Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Nuts and Bolts of Trees


Let’s talk about trees. 

Take family trees.  Usually when people think of a family tree, they think of an image of a strong and mighty oak, with lots of roots and branches that spread out wide.  That makes sense, most families are traditional families, consisting of couples that get together and make babies, and those babies couple up with someone else and make more babies.  It’s a grand image of generations of bloodline that shows where a person comes from.


But of course trees are as diverse as families, so let’s stretch this a little farther.  It’s December, Christmas is just around the corner, and Christmas trees are lit up in shopping havens world-wide.  These aren’t the grand oaks, they have no roots to keep them planted.  They aren’t even in their natural habitat or planted in soil to make them grow.  Yet they’re cherished, revered, decorated and embellished.  Entire decorating magazines are devoted to ‘doing up’ your Christmas tree, and there seem to be no limits to materials or creativity. 



The “traditional Christmas tree” is obviously a tradition to be broken.  But are these new, modern trees any less stunning?  Ok, so maybe they don’t bring the warm, fuzzy feeling of the nostalgic past, but to me they still inspire a sense of awe.  And not just because I’m a sucker for anything with sparkly lights.  The innovation and imagination are admirable, making a thing of beauty of something unexpected.  Most of us have a boxed up and packaged definition of what a Christmas tree should be: pine, green, lights, tinsel, garland, ornaments, you know, the whole festive sha-bang.  But then there are those who break out of those pre-defined expectations and create something just as spectacular, and even more so because it’s unconventional.  The point is, people can create their trees to be whatever they want them to be, and no doubt, it’s still a Christmas tree.
Last week for Reed’s birthday, I took a day to myself to celebrate, and wandered around that night at Singapore’s new Gardens By The Bay.  It’s the new botanical gardens, and though I didn’t get to explore much of the grounds, I did see the main attraction, the Supertrees.  Here’s a little tidbit from Wikipedia about them:
Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.
The Supertrees are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of bromeliads such as Tillandsia, amongst other plants. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy which can be used for some of the functions of the Supertrees, such as lighting, just like how trees photosynthesize; and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays, exactly like how trees absorb rainwater for growth. The Supertrees also serve air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories' cooling systems.
In short, these ‘trees’ are uh-mazing.  They have totally transformed the iconic skyline of the Singapore bay.  They draw you in; seen from a distance, they make you want to find out more.  If I told you to close your eyes and think of a tree, you would most likely not imagine anything close to these Supertrees, but even the most non-imaginative of spectators will no doubt recognize that they are indeed some kind of trees. 

Do you kind of get an idea of where I’m going with all this?
Since it was Reed’s birthday, as I was walking around these amazing man-made structures, I was thinking of all these things and about what Reed’s family tree looks like.  True, we all have a bloodline that makes up who we are.  But not all trees are ‘natural’, not all trees are those traditional, comforting images of something you would expect.  But life in general is truly what you make of it, which means that we can choose our own building materials and construct something that’s non-conventional, yet still beautiful.  We all choose how we decorate our trees, what we consist of.  We can ornament our lives with light and color and make it something beautiful.  I think I've been able to do that with my own life, and having Reed and the decision to build his family tree the way we have is something that I hope will bring amazement, light and beauty to all of our landscapes.  Reed is my Supertree.  He is the element of my life that people see from afar and think, "What is that?  I've never seen anything like it before, but it's cool."  Of course he is a natural being, but his family has been carefully constructed by our hands.  His family tree is a conglomeration of wood and bark and steel and leaves and nuts and bolts and roots and lights.  
And he is stunning.
video



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 Interview Project: Reunion Eyes


How's this for a "meant to be" moment: A woman on her 18th birthday decides that she wants to meet her birth mother who placed her for adoption, so she calls the adoption center which handled her case and puts in her request. That same day, within the hour in fact, the birth mother calls and puts in the same request- that she wants to contact her daughter that she relinquished 18 years ago.

 Thus started Cathy and Kate's reunion, which has now been going strong for 23 years. Cathy (the daughter) even went to live with Kate for a time. Now, they are co-authoring a book about their reunion; they have been meeting once a week to choose a topic and write about it, but each writing from purely their own perspectives, and not reading what the other wrote. They're not sure when it will be 'done', but they have a lot of material since they've been doing this for the last 8 years.

 And now for another "meant to be" moment: To acknowledge November as Adoption Awareness Month, Cathy and I have been paired together for this year's Adoption Round Table Interview Project. We contacted each other over email, she sent me questions and I sent her mine, and with each email she sent I thought she was more and more awesome. She was wonderfully honest with me from the beginning, not only telling me about her experience with her family (the family she grew up with plus her own- she's married and is a mother of two boys) and with her birth mother Kate, but also about a very personal time in her life when she made the decision to have an abortion. Our experiences are vastly different, which makes us want to pick each other's brains all the more. For me, it has been invaluable to be able to correspond with someone who was in a closed adoption and now has a close relationship with her birth mother, especially someone so open and honest. Can you even imagine the questions I had for her? Somehow I was able to whittle it down to a semi-manageable amount, but I couldn't help myself from keeping it to the more meaty ones. Amazingly, she was game. I told her I would love to have a chance to sit down with her at some quaint cafe and spend hours sharing a bottle of wine (or two) and really talk and ask questions and dig deep and get to know each other, but alas, among other things, 10,000 miles separate us.

 So this is as close as you'll get to being a fly on the wall at that imaginary cafe where Cathy and I are swilling our glasses and settled in for a long afternoon of chatting.

(As of this posting, she hasn't added my interview questions to her site yet, but you can still visit her blog, Reunion Eyes.  She's posting every day this month for Adoption Awareness Month, so her blog is filled with lots of insight.  I especially like her Super Hero post.  She also comments about being matched with me for the interview project here.  I'll add the link to my interview when it's posted.)

