm and carrying the child. It is like being your own surrogate. I was talking to a good friend of mine, a woman I have known for over twenty years, who has been trying to get pregnant with donor sperm and IVF. She has had two miscarriages and the doctors are encouraging her to use donor eggs.
“Why would you do that?” I ask. “Just adopt.”
“Well, I wouldn’t qualify for adoption; I work freelance with a job that has me traveling 30 weeks out of the year and I haven’t had a permanent address in over a year.” Suddenly I realize she is right, she isn’t a great candidate for adoption even though she is one of those people who is great with kids. Kids love her. My kids, who are not always receptive to people, absolutely adore her. But any social worker would look at her and think she isn’t stable enough and not financially sound.
“Plus,” she says, “why would a birthmother pick a single woman over a couple? I just don’t think they would.” And again maybe she is right, I don’t know the stats on adoption for single women but I would imagine birthmothers lean toward couples.
“At least if I carry the child, I can become a parent and I have control over the pregnancy, something that is impossible when you adopt. I can control what I eat, make sure I take prenatals and have regular exams and tests. That makes me feel better. And I get to connect with the baby while I am carrying it. I think emotionally that will be good for me.” She says.
And she had a point. Our son’s birthmother smoked the entire pregnancy, not something I would have done if I had carried him. And as an adoptive parent I felt uneasy making requests to her about her health like “don’t smoke and please take the prenatals!” I didn’t feel it was my place to tell her things she already knew and ignored.
So there was a good reason to be your own surrogate. A sense of control and the ability to give your baby a healthy start in life.I never thought of it that way.
Last week I was having coffee with a writer friend who went through menopause at age 32 right after her divorce. The first thing her doctor said was “you should use donor eggs and sperm and get pregnant right away!” She said she was shocked and surprised by his suggestion but according to him it was very common. She didn’t follow his advice and instead adopted two children from Guatemala several years later with her new husband.
So this is opening my eyes to how “normal” it is to use donor eggs and sperm. It is another way for someone to create a family. Especially for my single friend, who would never qualify for adoption and is already in her 40′s and wanting a family now. Waiting for a match may take years for her, that is if she passes the home study. So I agree with her choice to go forward with the dual donors. I just wonder what she will tell her child? Do you mention that they were created with donor eggs and sperm? How does that make them feel? Do they relate more to adopted kids or to kids with single donors? There are so many ethical and moral questions stemming from reproductive technologies. It will be fascinating in the next few years to see how these children and families transpire.
What becomes is the new normal.
By: Meika Rouda
I really wanted to write about Father’s Day, to commend the wonderful dads out there but I am obsessed with this story of the single American mom, Ellie Lavi, living in Israel who conceived twins with a donor egg and sperm and now the US won’t recognize them as citizens. Why won’t they recognize them as US citizens? Well because there is no proof the donor eggs or sperm were from US citizens. What? There are so many issues revolving around IVF these days, so many ethical questions, but this one takes the prize for me.
First of all, is it common for people to do IVF using donor eggs and sperm? Did they ever hear of adoption?- hello, it is the same thing. Yes I understand you don’t carry the child, a mother doesn’t bond with the child while in the womb or go through the joy (and pain) of pregnancy and birth but honestly, for a woman in her 40′s who is single, to put her body through the process of IVF and the risks of a pregnancy is curious to me. Did she really want to be pregnant that badly? Is there research that by being your own surrogate you decrease potential emotional issues associated with adoption like abandonment, primal wound etc.?
And then there is the question of citizenship. If you are an American citizen and you adopt a child from another country that child is granted American citizenship automatically. I agree with this 100%. So why is the Ellie Lavi situation really any different? While there is no biological connection, she is their mother and her name is on their birth certificate. Is this some precedent the US is setting to dissuade American citizens from going abroad for fertility treatments? By the way, fertility treatments are free in Israel. Which I think they should be in our country as well but that is another story.
So good luck Ellie. While I don’t understand your choice to be your own surrogate, I do think your children should be recognized as US citizens.
By: Meika Rouda
I have been trying to talk to my 4-year-old about adoption. Any time we see a pregnant woman I point her out and say “that mommy is pregnant with a baby. You were once a baby in someone’s belly too but it wasn’t my belly it was Shannon’s belly…” I briefly explain how Shannon wanted him to come and live with us and that is how I became his mommy. Usually my son just stares at me and doesn’t respond. He shows no interest. But the other day I brought it up again, this time in reference to airplane travel. My husband and I were going on a trip and I was telling my son early to help him prepare for our absence. “Mommy and Daddy are going on a trip. Remember when we went on the airplane to pick up your sister..” and on I went about the pregnant other mommy who carried his sister and wanted her to come live with us so that is how Asha became a part of our family. I keep it simple, basic, just the facts.
