- 42 Ties and I Have None
- Thankful They Are Adopted
- The Bio-Bond
- 15 months Down the Road
- Reading and Puddin’ Update
- Grand Central Station
- Why Christian Adoption Works
- Is Birthparent Contact What’s Best for the Kids?
- Never Saying Goodbye – Part 1
- Sane Licensing and Renewal
Posted: 15 Jun 2011 08:10 AM PDT
He missed out on 42 cards and 42 ties. He missed the day I took my first step, said my first word, hit my first ball, dated my first girl, married my first(and only) wife, had my first two(and only two) kids, and I’m not sure he even knew the opportunities he was missing.
My biological father had an affair with my biological mother, a coworker. My mother had me, gave me up for adoption, and never said anything else about me or their affair. I am not sure he knew anything about me, although working with a woman you had “relations” with and seeing her stomach swell would cause some concern, you would think. The beauty of the mind is it can create connections, make up stories, and absolve us of any responsibility. Since my biological mother was married, who’s to say the increase in belly circumference wasn’t due to her husband.
So maybe he didn’t know or didn’t want to know. After all, my non-identifying information that I received from the adoption agency tells me he already had children of his own from his own marriage. Therefore, maybe he already had enough ties, saw enough first steps, heard enough first words, witnessed enough first dates, weddings, grand kids and opportunities. Why would or should one more mean anything?
Because it was mine.
Over those 42 Father’s days, I can’t say I thought a lot about my biological father. That statement does not come from a bitter corner of my heart and is not said to inflict retaliatory pain. It is said honestly and matter-of-factly. The emotion that should be connected to this person was never planted so it never grew and that is a shame. Every now and then I run back to that little patch of heart-space where that feeling should be hoping the beginnings of something will show; hoping a small, tiny, curled up leaf will be breaking through the flesh of my heart right next to my right coronary artery or from underneath my left anterior descending artery.
Logically, it makes sense. How can I feel a connection to something I never had a connection with. But hope and the fact that so many have that connection to their biological father makes me stroll by that place straining to see the first sign of growth from this germinating seed.
This week I reached out to test this absence of feeling. I wrote a check and signed the paperwork to begin the process of locating my biological father. Since his co-worker/my biological mother never shared with anyone his name, no one but the adoption agency knows his name. To get his name, that was typed out clearly by a manual type writer and added to MY file that I can’t get access to, I had to petition the probate court of Wayne County, Michigan to allow access to MY file. Once that was done, the court gave access to MY file, to a court appointed intermediary, an unrelated third party, who will open my file, get MY biological father’s name and begin the search. Although, the intermediary is appointed by the court, she is paid by me. Last Wednesday, I wrote the check and signed the agreement to move forward in this unjust process.
Now I wait and calculate and strategize. I calmly run through possible scenarios like a pilot would run through a checklist prior to a flight.
If he’s alive and willing to meet, request a meeting.
—–If the meeting goes well…
—–If the meeting doesn’t go well…
If he’s alive and unwilling to meet, hope shrivels and dies; the heat too intense for survival.
—–Hope could still live in another relative that wants to meet.
If he’s dead, request a death certificate, search for an obituary tied to the name that is now released because dead people can’t object to their privacy being violated. In the obituary search for names of relatives and reach out to them; knowing I maybe the one who has to tell someone their father, brother, uncle, cousin had an affair 43 years ago. Request a meeting.
—–If that meeting goes well…
—–If that meeting doesn’t go well…
The possibilities branch out like roots from a tree moving and sprawling in every direction; over and back, reaching and clawing for room to grow.
My hope is that through the stress, as I plod forward in a mechanical and logical way, a connection to my DNA will water and feed that small dark and cold place in my heart. My hope continues. From the stressful search, I will find someone who looks like me, acts like me, and someone who will accept me; be excited to find me. Someone who was looking for me. Someone who…
Hope quickly grows into fantasy as it has since I can remember. As a child, the thoughts of who I came from rode on my stream of consciousness and this simple question evolved in to an elaborate secret fantasy. A fantasy that over the years got pushed further and further in to that dark corner because no one shared it with me. No one came looking for me. No one spoke about it in my home. I assume because they thought it would bring up too much pain. But ignoring my reality probably created more pain than was ever tied to this small seed. So I danced alone with this elaborate secret fantasy for many years and as most children do, I grew out of the need for this imaginary relationship; frustrated with a relationship that only took and never gave. I filed it away but occasionally I would return but never spending much time with it.