 ...........................


QUESTION: I've read blogs and comments from adoptees who are anti-adoption, claiming abortion is the "kinder" choice. Although I didn't make that decision for myself, I can relate to women who have, and can see the reasons why someone would make that choice.  It also scares the bejeezus out of me, wondering if Reed will ever have the same opinion- that he may someday think that being aborted would have been kinder of me than to place for adoption.

Let me stop you there - I can't imagine anyone saying that. I don't think abortion is the kinder option. It is just an option. No one can know with absolute certainty what the right decision is, so you just have to go with what your soul tell you...

My answer is contradictory and maybe hipocritical. For me, given the choice of being brought into the world and being given up for adoption, or being not brought into the world, being aborted. I would rather have been brought into the world. And, heck, all drama aside (and I've had some pretty drastic drama in my life), it's been a good life, I've enjoyed it, I wouldn't want to have missed out on it.

I was raised Catholic, and in 9th grade I went to an all girl's Catholic School run by nuns. While in general, I thought the nuns were lovely, they showed us anti-abortion videos, like the Silent Scream, and brought us all on a trip to DC to protest choice. When I was in college, I became pro-choice once I understood that pro-choice wasn't the same thing as pro-abortion. I was pro-choice but anti-abortion. I still thought abortion was killing.

Then, wham, I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I made a series of stupid mistakes - not using birth control first off. Then, I thought he would pull out (he didn't). He thought it didn't make a difference (it did). I thought about the morning-after pill, but thought it was still illegal (it wasn't).

I was 22. I instantly felt the rush of life into me at the instant of conception. I knew I was pregnant.

We really struggled. Both raised Catholic, both not wanting to be parents yet. But we were in love, we thought about getting married down the road. Maybe we should keep the baby, I thought, that would be the right thing to do. I would be done with college before the baby was born, I could live with my parents til I found a job and he could quit school, get a job ... what an awful, dreary life loomed before me. I didn't want that, and didn't want that for the baby either. Although that's what I would have judged upon others as what they should do, it didn't feel right.

Adoption seemed like the obvious choice. After all, twenty-two years earlier, an 18-year old woman had found herself in the same circumstance and did what society says is "the right thing" by putting me up for adoption. I had a good home, she got to move on with her life. Win-win.

But as much as I tried to look at that option, my mind wouldn't go there for a second. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring this baby into the world and not be it's parent. No matter what, this was my child, my child, I could not hand it over to anyone else. Even if I knew they were rich and loving and wonderful and would give the child every opportunity, I couldn't do it. I hadn't heard of open adoption then, but even if that was an option, I wouldn't, couldn't do it. It was my child and if it was going to come into the world, it would be with me.

But, I didn't want to be a parent, not yet.

So, abortion. Ending a life, the silent scream, having the baby cut out of me. I'm using harsh terms because it is harsh. There was nothing pretty about it. I saw the terrible videos that showed what abortion was, I knew what it was. I never believed in that life begins any later than conception. Conception is obviously the moment of life.

But, it is life that can only exist if the mother exists. It cannot live without the mother. Until the end of pregnancy, the baby is completely dependent on the mother's body to survive. It was my choice to allow it to continue to grow and develop and come into the world, or I could choose to end it.

I chose to end it.

I chose to end it even though I felt I shouldn't. It would be wrong, evil, murder. Well, no. No. It didn't feel wrong, it didn't feel evil, it didn't feel like murder. It felt like the right thing to do, for me. In my gut, in my soul, it felt like the right choice.

The doesn't mean I didn't grieve; my boyfriend and I both grieved that we would never know that surely wonderful life that would have been. It doesn't mean I didn't think others wouldn't judge me for it; I would be judged. It didn't mean I didn't wonder if I made the right decision, even though it felt like the right decision, could it still have been wrong?

So, why is it okay for me to say I'm glad I was brought into the world and glad I was put up for adoption, but not the same for the child I was pregnant with.

Mainly, because I'm alive. Once you're alive, and your given the choice of would you rather be dead...well, of course not. We are driven to survive. Would I have really cared if I was aborted? I have to think, no, probably not. I wouldn't have known any different. Before you're alive, are you sad you're not alive? No, you just aren't alive. Once you're alive, you're stuck. Your stuck wanting to survive no matter how awful life gets. And my life was fine.

QUESTION: When you were making your decision, could you relate to that statement at all (about abortion being the kinder option)?

Heck no, not at all. There are only tough choices and complicated decisions. I don't think either is necessarily kinder. Well, maybe adoption is kinder, but a whole lot messier during the lifetime. Not bad, just messy.

QUESTION: Were there things in your own adoption experience that you wouldn't want another life to go through that influenced your decision?

No. I had a good family, parents that loved me - overall a fine adoption experience. Did I not want that for my child? That was irrelevant. I just couldn't bring a baby into the world and not be its parent.


QUESTION: One of the questions I most often receive is about what will I tell Reed when he's older, how will I explain my decision to him. Not to impose or assume any views of the afterlife or souls (this is not supposed to be a religious question!), but how would you explain your decision to your unborn child? (Again, this is purely for the purpose of contrast.)

I was 22 when I became pregnant and was near the end of my bachelor's degree. I minored in philosophy, studied "death and dying," worked in Hospice and discovered both Buddhism and Existentialism. So, by the time I was 22 I had shed Catholicism and embraced Buddhist philosophy. Since that time, I've refined it by taking what spoke true to me about Buddhism and what spoke true to me about existentialism and mixed them into a place where I believe a soul chooses its life. It's really great that soul chose me, and I'm sorry I kicked it out, but I didn't take it's soul, the soul still survives, and probably found another belly to pop into.