This time he had questions. “Did you come and pick me up too?” “Yes” I answered, “You grew in Shannon’s belly and then when you were born Daddy and I flew on the airplane to pick you up.”
Kaden thought for awhile and then said “I don’t want to grow in Shannon’s belly. I want to grow in Daddy’s belly.”
I didn’t know how to respond so I said, “Daddies can’t have babies but if Daddy could grow you in his belly he would.”
I wasn’t sure if this was true, I never asked my husband if he were able to be pregnant and give birth would he but I felt confident that in the context of this conversation, it was safe to say he would. And that was that. Kaden went back to singing a song and looking out the window. Conversation over.
I often struggle with talking to my kids about adoption. It is ironic since I grew up knowing I was adopted and it never seemed to be a big deal in my family. But this was the first time Kaden actually acknowledged something about birth, about being born, about how families become families. I know this is all about keeping the lines of communication open and not having any secrets and when he is ready to ask questions he will but birth is very abstract to a 4 year old. The fact that he recognizes that he grew somewhere that wasn’t my belly (or his daddy’s) feels like a breakthrough. Maybe next time he will have questions about Shannon or why he didn’t grow in my belly but for now I am happy that at least the notion of adoption is out there and not something to be afraid of talking about. Since we are not in contact with the birthmothers directly, I also need to prepare myself for the idea that my children may feel differently about their adoptions than I did. They may want to contact their birth families. And that will be their choice but I know this is the first of many conversations I will have them about where they came from and how we became a family, grown in Daddy’s belly or not.
By: Meika Rouda
The most difficult part of adoption for most people is waiting to be matched. For my husband and me the waiting was excruciating. I felt that once we decided to adopt, the process should be quick and easy since we had already waited so long to become parents while trying to get pregnant. Even so, we still had to wait longer that I ever thought. Matches are made in many different ways. Most often in domestic adoption, a potential adoptive family places a profile on a website that a birthmother sees and pursues. My husband and I used a lawyer who matches families with birthmothers as opposed to having the birthmother review profiles and choose. Others use ads, like in the back of the penny saver. (I have friends who received many calls doing this- it isn’t just Juno!) Or the rare instance of hearing about a baby through a friend of a friend. I even know of someone who was standing in line at Starbucks in front of a pregnant teenager and her mother. When he ordered the last bagel the pregnant girl sighed since she had her eye on the bagel. He saw she was pregnant and gave her the bagel instead. They started to talk and lo and behold, he and his wife ended up adopting her baby. Stranger things have happened.
These are all instances where matches happen, adoptions go through and families are created. But then there are the amazing people who don’t get matched after years of waiting. People who have several near placements that all end up with the birthmother changing her mind. Each time another heartbreak while being so close to parenthood. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be for people, to have so much hope and then so much sadness and disappointment. I know a woman in this same situation. She and her husband have been waiting 3 years to be matched. They are in their 30′s, successful, kind, and loving people. She is a preschool teacher. What could be more perfect?! And yet they aren’t getting matched. I have no idea why. When I asked her if they had particular criteria that might make them hard to match she said “No, they were open to sex and race and would consider other factors, smoking etc.” They are focusing on open adoption and are happy to have visits with the birthmother. It seems they are having a horrible case of bad luck.
Or maybe the right baby hasn’t appeared yet. That is what my mother would say. She believes that things happen for a reason, that fate and god have a hand in everything. I don’t necessarily believe that but when you need hope, it is comforting to think that there must be a reason for the pain and heartache. That there will be a happy ending at some point. I don’t know how to keep my friend’s spirits up, I almost feel guilty that I have two adopted children that came very easily to us. Our daughter we didn’t even expect, she was just a call from our lawyer a week before she was born with the question “How do you feel about having a baby girl?” But I believe in adoption and I know a baby will arrive for my friend. I don’t know why it is taking so long and it saddens me to know that she has had not one, not two, but more than three birthmothers change their minds at the last minute. But she is optimistic and taking it all in stride. She has strength and a positive attitude that I don’t think I could muster if I were in her situation. Meanwhile, I have been frequenting Starbucks and keeping my eyes peeled for pregnant teenagers in line. You just never know.
By: Meika Rouda
I really want to volunteer my time to a nonprofit that I like but something on the homepage is stopping me. The organization is dedicated to helping birthmothers after they place children for adoption. It provides mentoring, scholarships for education, and counseling in a community environment. It is a place for birthmothers to talk to one another and get emotional and financial support. It is an amazing group and I believe in it 100%. I think often about my daughter’s birthmother and how she was 18 when she decided to place my daughter. She wanted to go to college, to live a life before she became a parent. My own birthmother wanted the same thing when she, a 19-year-old, placed me and returned to college. Both women would have benefited greatly from an organization like the one I would like to volunteer with and I would to work there in order to honor them and the brave decisions they made.