Now I’ve come to a point where I just want it resolved. I want a real story and not fantasy. The unworthiness that attaches itself to adoption tries to convince me I don’t need this or I shouldn’t be entitled to answers. But my ever-evolving, I-deserve-more-attitude pushes through to find more of me in those answers.
The unstoppable ball is in motion and soon the answer will come and I’m not sure how I will respond, if at all. Maybe, I’ll find him alive and he will want to meet and at that meeting, I can give him a Father’s day card and 43 ties…
Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:42 AM PDT
I was diagnosed with skin cancer six weeks ago, and today I am having the cancer surgically removed. At times, I’ve given little thought to the mutated cells I have been carrying around, but other days, their existence has weighed heavily on me.
This isn’t my first bout with cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, the cancer that precipitated the adoption of my daughters. My breast cancer was genetic, my skin cancer is not.
But, it is days like today that I thank God Elle and Bunny are not my biological daughters. Everyone has their own unique sets of genes, the blueprint that makes us who we are. Sometimes the genes are harmless, like whether one is male or female, or if they have blue eyes or green, and whether the blonde hair is real or if it will need to be chemically enhanced. And sometimes, the mutations are deadly.
I come from a family with a strong history of breast cancer, heart disease, and fair skinned, blue eyed blondes. I may be genetically predisposed to certain diseases, but I also need to control my environment more. I need to live a heather life, I need to be more proactive with my health, and I need to wear more sunscreen.
As I look at my daughters, I am so thankful they have dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. I know they have their own genetic makeup that may challenge us one day. And I know genetics isn’t everything. Bad things can still happen.
But just for today, as I carry the fear and anxiety of my own genetic makeup in with me to the doctor’s office, I am relieved my daughters don’t share everything with me and aren’t carbon copies of myself.
For today, I am relieved they are adopted.
Posted: 13 Jun 2011 01:43 PM PDT
I recently read an interesting Newsweek article about adopted twins. The two girls were abandoned in China about a week apart and ended up in the same orphanage. Eventually both were adopted by U.S. families; they lived hundreds of miles apart but somehow, they “knew” they had a sister. Eventually, DNA tests proved the girls were, in fact, twins. Coincidentally, their adoptive mothers had both named them Meredith. Their amazing story became part of a study on twins separated at birth.
I grew up with one “full” sister and two “half” brothers. My mother divorced and remarried when my sister and I were very young. All of them were the same to me; we were raised as one family and no distinction was made between my sister and the boys. I also have two half-brothers through my birth father. I knew little of these boys growing up and only met them once as a young adult. Yet they are my family and I have always felt something “missing.” I know my biological father had a dream of getting us girls together with those two, but he experienced a sudden illness that ended his life and our reunion with one of my half-brothers took place at our bio-dad’s funeral. Living over 2,000 miles apart, we’ve had little opportunity to really get to know each other.
My older girls both have half-siblings elsewhere too. They are very drawn to these individuals and hope, one day, to have relationships with them. When my oldest met her half-sister a year ago, I was shocked by the physical similarity. She connected more with her sister’s personality. Though they’d never even met, somehow, they “knew” each other; it was truly amazing.
I do not fully understand what it is in our “nature” that drives us to seek out our siblings and birth family. But I know it is there. The little Merediths and the other twins are helping to unlock the mysterious DNA part of the story. The story confirmed what I have often suspected; there is more to kinship than being raised together. There is something in us that drives together and some needs that are met by these biological ties. I think that science will one day underline the true importance of placing kids with their siblings and yes, I’m saying it, their relatives whenever possible. It will be interesting to see all of what is learned from this study.
Photo credit: http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com
Posted: 13 Jun 2011 01:02 PM PDT
When “the littles” came to us at the end of February, 2010, they seemed, in many ways, alien. Their faces and voices were unfamiliar. Their habits were new to us. We did not know what “made them tick” and we were strangers to them, as well.