This becomes even more strongly apparent to me as I face my dad existing on life support. It's just that his body is worn out. It's done. The soul continues, but the body ends. It ends for all of us. It's not our god-given right to have a body, it's
not a guarantee - it's a gift that we get to enjoy for a little while, and then it's gone.

What would I say to that soul if I get to meet it at my death?
"Hi! How are you? I love you, I wish I could have gotten to know you - you should have shown up later. How are things?"

I'm not being crass, it's just that talking to a soul without a body is different from talking to someone with a body. If I was explaining to the 11 week old fetus, and I did, I would hug it, if I could, and cry and mourn... "I'm really sorry. I hope it wasn't too difficult. I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to host another being in my body so I chose to have you taken out. I hope you find a good life. I'm sorry."

QUESTION: I strongly believe in individuality, and I think different people will handle similar circumstances very differently.  One of the questions I have about my relationship with Reed is if he will blame me as he understands more about my decision and how it has affected both of our lives.  Have you ever felt like a victim because you were adopted?  Have you ever felt helpless about your situation, that other people chose the outcome of your life and you had little control over it?  Did you blame your birth mother, Kate, for making such an important decision for your life?

I know there are a lot of anti-adoption birthmoms and adoptees out there. I'm not one of them. Adoption just is. It's not perfect, but it exists as one solution. It's not the solution for everyone, and it's not perfect, but nothing is.

Something I learned from a presenter at an American Adoption Congress Conference - "no one has a problem with being adopted, they have a problem with having been relinquished." I had to deal with having been given up by my birthmom (who I now love and know and have a great relationship with). But, hey, being a newborn baby and not being wanted by your mom, being given away - it sucks. It's hard. I can't imagine that that part is easy for anyone - even in open adoption.

But, you know what? Life's hard. Things happen. It would have sucked if I was born without a leg, but people deal with it. You could be a child of rape (how bad would that suck) or have your mom hate you or have your mom die at your birth. Horrible things happen. And being pregnant and not wanting to be a parent is hard. There's no good choice. Sure, they might have hurt feelings that you didn't keep them, but, buck up, they got life, and that's pretty cool. Count your blessings. But, that's just the way I am.

So, do I feel like a victim, no. Was I helpless about my situation - sure, all babies are. Do I blame my birthmother for giving me up? You betcha. I'm pissed off that she gave me away. She should have wanted to keep me. She didn't. So, I have to deal with commitment issues and abandonment issues and insecurity as all adoptees do. Am I sorry she gave me away? No. Would my life have been better with her? Who knows? Probably just different - different pros, different cons.

So will your Reed have relinquishment issues? I don't know any adoptee who doesn't. I don't know anyone who is happy that their mother didn't want to keep them. Rejection hurts. But, that doesn't mean it was a bad choice. It's just something you'll have to deal with. And, because you chose that, you get to have this beautiful amazing boy in your life. He might have issues from it (don't we all get issues from our parents?), he might get angry sometimes (god knows, I had anger with Kate), but you work through it.
QUESTION: I read in one of your posts about how you knew you were adopted at a young age.  How did you and your family work your adoption story into your life as you were growing up?  Were your parents always open with you about your adoption?  How did they explain it to you?  Did you feel comfortable asking them questions about it?  DID you ask them questions about it?

One of the best examples of good adoption parenting that I saw was a movie called, "Easy A." There's an adopted child in it, and they talk openly and easily about it, it's not even a main story line, it's just part of their life.

My parents were always very open to my questions, they just didn't have any answers. Now with open adoption, the kids will still have questions but they'll have answers too. That has to make it better, I think. Not perfect, not easy, but better.
QUESTION: When did you decide that you wanted to meet your birth parents, and what made you want that?  Do you ever think that your parents feel insecure or uncomfortable with your relationship with Kate?  How did they react when you first contacted her?  When you lived with her?

When I was 18, because I thought it would be an adventure to find out, and I wanted to know.

I always fear my parents feel insecure and uncomfortable with my relationship with Kate even though they never give any indication that they feel that way. Their reaction when I first contacted her was worry for me, worry I would be hurt. They are old-fashioned Irish-Catholic, so having a real, honest, deep conversation about how they really really feel deep down isn't an option. They were fine with me staying with Kate, it was when I decided to stay in Portland, on the other side of the country from Jersey, they were upset. But not because of Kate, just because I would be so far away.

If one of your sons in the future came to you and said, "Mom, _____ is pregnant with my child.  We're thinking about placing it for adoption."  What kind of reaction do you think you would have, or what kind of advice would you give?

Crapola, that's a hard one. I would feel the same way I did when I was pregnant - I can't not be that child's grandmother! But, it wouldn't be my choice, it would be their choice, and I would accept whatever they chose. I would do everything I could to provide them with all the information so they could make an informed choice, and then I would just have to trust them to go with their heart. If their heart told them that adoption was the right choice.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wading Through the Words