But what is stopping me is a quote on the home page from a birthmother who says “When I am talking to another birth mom, I’m not a birth mom, I’m a mom. We don’t have to put a title on it. I can say ‘Oh my son did this or my daughter did this ‘and I can just be a mom. There are no stipulations on it, there’s no stigma. We can just be moms.”
This freaks me out. What do you mean you can just be moms? I find this confusing, as I do a lot about open adoption. It sounds like this birth mom is taking a lot of credit for mothering the child she placed. I don’t agree with this. The adoptive mom is the mom, she is the one who is there for the child everyday. I don’t know why this organization, which is very popular and has a tremendous reputation, would condone this and put this quote on the homepage. Is this what the birth moms are sitting around talking about? It seems the idea is for them to have the resources and support to move on with their lives after placing a child. I recognize that placing a child is a difficult decision and very hard for some birthmothers to get over, but if this organization’s main mission is to help birthmothers take care of themselves post placement, I find this quote on the homepage misleading. It is very off putting to me and sounds like this birthmother needs a lot more counseling than what she is getting.
Am I wrong? To the birth moms out there, I would love to hear your opinion about how you view yourself in your child’s life. Do you consider yourself a birth mom, a mom, an extended family member? And should I join an organization that fosters a philosophy I may not agree with?
Placing a child for adoption is emotional and difficult and I hope there are more organizations out there than this one that provide post placement assistance for birthmothers. Retreats, counseling, financial aid, and tuition. Yes, 100%. But I think it is dangerous thinking for birthmothers to be sitting around talking about the children they placed like they’re the ones mothering them. It is a different job and one that adoptive moms should get the credit for.
Interview with Meika Rouda by The Next Family
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
This is my first time blogging and it has been wonderful writing for TNF. The community is vibrant and active and I have learned many insights from readers. It has also provided a safe place to discuss all aspects of adoption, from finding my birthmom on Google to difficulties parenting my own two adopted children. I appreciate the common ground and ability to say what I want unedited in a community forum.
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
I like to tease my husband that he is the odd man out because he is the only person in our immediate family not adopted. We are a regular nuclear family with a mom, dad, daughter, and son; we just don’t have a biological connection.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
I am grateful that as an adoptee, I have always felt very loved by my family both nuclear and extended. I have never felt any different than the members of my family, like cousins and aunts, who are biologically connected. As adoptive parents, we have never confronted any judgment about our decision to adopt. It has always been a very happy and loving choice and embraced by our family and friends. That said I have been confronted with little mishaps that have stopped me in my tracks. Like when I had a friend ask me what it is like to mother “somebody else’s baby.” So although everyone is happy for us, there are still some misconceptions and stigmas attached. I have also had a family friend tell me how wonderful it is “what we are doing for those children.” The truth is “those children” made us a family, which was our dream. While these comments are rare, they do happen.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
Being a working mom was one of the hardest things I did. I felt like a spinning wheel twenty-four hours a day. My job was stressful and I was not able to be the parent I wanted to be. It was hard to admit that working full time and mothering was too much for me. I wanted to be the super mom who can handle it all but I was depressed, moody, and strung out. I work freelance now so it is job to job and the stress is more manageable and the gigs are short term so I can be a mom most of the time. We have a lot less money because of it and have had to make some adjustments to our lifestyle but the sacrifice is worth it for us. I am also fortunate to have my mom and sister nearby who can help when we need child care support.
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?
Children have an amazing ability to forgive one another quickly. If they can hold on to that ability to forgive it will serve them well in life. Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons to truly learn but one that can have a great impact on how you see the world and how to keep your brain and soul happy. We don’t realize how much we as adults hold on to things that really aren’t important anymore but weigh us down emotionally.
I think parents should unlearn the need to have everything be perfect all the time. Sometimes family life is very challenging and that is OK too, you don’t have to blame yourself or feel that you are failing because your two-year-old refuses to eat or wear clothes. The idea of the perfect, well behaved family is a fallacy. The truth is, parenting is about compromise, negotiation, and reaching deep to find strength when you feel helpless. And when you are trying to rationalize with your dictator of a two-year-old, you sometimes see how perfect those moments of imperfection can be too.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
To remember that families are something we choose to be a part of. Family takes work and is not to be taken for granted. It is something created and held together by love and commitment and you may find yourself having to fight for those relationships. Whether it is getting through a rough patch with your partner or fighting with your teenage daughter, family is a little microcosm of the world order and it is important to work through problems and keep peace. I know many people who don’t speak to their parents or have strained relationships with their siblings and I find that really sad.
TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?
