Monday, March 22, 2010

Open Adoption Interview Project

For the Open Adoption Interview Project, I got to know Kristin at Parenthood Path. Go visit her and read about her wonderful son, Dylan! Also, go visit the project and read some other interviews. Here is my interview with Kristin:

You don't talk much about your journey to adoption as you started your
blog after that decision was made. Can you talk a little bit more
about how you and your husband came to the decision to adopt? Were
you ever not in the same place? Did you grieve your biological
offspring or did it just seem right from the beginning? I'd love to
hear a little more about this journey (if it's not too private).

This is something I address some in the early posts on my blog. In short, we came to a fork in the road regarding our fertility treatments, when we had to decide whether to pursue IVF - which would not be covered by insurance, or another path to parenthood, or even resolving to live child-free. The more we researched, the more nervous we got about additional medical intervention (for various reason), and the more excited we got about adoption. Open adoption in particular calmed many of our fears - emotional and ethical concerns for everyone involved - about 'raising someone Else's child."
Fortunately, M. and I stayed very close to the same place in our thinking and feelings about our family building. Yes, there were many tough conversations and some periods of great uncertainty. But I think our reservations about our options were similar, and our preferences for the different risks and rewards were shared. Dealing with infertility was so stressful, I am immensely grateful that it didn't also add a lot of conflict to our relationship.
There was definitely grief involved in giving up the dream of having a biological child with M. Since Dylan was placed with us, I've often joked that we could not have created such a good and cute baby ourselves. I truly do believe this. But that doesn't erase the years of disappointment, and a sense that I've missed out on some beautiful human experiences.
I'm not one who believes in fate and that our struggles were necessary to bring us our intended son. But I can't imagine being happier or more fortunate than I do as Dylan's mom.

How often to you communicate with your son's birth parents? What methods (letter, phone, email, IM, etc) do you use?

This is something I've wanted to write about on my own blog, but haven't known quite how to approach it.
Unfortunately, we have no contact with his birth father and never had. We have very little information about him. I hope this changes in the future.
We haven't heard from his birth mother in almost two months now. I've emailed her a couple of times with little updates and cute photos, but there's been no response. It's hard to know how hard to push. In our open adoption agreement, we decided (at V.'s urging) on visits about every other month, and phone calls or emails at least every month. So I will continue to write to her at about that pace, unless she indicates another preference.
We are disappointed and sad not to have more regular contact with our son's other mother (or father) - which I think surprises a lot of people in our lives.

Do you get 'feedback' from Dylan's birth parents about how the communications are going?

The initial feedback was encouraging. It felt comfortable (at least to us) and natural, which makes the current lack of contact more surprising and disappointing.
One thing I regret is that I didn't get a mobile phone and learn to text sooner. I know his birth mom likes to text, and that might have been the easiest way for her to stay in touch. But it just wasn't possible for me until I finally got a new phone a few weeks ago....

How has your cat reacted to Dylan? (And other pets if you have them, of course.)

I love this question!
Any fear we had about the old wives's tale about cats smothering infants in their cribs has been abated by our funny guy. For the most part, Suleyman has been indifferent to Dylan. Initially, he just kept his distance, although we noticed that if the crying got too loud, the cat would remove himself from the vicinity (which is a big deal for a lazy cat).
More and more, Suley is willingly approaching the boy with some apparent curiosity. And Dylan is of course becoming more and more curious about this beast that is about his size. A few times, Dylan has reached out and grasped Suleyman's soft fur. Unfortunately, this tugging has not been well received, with the cat either hightailing it outa there, or responding with a swat. So far, Dylan's escaped without a scratch. It's hard to know how much to protect the little human while encouraging him to interact with the more mature feline.
I've attached a couple of photos of our two boys together. The first - in which Suley reveals his boredom with Dylan with a huge yawn - is from December, when Dylan was 2.5 months old. The other is from February, when Dylan was about 4 months old and beginning to take a bit more interest in his furry brother.

Do you think you approach parenthood differently because you are an adoptive mom and not a bio mom?

I approached your questions be responding to the easiest first. This is the last one I've been able to get my head - and heart - around. It's such an interesting, important question. In fact, Rachel, you know I like it so much that I asked it back to you. Pre-placement, I would have been fascinated by other adoptive parents' responses to the question, and I suppose I still am.

But the truth is, I don't have a good answer for it myself. I've thought a lot about it (before placement and since), and I haven't resolved anything. Part of this is because I'm not a bio mom, so it's tough to make a comparison with something so abstract.

I think that in the mundane, day-to-day things, my approach to parenthood is no different. I am loving and caring for this little child no differently than if he had my genes or came from my body. In short, I don't think that I am parenting differently.

However, I do think that parenthood is different for me. And to try to explain that, I'll use someone else's words. (I hope you don't mind.) This unknown author* articulates so well many of my own feelings about being a mom after infertility and through adoption.

Thoughts on Becoming a Mother:

There are women that become mothers without effort, without thought,
without patience or loss and though they are good mothers and love
their children, I know that I will be better.

I will be better not because of genetics, or money or that I have
read more books but because I have struggled and toiled for this child.
I have longed and waited. I have cried and prayed.
I have endured and planned over and over again.

Like most things in life, the people who truly have appreciation are
those who have struggled to attain their dreams.
I will notice everything about my child.
I will take time to watch my child sleep, explore and discover. I
will marvel at this miracle every day for the rest of my life.

I will be happy when I wake in the middle of the night to the sound
of my child, knowing that I can comfort, hold and feed him and that I
am not waking to take another temperature, pop another pill, take
another shot or cry tears of a broken dream. My dream will be crying for me.

I count myself lucky in this sense; that God has given me this
insight, this special vision with which I will look upon my child
that my friends will not see.