Here in Singapore I have a book club called The Hungry Hundred Book Club.  The focus is to read books that are considered to be the 100 best/most important/most influential books of all time.  This means that for the last two and a half years, each month I have read some of the world’s finest literature.  A sampling of the previous months: Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternask, Thus Spake Zarathustra by Fredrich Neitzche, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Ulysses by James Joyce, Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, Don Quixote by Cervantes, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and the list goes on.  I have read simple sentences that have been jaw dropping, penned by masters of their respective language who have the ability to express in words the wonderful complexity of emotions that normally leave me in a blabbering puddle of incoherent sounds when I try to express them.  Thus, I have not written any kind of a blog post for a long time.  Not because I haven’t tried, not because I haven’t thought about it, not because I haven’t wanted to, but because there are so many things I have thought and questioned that I just don’t have all the words for.  For example, how do I put into words all of the feelings and emotions I have when I see Reed, as I did this past June?  When he cuddled into my lap when I was sitting on the swinging chair on their front porch?  When he said, “I want Rachel to play with me!” or when he said to Maura, “Mommy, I don’t want you to talk to Rachel anymore, I want you to talk to me.”
Shortly after we got home from the airport, Reed saw me sitting in the swinging chair and asked, "Can I sit with you?"  Of course!!!!!
Reed is beginning to understand things in his going-on-three years old way.  As Maura was updating me on things, she said that during a conversation that they were having about where Reed came from, she mentioned to him, as she has several times before, that he came from my belly.  “But I want to come from your belly,” was his response.  And there have been other times that Reed has made reference to his or Julian’s (his 9 month old little brother) adoption. What does he think of me?  How is he suppose to react towards me?  Is he suppose to love me?  If Reed had the vocabulary to express them, I think these might be some of the questions he might have.  But as he is now, I venture to guess that I am one big question mark to him.  And I can’t blame him; I guess in a way he and Julian are one big question mark to me also.  If I could imbibe the great literary masters in the art of metaphor, perhaps I could explain better what I mean.  But for now all I can portray is an image of me with my finger fluttering up and down between my lips making a blrblrblrblr sound and the only question I can think of to really ask is, “how do I love him?  Them?” which, when taken solitarily, is actually not what I’m trying to ask at all. Nevertheless, for the sake of all of our sanity, I must try to remove my finger from fluttering between my lips and begin forming actual words that lead to conversation.  And plenty of conversations did we have while I was there in June!  Doug and Maura are so great at patiently sitting through what I’m trying to say, even when I don’t know what I want to say and am still figuring out for myself what is in my own heart.  I know how to love Reed and Julian both because I already do love them.  But how do I love them both equally AND love Reed more than anything in the world?  Should I even try to make Reed feel that he is special to me at the risk of the two brothers feeling a sense of inequality?  We talked about how Reed is relating to me, how he is attempting to understand things himself, and we speculated on what the future might bring to mine and Reed’s relationship as well as mine and Julian’s.  But really, all we can do is watch and love them, let each of us deal with things in our own individual way, and love actively and unconditionally. 
Julian is such a chubby, cuddly, wide-eyed joy to be around!
Bill and I were able to overlap our visits by a couple of days.  It's always great to see him!  One day Maura, Bill, Reed, Julian and I went with Reed's cousin and aunt to the lake.  Reed loved Bill being his own personal motorboat.

And talk.  I received a prompt from the Open Adoption Round Table that asked what makes open adoption work.  I really believe that the reason it works is because Doug, Maura, Bill and I have been open from the beginning, that we are able to talk about things.  No, we don’t talk very often- ask anyone who knows me and they can attest that I’m horrible at keeping in touch with anyone.  But when something is important, we can talk about it, dig into it, not be afraid of what we might find there.  I think that this past visit in June proved to us that we can dive into an issue with open hearts, knowing that we’re in this together for the rest of our lives, and deal with any kind of friction that may arise.  I’m confident in my relationship with Doug and Maura, as well as with Reed and Julian because of our ability to be open and honest, dealing with things as they surface instead of brushing them under the carpet.

As I re-read this that I’ve written, oh how I long to channel Boris Pasternask to more eloquently and accurately describe what I’m really feeling!  How I wish to use my fluttering finger covered with the drool of incoherency to pen the words that would let someone into my head!  But it’s late and I’m tired and this is my 7th attempt as writing this blog, so this will have to do.  Blrblrlbrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblrblr….      

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mother's Day #3- MUCH to Celebrate!

I love celebrating Mother's Day. Of course I've always been grateful for my own mother, who raised 5 kids practically on her own while working multiple jobs and going to school, but now I'm thankful to be on another side of the celebrations. Some celebrate "Birth-Mom Day" the day before Mother's Day, but I prefer to claim my stake in the actual day itself. I am a mother, even if I don't play the traditional role of one. And giving birth to Reed is not my only part in his life, he is an ongoing presence in my heart and life, and I hope to be that in his. Maura and I talked on skype a couple of days before Mother's Day, and we both told each other that we feel that this our day when we celebrate each other, our day that we share together. Reed has his adoption day, his birthday, and every single other day of the year that he is cherished and adored, but Maura and I have our Mother's Day. Our day, when we both honor each other's role in Reed's life and say how grateful we are for each other. Our day to celebrate each other and what has brought us together. Mother's Day is not just a day to celebrate my motherhood, it is yet another chance for me to celebrate life- ALL of life. I have so much to be thankful for, and I have to give credit to Maura, who gives me the peace of mind in knowing that Reed is exactly where he belongs. It's because of that inner peace and surety that I can enjoy life to the fullest, because I'm so confident that Reed is in the best place to be able to enjoy life to the fullest as well.

 Here are some of the things I've done since I last posted:
 1) I visited Reed's family in North Carolina and my family in Texas over the Christmas holidays, which was amazing as usual.

2)In January, I got my scuba certificate in the Philippines (that's me doing the photo bomb in the background)

3)I spent a wonderful week in Borneo in March hanging out with orangutans and traipsing around the city of Kutching

4) A long weekend on the beach in Malaysia in April

5)And in May, I spent a weekend in Indonesia hiking up an active volcano...

...and walking around temples over 1000 years old.


Meanwhile, what has Reed been doing? He's been doing all the things a two year old boy should be doing, like playing outside

Getting in touch with his inner artist (painting Easter eggs)


And the BIGGEST news of all... enjoying time with his new baby brother!!!!!


That's right, Julian was born in January, and now Reed is a part of a thriving family of 4. I'm so happy about this and we have all been supporting the idea of a growing family since the first time I even met Doug and Maura.