As an adoptive parent, I feel that because we went through so much to become parents, I need to enjoy every minute of parenthood. Well sometimes I don’t enjoy it, sometimes I am pulling my hair out while trying to get my 4-year-old to stop hitting his sister. It is the way family is and you don’t have to feel badly about struggling sometimes. You get through the hard times and there are so many wonderful moments to balance it out that it is all worth it. But I try to remember that life is about how you navigate the bumps in the road, not how you drive on the freeway.
By: Meika Rouda
“How many of you are adopted?” the keynote speaker asked. I raised my hand. The auditorium was packed with people. Who were they? I wondered. Social workers, adoptees, adoptive families, birthmothers? All of the above. “How many of you have adopted children?” I raised my hand again. The woman next to me, a petite blonde in her late twenties wearing uncomfortable business attire turned to me and said “well you are sure in this aren’t you?” I smiled at her. “How many of you are birthmothers?” The woman next to me raised her hand. She had also raised her hand as an adoptee. I found it fascinating that she was an adoptee and a birth mom. She found it fascinating I was an adoptee and an adoptive mom with no biological children of my own.
Last weekend I attended my first adoption conference. I went there expecting to feel like an outsider, the girl who doesn’t want to know her birthmother, the one who isn’t in touch with her children’s biological families. I ended up finding a lot of people there who felt underrepresented. There were several adoptive fathers who I spoke to that were offended that the common idea is that men are the ones who have to be convinced to adopt when that wasn’t their story at all. They had to convince their wives! These were men who didn’t care about passing on their DNA but had to wait for their wives to come around before they could adopt. This was the norm for them, but not the norm for the data.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “The data says…” People love to rely on data. But where does this data come from? Where do they find the people to interview, to do case studies on? There is a lot of data that state it’s better for a child to know their birthparents. To have a concise story with mementos about their birth family. The idea of this makes my skin crawl and I can’t say exactly why. I guess because it feels so unnatural to me. One of the seminars I attended was about how to talk to your child if you have no contact with your child’s birthmother. Most of the people in the seminar had International Adoptions, situations where it was impossible to know who the birthmother was. Their baby was left in a park in China and taken to an orphanage. They wanted to know how to make that story into something positive. “You can tell them that their birthmother left them somewhere that she knew they would be found quickly. That she waited in the bushes in the park to make sure the baby was picked up by the adoption agency. That she wanted a good life for the baby.” It is nice to create a story for the adoptee although at some point, the girl is going to learn about the Chinese government’s one child per couple law and the fact that girls are not valued in that country which led to her being left in the park.
The seminar leader continued coaching the parent. “And usually these women leave a memento with the child, a piece of cloth or a coin. If they did, make sure you give that to your child. Adoptees cherish mementos from their birthmother. ”
Say what? I have no mementos from my birthmother. Oh, actually I do, I have the correspondence she wrote to the attorney handling my adoption. I suppose it is nice to have these letters but do I cherish them? No. I don’t even know where they are. I think in a box maybe in my garage. What is the memento supposed to represent? That they cared for me?
Another group of the underrepresented were birthmothers who don’t want contact with the children they have placed. These were young women, not older ones who may have suffered the “primal wound” or placed babies unwillingly. These young women feel badly that they don’t want contact because the data says… You get what I am saying.
My main takeaway from the conference was that each adoption is different just as each person is different. Just because I don’t want to know my birthmother or birth family, doesn’t make me wrong or make my experience any less valuable than those who are in touch with their birth families and benefit from that. There really is no right or wrong in adoption except of course secrecy and lies which is harmful in any situation, not just adoption. I admit that there was a point during the day that I was sure I would reach out to my children’s birthmothers. That I would keep tabs on them and make sure they were doing well so I could update my kids on their status. The data had convinced me that this would be good for them. But it feels uncomfortable for me. Should I put my feelings aside to do what the data shows is positive for my kids? I decided at the end of the day not to. To just keep their information for my kids for if/when they want to contact them. That is part of their story, not mine. That should be their choice, not mine.
To me the important part is having access to information. To be able to have the choice to be in touch for all parties involved in the triad. It is their choice and the option is there but I don’t think I need to refer to my son’s birthmother as “Mommy Shannon” in order for him to have a good sense of self and strong identity. She is not someone who is a constant in his life at this moment. I know what the data says and I know what my heart and experience say too.
I wanted to talk to the woman who sat next to me at the conference. I wanted to find out her story, how she came to place a child, whether she was in touch with her own birthmother. It felt good to be in a room with other people who have stories either like mine or different from mine but that we are all touched by how powerful adoption is. The woman left before I could talk to her but as I saw her exit the building. I felt a kinship with her. Our stories may be different but our feelings about adoption being a positive experience are the same.