Whether I parent a child I actually give birth to or a child that God
leads me to, I will not be careless with my love.

I will be a better mother for all that I have endured. I am a better
wife, a better aunt, a better daughter, neighbor, friend and sister
because I have known pain.

I know disillusionment as I have been betrayed by my own body. I have
been tried by fire and hell many never face, yet given time, I stood tall.

I have prevailed.
I have succeeded.
I have won.

So now, when others hurt around me, I do not run from their pain in
order to save myself discomfort. I see it, mourn it, and join them in theirs.

I listen.

And even though I cannot make it better, I can make it less lonely. I
have learned the immense power of another hand holding tight to mine,
of other eyes that moisten as they learn to accept the harsh truth
and when life is beyond hard. I have learned a compassion that only
comes with walking in those shoes.

I have learned to appreciate life.

Yes I will be a wonderful mother.

- Author Unknown

* I'd love to know who wrote this, so if anyone can clue me in, I'd be grateful

You had a post about wondering when to share that Dylan is adopted. (I have a similar post.) When DO you share that info?

I share this info now when it seems truly relevant, which has been less frequently of late. When people compliment me on his cuteness, I no longer explain that I had nothing to do with it. I just say, "Thank you." I've noticed fewer confused looks when others see the three of us together, and I suspect it is not because we're getting them any less, but because my sensitivity to our "matching" has diminished.
Part of my reluctance is that when I've been having a typical conversation about being a new mom, if I bring up the adoption, the talk will inevitably shift from inquiries about how well he's sleeping and eating, how smiley and "talkative" he is, to where he's "from" or how we "got" him.
On the other hand, I'll often share the info because, as an educator, I sometimes feel a responsibility - mostly to my son - to seize opportunities to educate people about adoption, and open adoption in particular. I so want our experience to be more "normalized," so there is no stigma surrounding adoption. If there are occasions when bringing up how Dylan came to our family seems like an opportunity to shed some light, then I'll usually go for it.
A few times in the last month or so, I've been on campus with him, and people who haven't seen me in awhile have somewhat embarrassed said, "I didn't even realize you were pregnant." Of course, I've told them that's because I wasn't, and that he's adopted.
Several times, I've actually been pleasantly surprised. People I didn't expect to have used PAL, or asked questions about our situation very sensitively. And more often than not, when the subject of Dylan's adoption comes up, it's an opener to learn more about how adoption has touched someone else's life. I find those stories interesting, and sometimes they have brought me closer to an acquaintance.
Too frequently, I still hear about "reclaims," or family members permanently scarred by the "primal wound." It's always struck me as odd that people who I think are trying to be supportive share horror stories. I've gotten a bit braver about cutting those kinds of stories off by saying, "Oh, that's too frightening. Don't tell me any more!" Though I try to say this kind of thing lightly, laughingly so as not to make someone who is well intentioned feel bad, usually it does get the message across.
Very frequently, when I reveal that we are adopting our son, the response will be an exclamation of how lucky he is to be with such a great family. To that I have a quick, easy, and honest response: "WE are the lucky ones to have him in our lives."

If you work, how is your work/life balance going? If you do not, are
you getting enough 'adult' time? Do either of these things bring up surprising feelings?

I work as an administrator at a small college. Before the baby, my job was pretty demanding and I worried a lot about how my boss and others would handle the unpredictability of a match and then my desire to take my full, legally-provided twelve weeks of parental leave. Because I know that she doesn't like surprises and some advanced planning might help, I'd also been talking with my supervisor about working less than full time upon my return to work for more than a year before it looked like I might actually become a mother. But we hadn't resolved anything, so it was nerve wracking to bring it up again when the conversation became based in reality rather than the hypothetical.
Things have worked out great for me, and I am immensely grateful for the flexibility and accommodations I have been granted. My office "bugged" me very little for the three months I was off, which enabled such a precious period of intense focus on the baby and our new little family. And when I returned after the new year, it was on a three day a week basis. No one's been hired to take up my slack, and little delegating of my responsibilities has been done, so there is a lot that isn't getting accomplished that should, and I am definitely being expected to do more with less time and less money. These arrangements were made with the understanding that they are temporary, and that we'd re-evaluate after a few months. I want the part-time situation to continue, so I'm trying hard to make it work for others as well as myself. But I have a deep-set fear that we'll have to make new arrangements soon. I dread the decisions and further compromises that would be involved with that.
My current work arrangement feels just about right to me as far as work/life balance. Before parenthood, I suspected that I might actually yearn to be a stay-at-home mom, which just isn't financially feasible for us. But I know now that I would feel really isolated and "under valued" if I was just home with Dylan. I need the social interaction with adults and the sense of accomplishment my job provides me. But I also know that if I worked more, I would miss him even more than I do. Right now, it seems like just about when I'm feeling I need a break from his constant demands, it's someone else's (M's or my mom's) turn to spend the day with him. Or, just as soon as I feel like I am missing out and can't go another hour without snuggling with him, I'm off work and ready to spend another day as his primary caregiver.
A small tangent: I have not yet found or built a "baby group," and I'd like one. Though I fear they will all be a lot younger than me, and that there might be a lot of conversation about birthing and nursing and such that I can't relate to), it would be fun to connect with other new parents (IRL). Ideally, such a group could bridge my baby-centric and grown-up lives. I'd welcome advice about how to find a good group.


ultimatejourney said...

Great interview! I loved reading your responses over on K's blog too.

I hope that as a little more time passes, it will be easier for CC and O to communicate with you more often.

Good luck figuring out all the 'future' stuff. I'm excited to see what lies ahead for your family.

Adoption of Jane said...

Both your interviews were great! Your baby is absolutely adorable!