 So here I am in Singapore, living this fantastic life of exploration and adventure, and there Reed is in North Carolina, surrounded by beautiful nature, picking vegetables from his garden, gathering eggs from the nearby chicken coup, absorbing artistic energy from his potter father and creative mother, surrounded by loving friends and family and truly living a life to be envied.

Yes, there is definitely much to celebrate.

 So this Mother's Day, I went out with my friend/spiritual sister/old same/roommate Shelley (who was at Reed's birth and is also a mother herself) to a celebrate with a nice Japanese dinner. The food and sake were amazing, and the waiter even brought us out complimentary Mother's Day desserts of green tea ice cream and rich hazelnut chocolate. Then we continued the night at the Wine Connection with some wine and pizza, topped off with some soul-searching conversation. We raised our glasses to Maura, to our children, to our own mothers, and to everything in life that has brought us to where we are now.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Years In, A Lifetime To Go




It’s hard to believe that two years ago, on December 13th, I gave birth to my son Reed. Two years is not very long ago in the grand scheme of things, but I like to think that I’m starting to establish my own traditions in how I celebrate this event. Even though it’s his birthday, I seem to think that I get to celebrate by treating myself to something somehow. Maybe it’s because of the connection I still feel towards him; if he celebrates I celebrate, even if I’m on the other side of the planet. This year the date happened to coincide with what also happened to be the most practical date for our new house warming party, so it really did feel celebratory. That morning I made one of my favorite desserts, a raw vegan version of a key lime pie (made pretty much with avocados, coconut, honey and lime, with a crushed macadamia nut crust… delicious and full of vitamins- yes! Low calorie- far from it) for his birthday cake, I wore the earrings that my friend Shelley gave me as a special gift when I was pregnant with him, listened to my “Reed” playlist of songs I sang to him when I was pregnant with him and now to myself when I think about him, and looked forward all day to the Skype date I had with him and Maura that night. I worked that evening and when I came home there were already friends over for the party, but I went up to my room for our date. It is so fun to see him, and Maura is fantastic at following him around with the camera so that even when just she and I are having an adult conversation, I get to see and observe him the whole time. How thoughtful she is to intuitively know that that’s exactly what I need! He did all sorts of cute things, like making his giant toy lobster get my nose and we would touch foreheads against the camera which he thought was particularly fun. He also showed me his sofa gymnastics and how fast he could run through the living room, trying to imitate Doug’s apparently show-stopping sideways slide on the slick wood floors. As entertaining and interactive as he was on the computer screen, I cannot wait to see him in person!

Towards the end of the conversation, I took my computer downstairs to where the party was happening, took out the pie with two lit candles, and we all sang happy birthday to him. He even blew out the candles on the computer screen. All of my friends of course commented on how adorable he is, which I know is obligation when your friends show off their kids, but I still like to think there is some genuine truth to it and I’m not just being completely biased when I swoon over those blond curly locks and that charming smile.

I’ve always tried to be open and honest about my experience with Reed, but putting him out in front of my friends so they could sing happy birthday to him brought it to a new level. While I don’t go around broadcasting it to strangers, I talk about him in casual conversation as I do any other member of my family; he is nothing for me to hide and I do not feel the need or desire to. When I first decided to place him for adoption I knew that it wasn’t anything I felt ashamed or embarrassed of, and didn’t think I should be. It’s true that at the time when I first found out I was pregnant I didn’t want it to happen, but now when I look back, if I had the choice to do anything different, even not getting pregnant in the first place, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is a really hard thing for most people to understand, and lately, as he has come up in conversation quite a bit in the past few weeks, I realize more and more that people don’t really need to understand.

I tend to think that I have to justify myself sometimes, to convince someone that what I did was what I really needed to do. Reasons start to come out, like I didn’t have a house, a stable job, insurance, a bed, more than two suitcases full of belongings, and I wasn’t in a lasting relationship with his birth father (though I always want to put in the disclaimer that Bill still continues to be a supportive birth dad to Reed and a close and cherished friend to me). However, the truth is that none of these things really warrant someone giving up their child. If a woman came to me with all of those same difficulties (which for me, they weren’t difficulties, they were just a regular part of the lifestyle I loved) and said she was pregnant and asked my advice, I would tell her that if she wasn’t completely convinced that this was the right thing to do, than she shouldn’t do it. I could have kept Reed, I could have moved in with one of my parents, I could have gotten two jobs and worked hard for the both of us, I could have tried to make something work with Bill. If I had decided on any of those roads, I would have had plenty of support from friends and family, and though it wouldn’t have been easy or ideal, we could have made it work somehow, as many single parents have done for thousands of years past and will continue to do so. I guess this is the part that’s hard for people to understand: I didn’t want to make it work, it wouldn't have been right, I would have had to force a lot of things that I didn't believe was the right thing to do. It wouldn't have been good for me or for him, and while many say that the best thing for a child is to stay with his mother, if that mother isn't doing what she truly feels is right by keeping that child than I don't agree. I just can’t explain how much I knew from the beginning that he belonged to someone else, and how I could love him so deeply and intensely while being so comfortable and at peace with giving him up.

But what I’ve realized more and more, especially this week, is that people don’t need to understand. Maybe they shouldn’t. I don’t think a mother needs to understand how someone else could give up their child when that mother has the light of her life in her arms and couldn’t imagine herself without him/her. She shouldn’t be able to easily identify with going through the laboring process after nourishing a life inside of her and then placing the fruit of that labor willingly into someone else’s care, giving him to someone else to love. A person, woman or man, who wants to have a family at some point or perhaps is trying to have one shouldn’t be able to relate to the feeling of preparing for the birth of a child while planning on giving it away. It’s not normal or natural, and I’ll be the first to admit it.