In many ways now it seems as if they have always been with us. I can pick their voices out in a crowd, and when I am away from them–even for a short time–I am wondering about them and worrying if they are all right. I cannot remember ever not loving them.
Recently I asked a friend how she and her new adoptive daughter are getting alone. What was she finding challenging? Was it harder or easier than she thought it would be? Her response so gelled with mine: “She makes it easy to love her as a mother should. I did not expect that.”
Her little daughter is not a saint, nor are any of my five children. And yet children need to be loved and they make it easy for us to love them. They want love and approval and permanency; they care little about pretty rooms or popular toys. Of course it is not all simple; it would be much harder with a 10 or 12 year old who had many more disappointments and rejections to get over.
Yet it constantly amazes and impresses me that we humans are made to love. We possess that capacity within us and often all that is needed is someonee to remind us that we want to love and be loved. Sometimes, it just needs to be called out.
So our “littles” are fully ours now, for better or worse. They talk like us, they eat like us; they are part of us. If anyone had told me in those first few challenging weeks that one day, we’d all be moving in concert in the same direction, I doubt I’d have believed them. Yes, we still have challenges; yes every day of parenting is a new adventure; yes our creativity is often called upon. But it is all very, very worth it.
Photo credit: Teresa Harper
Posted: 13 Jun 2011 12:30 PM PDT
I heard from Puddin’s new mommy this week. It was so gratifying to hear how they are doing. They are getting used to each other and Puddin’ is starting to realize they are hers; she has been introducing them to people they meet in the park. She is making some friends in the neighborhood now. Her grief sessions are fewer and farther between, and everyone is getting used to their new role in the family.
My kids still talk about her regularly. I am hopeful they will all get to see each other again some day. When we sing our lullabies at night, there is a place where I substitute my children’s names for the word “baby” and the kids always sing “and Puddin’.” That makes me smile.
I am reading an interesting book called Foster Mom by Francine Hardaway. She talks about how she pretty coincidentally came into the life of one struggling family and the various intersections between herself, the system and the family. Eventually she becomes the custodial guardian of one of the children. Like many foster parent, Francine came into the system “through the back door.” This is an interesting story of how the state attempts (and often fails) to meet the needs of children, both before they come into “the system” and once they are in.
What the book highlights to me is that there really are no easy answers. In a society where drug abuse is common and the cycle of poverty is so hard to break, the “right” answers for children are few and far between. It is astounding to me that while foster children (at least in my state) get excellent health and dental care; resources for impoverished families are much harder to come by. I often wonder if having those resources earlier on might allow at least some of the families to be successful. It’s a complex problem and a single solution does not exist.
For me, I can only do my part. I can advocate for and love the children placed in my care and advocate for change in our legislative system. Sometimes, it really doesn’t seem like enough.
Photo credit: http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com
Posted: 08 Jun 2011 06:23 PM PDT
I was watching a movie the other day that had a scene filmed in Grand Central Station, an iconic crossroads of New York City. If you have ever been there, I don’t need to explain how beautiful and chaotic the place is, with the fabric of the human race rushing to and fro, from there to everywhere. If you have never been there before, take my word when I say it is architectural beauty.
It is also the last place I saw my first husband alive. On the morning of his death, we said goodbye on the steps of the Grand Staircase, never knowing we were saying our last words, having our last kiss.
I often think of that day, because central to it all was the adoption of our daughter, Elle. We were so close to getting her, so close to seeing her picture, so close to travelling to Russia. She was our topic of conversation during that morning’s commute. What would she look like? When would we see her? Were we ready to be parents?
I wonder if we said goodbye in a different spot, would the day have ended differently? If we had stood on the Grand Staircase ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later, would fate have dealt us a different card? If different people had brushed by us in their rush to work, would he still be alive?
But, then I think about Elle. If our goodbye had been one minute earlier or later, would Elle have been my daughter? Would she have the same brown hair and eyes? Would she have the same personality? Or would she be a different child? Adopted from a different place? Perhaps to different parents?