When I made the decision to be open about our open adoption, I knew it would bring out slew of varying reactions. Since I’ve been particularly up front about it this past week, I’ve had hugs, tears, and lots of questions as I’ve related my story. Honestly, I love the questions. “How? How could you give up your own son? What a child needs most is his mother,” a good friend said to me. I wasn’t offended at all, I appreciated her honesty and it was a genuine, mutually respectful conversation. I wish some of the people closest to me would be honest with the questions and doubts they have, because I know they are there. “What are you going to say to him when he’s older and is asking why?” “How is his mother suppose to feel confident in being his mother when you are still openly calling him your son?” “How can you be 100% convinced that you did the right thing, because I’m not sure you did.” Thank God for friends like that! (Or thank God for the consumption of a little liquid conversational lubricant which may or may not have been consumed during some of these conversations) These were not attacks like I’ve experienced before, they were questions asked while holding my hand, in conversations of mutual self disclosure and honesty, and often ended with hugs.

I’ve thought more about conversations I may have with Reed when he’s older and we really start to have conversations about the big WHY question. First of all, I hope that throughout his whole life we’ll have an open stream of dialogue so that nothing will creep up unexpected for him or me. I think he will always have a general sense of ‘why,’ but at some point of course he will become more in tune with his heart, which I hope will make him want to know more about other’s hearts, more about my heart. And then I’ll tell him, “Reed, the reason I gave you to them was because my heart told me to. I knew I loved you and always would, and my heart told me that there was a way to continue loving you, for us to still be a part of each other’s lives, even while it was telling me that you had a different mother waiting for you. If you know one thing about me, know this, that I have loved you from the beginning more than I’ve loved anything or anyone. And if you learn one thing in your life from me, I hope it will be this: that you should always follow your heart, even when no one in the world understands.”

I don’t ever want to shy away from questions about Reed, or why or what will happen or what do I think now. The ‘hard’ questions are the ones which make me think about him more, and I welcome that. Two years is a short time, and I by no means have everything figured out yet. I’m still learning how he is a part of my life and what role we play in each other’s. We (Maura, me, Doug and Bill) are all still learning about each other and how we somehow make a family, extended as it may be. Hopefully I have a long time coming to contemplate these questions and for many more people, including Reed, to ask them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Interview With Another Birth Mother

If you have read any of my posts, you'll know that I sometimes base my topics on questions from a site called "Open Adoption Roundtable", a community of birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees who blog about whatever side of the adoption spectrum they're on. When I was pregnant and reading whatever I could find about open adoption, I stumbled across an interview project set up through this forum, which paired different bloggers together to interview and post each other's Q&A's on their individual blog sites. Well now I'm excited to be a participant in this project, and I was paired with Amy, who is a birth mother of a 7 year old daughter. This was the first time I've ever spoken or had any communication with another birth parent involved in an open adoption, so I was pretty excited to ask some questions. My hardest problem was getting the number of questions down to an amount feasible for a married, busy, hard working university student like Amy to tackle. So without further adieu, here's my interview with Amy.

(If you want to read my answers to Amy's questions, visit her blog, http://www.amyrschumaker.com/)

Answers to questions:


1. What were your preconceived notions about adoption or open adoption before you became pregnant?
a. I did have preconceived notions about adoption before I became pregnant. I had friends growing up who were adopted and they both didn’t know who their birth-families were. I always asked them if they would want to know and one said, “NO” whereas the other one said she wished she could know her birthmother, only to have the chance to thank her for giving her a good life. Before I became pregnant, I never thought I would be one of “those” women who would enter that kind of life. I also thought that the women who placed their children into adoption were addicted to drugs or where just bad parents who had their children taken away from them.




2. How did you go about choosing the parents for your daughter?
a. I went through an agency to choose Kaylee’s parents. I wanted to go through an agency since I knew they would have a better idea on what to do rather than rely on a blood thirsty lawyer who just wants another case off of their desk. My adoption counselor, Amy D. (yes her name was Amy as well), gave me a book of probably 50 prospective families that were through the agency. I took the book home and knew I had to do this in a systematic way. I read through the book and chose my top five, and then my mom read through the same book. We came back together and told each other our top five. The crazy thing is that we choose the same exact families! I was looking for a family who didn’t have children already, who had the same religious beliefs, and who were outgoing. I contacted my adoption counselor to let her know which families I had chosen and was told to choose three families from this narrowed list. I was then given full detailed profiles about each family. Once again, my mom and I choose our top three separately and found that we had chosen the top three. We called Amy to let her know and she had said that one of the families was already in process with another birthmother. So out of the two that were left we chose the next favorite. We met a week later and I just “knew” that they were going to be the parents of Lil Miss who was growing inside of me. Since I didn’t have a name for her, I started calling her Lil Miss to help me not extremely attached.






3. Why did you decide on open adoption rather than a traditional closed adoption?
a. Kaylee’s birth-father actually sent me the site to the agency that I chose to go through. It was an agency that specialized in open adoption. I felt like this was the best way to go since I wanted to know where she was and that she was living a good life. I read up on all the different options that were out in the adoption world, and open adoption seemed like the best option.



4. I don’t know how your decision to place came about or what your situation was in choosing her parents, so this question may not apply to you.
a. But if you were on a search for adoptive parents, what kind of reaction were you met with from potential candidates towards openness?
i. The only potential family that I met was Kaylee’s parents. I knew the minute I walked into the counseling conference room that they would be the ones who would parent her. They were so much like myself and the birth-father.

5. What is your relationship with her parents like now? Do you have established rules of etiquette for communication/visitation?
a. The relationship with her parents now is on the positive side. We are all very busy and so over the years, the constant communication has dropped off. I will admit that I am slow at getting presents out on time or even cards. I use to be really good at that, but then when I got married, things started to slip.

b. We had established an open adoption agreement before she was born. The agreement was to have 4 visits per year until the age of 5 years old and then 2 times a year after that until the age of 18 years old. This went along same lines for any other type of communication (email, letters, pictures, phone calls, etc.). Even though we established those rules…they are really just ground rules. The first year of life, I was seeing Kaylee about once a month for the first several months, but then it became too much and so we backed off to every couple of months. Now that I do not live in the same state as them, I get to see them whenever I go back home to Oregon. This tends to be once a year due to the price of airline tickets. Her mom told me though to just let them know when I would be in town and she would try to make sure that I would get to see Kaylee. As for pictures and everything now, I tend to get pictures around Christmas time along with a small gift that Kaylee picks out for me. I send her a gift as well.




6. Do you ever feel like they are ‘doing you a favor’ by allowing you to still be a part of your (their) daughter’s life?
a. At first I think I may have thought that. I try not to think about this as we all signed up to participate into an open adoption. The agency that we went through – Open Adoption & Family Services (openadopt.org) – provides lots of counseling sessions for each side to ensure this is the choice they all want to get involved in. I though am very careful to not overstep the boundaries as I don’t want to ruin any type of relationship that we have already established.

7. What was the hardest thing for you to deal with…
a. while you were pregnant
i. I think that the hardest thing to deal with while I was pregnant is trying not to get so attached. It is natural though for everyone involved with this process (especially the birth-mother) to not get attached. I felt every move that she made, I was the one who was up at night peeing every two hours because I chose to indulge in a super big gulp coke slurpee from 7-Eleven at ten o’clock at night. I was the one who felt the first contractions. It was my time to enjoy the pregnancy as it was going to be one of the only moments that I could honestly call her my own.

b. Immediately after she was placed
i. The hardest thing to deal with after she was immediately placed, that I knew that she was not with me anymore. That I made the hardest decision that any parent would have to make. I had a hard time listening to people tell me to move on with my life as the chapter is closed and a new one is about to open. I though, had (and still have) a very supportive family. I lost some friends as they wanted to know about my life but not about my adoption. Adoption was and is always going to be part of life. My friends who stood next to me while I was pregnant are still there for me on those hard days in life.

c. Now
i. The hardest thing now, is that I am not in the same state as her. I wish I could see her more often, especially now that she is getting older and participating in sports and little school activities.


8. What has been the most wonderful thing about your adoption experience? (Feel free to apply the three time periods listed above to this question if you want. J)
a. while you were pregnant
i. The most wonderful thing about my adoption experience while I was pregnant was the support system that I had. I always had someone who I could call or email if I needed to talk to.

b. Immediately after she was placed
i. I would still say that the most wonderful thing about this part of my adoption process is again the support system. I may have lost some friends, but I was told that I will know my true friends, as they will be there to offer support when I am sick, happy, or hurting. This was and is very true.

c. Now
i. The best thing now about my adoption experience is that I have fully come to terms with my choice. I know that placement of Kaylee was the best thing I could have done. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I chose to parent. I made sacrifices and will have to live with emotions that are attached to the choices I made.




9. Has her birth father been involved in any way?
a. When I first became pregnant, he wanted me to have an abortion. Since I personally do not agree with abortion for my own self, I told him I was going to carry this child for the entire nine months. He wanted nothing to really do with me for the entire pregnancy. He was there at the hospital in the waiting room from the time I went into labor until the time she was born. He held her for a little bit as well, so we do have pictures of her with him. He then went to Afghanistan as a paid contractor





10. How do you think the media plays on the general public’s perception of adoption or open adoption?
a. At times I think that the general public perception is that birthmothers are either drug addicts, bad mothers who are unable to care for their children, or as charity cases. I also think that this same perception is portrayed on today’s television shows. Friends, Brothers & Sisters, Teen Mom, Juno…the adoption lifestyle is made out to look cool or that the women are no good people who are in a screwed situation, when most of the time it is the complete opposite. We as women want to give the best option to our children and that is we choose adoption.

11. If there were one thing you could change about…what would it be?
a. Laws and regulations about (open) adoption
i. I would change and make that all 50 states have a legally binding adoption contract between the birth-parents and adoptive parents. With a contract being legally binding, the birthparents would have the right in each state to go back to the adoption agency or court if the adoptive parents back out on everything that was agreed upon before the adoption was final.

ii. I would change that the birthmother’s do not have a wait time to change their mind, and make the relinquishment process instantaneous so that women cannot go back up to 30 days later in some states to say that they are choosing to parent their placed children.

b. Attitudes and perceptions about (open) adoption
i. I would change the negative view that most people have about adoption. I would not allow people to tell birth-mothers, “wow…I could never do that to my own child.” When they haven’t walked in our own shoes. I would change the thought process of outsiders of those who think that all women involved into an open adoption are going to come back and want the child back. I would also make sure that any movie, tv show, or anything else that is going to be in the media about adoption would shine the good light on adoption and not sugar coat it as if it is a humorous situation.

c. Your own experience with adoption
i. I wouldn’t change much with my own adoption experience. The friends who do not talk to me anymore, I am ok with that. The friends who chose to stay with me and support me is what I need. I would change the

fact that I am so far away from Kaylee. I wish that I was closer so that I could be more involved with her life.