Our lives are all about fate. At least, that is what my husband’s death has taught me. Thirteen years have passed since his death, but I still wonder if it would be different had he lived. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of him, or that I don’t miss him. I see him in Elle’s smile, in her eyes, and I know he is responsible for her place in my life.
Whenever I go back to New York, I make it a point to go to Grand Central Station. I stand in the very spot I last stood with my husband. I allow the memories to overcome me. I remember. I cry. Then I wipe away the tears, and I go on.
Because, he gave me a gift on that day. He gave me the gift of my daughter.
Posted: 08 Jun 2011 03:05 PM PDT
Aside from Jesus Christ, the only sinless man to ever walk on the face of the earth, nothing is perfect. Christians are not perfect. We mess up. Every day brings another chance to try to get it right, but inevitably, we still fail at being anywhere close to the perfect parent or perfect spouse. We can, however, get up every day and know that God’s mercies are new and we are still loved by Him.And it works. We can continue to walk this path because we have an eternal hope in a God who sees all and knows all. Above all else, He is a PERFECT God with PERFECT plans. As believers, we are called to holiness, and we are adopted as His children, to be loved by His unfailing, unconditional love. He wants to lavish this love upon us.
This is what we are called to model to our own children. Because we live in an imperfect world, there are children who need families. When Christian believers step up and answer the call to adopt, we are sharing the love that God has extended to us with our adopted child. If we allow ourselves to be used by God, as vessels of His love, we can be the vessel that pours His perfect love into the hearts of our children. Some of our children come to us with very broken hearts, very wounded spirits. Our family’s experience with adopting children at older ages has shown us just how deep some of these wounds can be, but we have also seen just how much deeper the love of God can flow into their hearts and help to heal their wounds.
Again, nothing on this earth is perfect. There is a factor of human free will and thought in the mix. God’s love is amazing and the fact that He adopts us all into His family helps children understand their own adoption. When a child opens his heart to the love of God and his new adoptive family, healing can abound. We know this is not always the case, and some wounds cut so deeply into the hearts of children that they choose (either consciously or unconsciously in some cases) to close themselves off to the love that is offered to them. I believe that at some point in their lives, however, they will see more clearly the love that has been offered to them and the value of this kind of love.
When we let ourselves, as believers, be the vessel that God can use to pour His love into the lives of our children, healing and bonding can occur. I believe that is why Christian adoptions work, because we are not only relying on our own strength to love and parent our children. We have been given the gift of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, healing love. He is perfect. His love is perfect. I am not. With God, adoption makes sense. Let God’s love pour through you and into the lives of your children. Let it be a soothing balm to whatever ails them. Let His love be the glue that binds your family together. It really works.
Written by: Melissa Hoffman
Posted: 08 Jun 2011 10:50 AM PDT
The hardest decision my husband and I have had to make in the seven years since we got our kids is whether to allow contact between them and their birthparents. We first fostered, then adopted, a sibling group (ages 8, 5 and 16 months) who were taken away from their birthparents for substance abuse, domestic violence and mental illness.
For the first two foster care years, the birthmother had one visit with my daughter and no visits with either son. The birthfather had a handful of visits with all three kids as a group, but he missed many more than he kept.
By the time the kids were freed for adoption, the birthparents had lied to them, stood them up for visits, and promised presents that never arrived. When we adopted the kids, the social workers told us it was our decision whether to continue any contact.
For almost a year, we agonized over the decision and were very honest with the kids about it. We told them that we wanted them to have relationships with their birthparents, but only if they could be healthy. We told the kids that we didn’t want their hearts broken again. I believe the kids appreciated that we took it so seriously and were struggling to do what was best for them.
We went back and forth trying to decide whether contact with drug addicts would harm our children more than forcing them to break off contact. Especially with our oldest son, then ten, who had talked about his birthparents every day for the first two years.
In the end, we decided that the most important thing for our children was to have a strong family bond with us, and that forcing them to cut off contact with their birthparents would hurt that bond. We decided that even if the kids got hurt again, it was better to let them have a chance at healing those relationships with their birthparents.