12. Your daughter is 8 now (right?). She will be 8 in January.

a. How has it been difficult/wonderful/easy/challenging/etc. to relate to her as she gets older?
i. Since I only see her once a year, I do find it difficult or challenging to relate to her, especially now that she is getting older. I really feel like I have the same questions to ask her and so on. Our visits only last maybe 2 hours at the most due to everyone kind of running out of things to talk about. I do love that she likes to play dress-up and draw. So I can see what she is into, but I feel like the Aunt at Christmastime who is wondering what to get since I only see her so sparse. I don’t want to be the person who sends a gift and have everyone think, “What was she thinking?” I tend to think she is younger than what she is at times, and I now know why extended relatives (grandparents who live in a different state from their grandchildren) buy things that are several years younger than what that child really is. The older she gets though the more she looks like me, and I love seeing that.

b. Do you and her family have a plan for if/when she starts asking serious questions about her adoption?
i. She actually was told at a young age that she was adopted. NaeDean adds more details each year. Kaylee thinks it is pretty cool, I think. In pre-school she told her teachers that she didn’t come from her mom’s tummy that she came from Amy’s tummy. The teacher at that time didn’t know she was adopted. It was cute. I am ready though for the day when she comes to be in her teenage years to ask the serious and difficult questions. When she gets older, I will start talking to NaeDean and ask her what I should tell and so-forth. The last thing I want to do is to step on anyone’s toes.

c. How do you see your relationship with her (and her family) developing in the future?
i. I do see us (her and her family) becoming closer as she gets older. Just like any relationship, it takes time to really develop anything strong. I would love to be more involved with her life when she becomes a pre-teen and teenager as that is when girls start to develop their identity.




13. You mentioned that you and your husband would like to have a child. What are your thoughts about incorporating your daughter’s life into your potential future family?
a. I would love to incorporate her life into my potential family. If my husband and I would have a child together, they will always know that they have a big sister who lives in a different home. She will never be this “secret”. I would love to see her come and stay at my house for a week or two during the summer when she is older and be considered the cool aunt who likes to go to movies and eat ice cream late at night.

14. Do you have any regrets?
a. I do at times have regrets, but only when I am feeling really down. I know that I made a choice, and I have to live with that choice for the rest of my life. I know at the time of placement it was the best choice at that time. No one can predict the future, and so I never thought that my future husband and I would struggle with fertility issues. I have to thank my lucky stars that I found a good family to parent my sweet Lil Miss and that she is happy, healthy and has a house over her head on a nightly basis.

b. Fears about the future?
i. I do not have any fears for the future. I think that any birth parent or any parent in that matter fears of something tragically wrong happening to them or their child. I think that any birth parent fears that their child who was placed will hate them for what they did, but with open adoptions, I don’t see that really happening. I hope that she will live a long life and be successful in whatever she ends up doing.

15. Choose one of your own questions that you are asking me for this project and answer it yourself. J
a. Some people get tattoos as a way to remember their child. Have you ever thought of getting one if you don't have one already?

i. I do not have any tattoos, yet. Yet is the main word there! I have really thought that if I put any art on my body, that it should be meaningful since it will be on me permanently. Since placement I have really thought about doing some type tattoo that acknowledges my adoption. Different designs have came to mind but I need to really think about the placement of the tattoo, since I want to be a Social Worker. The last thing I want to do is put it in a place that everyone can see and not get a job due to having some type of body art.

ii. As for what kind of designs, I have thought about taking her actual baby footprints and having them be put on me, or a pair of baby booties. I have also thought about having footprints (like footprints in the sand poem) placed on my back as that poem is very significant in the adoption world if you spin it as the two prints in the sand is when the mother is pregnant and the single prints are after placement. So there are a tone of different things. I will have one though in the future.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spoken Word/Poetry Performances

Well, I've been meaning to do this for a while and am finally getting around to actually posting this. Since being in Singapore, one of the things I've dabbled in is spoken word poetry, attending and participating in poetry slams, competitions and performances. Only a few events under my belt and I'm certainly not prolific enough to become a serious contender, but I've enjoyed getting my toes wet. Another thing I've enjoyed about it is the freedom of self expression. There is something about spoken word, in which all of your sentences don't have to make sense or be completely coherent, that releases me to communicate what is really in this jumbled mind of mine. This has been especially helpful in dealing with some of the emotions and reactions I've had concerning Reed and the whole open adoption process thus far.

This past July I had an opportunity to let others hear some of those thoughts as well, when I was invited to perform at a Lit Up Singapore, an annual event promoting the literary arts. It was a small gathering, nothing too big or fancy, but it was my opportunity to get out 3 pieces I had written; I call them my healing poetry. I wrote them through much tears, trying to cut through to what I really wanted to say, and performed them that night attempting to keep most of those tears back. It was very intimidating for me, laying myself open to the friends, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers who attended.

Thankfully, one of those acquaintances whom I know from my book club (thanks, Cheryl!) recorded it with her phone, which is why I'm able to present them here. Like I said, nothing fancy, and you'll have to bear with me as I stumble through some kind of an introduction to the first poem. So here's the first one... (btw, sorry if your computer screen is like mine and doesn't show the whole frame of the video; I have to watch it full screen to even see myself. Maybe it's time for a new blog layout...)


This second 'poem' (I know, it doesn't seem like a poem if you're use to thinking of it in a traditional poetry sense, but remember, spoken word is different) is my reaction to judgement I've seen, heard and felt, both from external and internal sources, about my decision to place for adoption. Some of the words I speak here are words I've heard verbatim from others, some are from arguments I've had in my own head as I've tried to hash out every side of the multi-dimensional coin. The couple of words that are cut off are, "The lightbulb swung casually..."


The final piece is something I wrote specifically for Reed. These are words I hope he hears as he gets older, that will make more and more sense to him as he experiences life and all of it's complexities. The first sentence is a bit cut off, it starts, "There is a way things are suppose to be, there are certain people we are suppose to appease..."


Coming up is something I'm pretty excited about: the Open Adoption Roundtable's interview match-up. The participants are those of us who blog about adoption from any side- birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees- and we are paired up to conduct our own interviews. This happens in November, so stay tuned, and if you or anyone you know who has been affected by adoption in some way would like to participate, you can check out the link on the right side of this page. :)