So we opened the doors to contact; called the birthdad on the phone, wrote the birthmom letters (the parents were divorced by then). The phone conversation was wonderful for all three kids, although I will never forget the birthdad saying to me during that call, “I won’t lie to you, Donna, I was a good father.” He said good-bye with all kinds of promises to keep in touch. We never heard from him again.
We never heard from the birthmom in response to the letters. When my daughter turned nine, she begged for a visit with her birthmom. I called the mom and arranged for us all to meet at a park. My daughter followed her birthmom around desperately all afternoon until the birthmom told her, “You sure like to be the center of attention.”
My daughter wrote a few letters to her birthmom after that but never got a response. My oldest son asked for a card and a stamp a few years ago on Mother’s Day to send his birthmom a card because he said he felt sorry for her. He never heard back from her either.
It has been four years since then, and I know we made the right decision. It might not be the right decision for other families in our same situation, but it has worked out well for us. Our kids trust us more, knowing that we didn’t try to come between them and their birthparents. We have been there to comfort the kids when they sent their hopeful letters and received nothing in response.
We eliminated a whole area of potential trouble, where our kids could have fantasized about how wonderful life would be if only they could be with their birthparents. We have a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old now, and we don’t need any extra drama. No matter how mad they get at us, it’s never, “I wish I were with my birthparents.”
It has also been a very valuable, if painful, life lesson for my kids. We don’t always get what we want out of life. People let us down and disappoint us sometimes, even parents. It’s a humbling and sad truth, but it has helped me teach my kids compassion and forgiveness, for themselves and others.
Written by Donna Voss
Photo Credit Donna Voss
Posted: 06 Jun 2011 12:32 PM PDT
One of the key benefits to an open adoption is that a relationship is formed between adoptive and birth families, so a “Goodbye” at the hospital isn’t really a goodbye, it’s more like a “see you later!” How often everyone decides to visit will be a very individual decision. Some birthmothers will get to see their baby again in a couple of weeks, or months. Others, like me, may have to wait years but will still have a written or verbal communication during that time. Every birthmother who kisses their baby goodbye at the hospital immediately begins to wonder about when the next kiss will get to come.
Contrary to the many fears adoptive parents may have, a birthmother’s desire to see her child again has nothing to do with the role of “parent” and whether or not she is trying to reclaim it. I understand how scary it can be for adoptive parents – you’re just getting used to your role of “parent,” one you’ve waited a long time for, and even just the hint of it being removed or having to share it feels threatening. What I hope adoptive parents learn from my story, is that it is your role as parent that will give the birthmother the serenity she needs to continue to heal after her initial “goodbye.” She spent months imagining the family her child would become a part of, and getting to see that it was not a fantasy dream, but a reality, is extremely comforting.
When you love someone, it is difficult to be away from them. You want to see their face, look into their eyes and say “I love you,” hold them, and just know they are happy and healthy. This is true for friends, relatives, and of course, our children. When birthmother’s get the chance to see their child again, these are the feelings they have. They simply miss someone they love and look forward to getting to tell them how much they love them once more.
I had not expected to get to see my son again until he was an adult. And yes, I spent many hours daydreaming about that day and what it would look like. So, when he was 12 years old and I received a letter from his mom saying he would like to meet me, I was stunned. I was so shocked and excited that when I called my own mother to tell her it came out more like, “e ants oo eet eee!” After some deep breaths I managed to get it out in english, and we cried together.
After the initial excitement, worry began to set in. He was still a child after all, I had not thought about getting to see him while he was still young. I had imagined having a very adult conversation, probably starting by answering the question I was sure he would ask – “Why?”
(To be continued…)
Posted: 06 Jun 2011 08:40 AM PDT
It’s time for license renewal and all the assorted inspections, certifications and paperwork. When we were licensed, all these little things seemed so daunting but be assured, it does get easier. Here are my top five ways to stay sane while checking off the things I need to do:
My goals this year are to organize as I go. If I notice I am running low on copies, I will make those copies right away and put them in my book. Every piece of paper (inspection, etc.) will be immediately copied, filed, and mailed to the agency. I am adding one new step this year, as well: On my calendar record the date I mailed in each item. A change of personnel at the agency last year resulted in some things being misfiled. A date makes it easier for them to track down.That’s the plan — I’ll let you know how it goes!
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