Jill: I always assumed that the official Adoption Day would be monumental. That I would feel lighter. That things would feel “official.” That actual and metaphoric clouds would part and thick rays of sunshine would shine down on my family. That angels would descend from Heaven and sing “Hallelujah” in kick ass Simon & Garfunkel style harmony with my soul. However, perhaps like with all great occasions the fuss in advance was more fulfilling. The court proceedings were simple and will look way cooler in the photo album than they were in reality. But that is okay because the best part of the day was when I realized that I really didn’t need River’s new birth certificate to prove I am his mother. I wasn’t able to bring him into this world but from the moment he arrived I have been able to raise him, teach him, and love him. And honestly I am not too naive to realize this is just one of MANY hurdles in adoptive parenting!
MC: You came to your open adoption in an *unusual* fashion. (Meaning, I have never met anyone who has adopted a niece or nephew, although I have read about many instances like yours.) What do you anticipate to be the easier or harder parts for you and your family in maintaining an open adoption relationship with your husband’s sister?
Jill: As I began to write my answer to this question I realized that in so many ways the answers to what is easier and what is harder are exactly the same. The closeness that makes our open adoption so easy to develop also makes it difficult to maintain. In particular, necessary boundaries are difficult to set and sometimes even seem silly and/or futile when someone you know and love as a sibling is on the other side. Perhaps every blessing has its price, though. I know that at times it will be an enormous challenge while at others it will practically seem natural to maintain harmony in our new expanded relationship with Angie.
During her pregnancy it made being a part of his prenatal care very easy and comfortable. I was able to go to all of her doctor’s appointments with her without any awkwardness like there would have been if in advance she had been a stranger. On the flip side, because we are close I had access to and witnessed the pain and agony she experienced over the impending loss that most adoptive parents do not. Adoptive parents are always aware of the the loss experienced by their child’s birth parents but to witness it in person humbled me and at times made me feel like the worst person in the world. It was difficult not to blame myself for her pain and agony and impossible not to wish my becoming a mother didn’t have to hurt someone I loved so much.
Since his birth some of the biggest blessings/hurdles have been family gatherings. There still remains some awkwardness and jealousy that we’ve not yet resolved. That said, time has and will continue to greatly assisted in this effort. Family gatherings have been a huge blessing for Angie to help her connect with River so that the sense of loss hasn’t been as great.
One of the most appealing parts of the nature of our adoption is the fact that the majority of what is difficult is difficult on myself and Cory and the majority of what is a benefit is a benefit to River. Like any parent I am willing to take on as much discomfort as necessary to make things as easy on River as possible. River will always be able to have a close relationship with Angie since she is now his aunt. That will allow him access to the answers to many of his questions and may even prevent the need for him to ask them as the answers will be apparent in the nature of their relationship. To me, that alone is priceless and worth whatever discomfort it may cause me.
MC: How is blogging important to you? Is it a way to keep in touch with your son’s birth family and your family primarily? Is it for your own pleasure, or like in my case, therapy!
Jill: I first started blogging after reading the blogs of friends I had met on an adoption discussion board. I thought it would be a great way to keep our family and friends up to date with our progress, a great way to record our experience, and a constructive way to manage all the new thoughts I had in my head. I also thought it would be a great way to communicate some of the feelings I had about infertility and adoption to family and friends that I was afraid and didn’t know how to communicate to them in person.
That said, I wouldn’t be fully honest if I didn’t admit that part of the reason I started and continue to blog is simply for the need to validate my experience. To know other people understand, have had similar experiences and feelings, and give a damn about what I’ve been through and what I have to say is very comforting.
MC: You take the reader through a great retelling of a conversation as you imagined the speaker really meant to say, and how you meant to respond in the post Secret Thoughts of An Infertile Mother Do you find that you have lots of these occasions where upon reflection this is what you wanted to say. Or lots of occasions where you think people are not saying what is on their mind really. Are there any such moments that you handled in a way that really felt good?
Jill: Oh how I wish I was quick witted enough to respond appropriately to some of the comments I have received over the years! Unfortunately, I am a “chewer.” I don’t do well with confrontation whether it is actual or perceived or whether it is intentional or not. When someone says something to me (intentional or not) that cuts to the core most often I am reduced to a blubbering idiot that is lucky to get any coherent response out. Instead I just chew on the comment(s) for hours, even days afterward trying to come up with the best response. Sometimes I even have to bring in a third party on the really tough ones.
In my experience I have felt that in a few conversations I’ve had about adoption and/or infertility the subtext did not match the actual words exchanged. I don’t believe, however, that any of the more hurtful subtext in any of these conversations were borne from a place of malice. Usually they are borne from a lack of understanding of my situation or my own misinterpretation coming from an insecure and vulnerable place. In the particular conversation I quoted I was speaking to a very lovely, kind, caring woman who I don’t believe meant to hurt my feelings nor do I believe that the interpretation I posted was her true subtext. Because infertility especially is still an open wound it can be difficult to not take these comments personally. I decided to post this conversation so that those outside the infertility/adoption circle could understand the potential impact of their comments.
MC: What is one piece of advice you would give a couple who is also going through the infertility journey, and is considering adoption?
Research (read books, blogs, websites, etc.) and network (discussion boards, support groups, etc.) like your life depends on it! Because seriously, one day it will. I wanted to add more and I’ve written several drafts but each time it just ends up sounding like I’m trying to make some sort of pompous public service announcement. Knowledge is power… The more you know… blah, blah, blah. So I will leave it at that.
MC: What is one hope or dream that you have for your son, that you would be willing to share here?
Jill: Of course I have the typical dreams for River that most parents have for their children. Success, joy, prosperity. But the first thing that came to my mind when I read this question was my hope that River will feel comfortable with the decisions that were made on his behalf before he was born. I know he will feel the loss of his birth mother and the relationship he would otherwise have had with her. So I don’t expect him to jump for joy every time he thinks about being placed for adoption in our family. I just hope that we (my husband, myself and Angie as well as our families), will be able to answer his questions, and provide him the love and support that he will need as he develops his sense of self as an adoptee.
Perhaps that isn’t the best answer since really it is more of a hope for how my husband and I as adoptive parents will be able to raise River but I pray daily and think constantly about this so I thought it the right answer to this question.
MC: If a waiting mother or father is reading your blog, what piece of wisdom or encouragement can you give them?
Jill: Waiting is miserable but it is an opportunity you can’t afford to waste. As one who often fell into my own self pity often, I would recommend avoiding it as much as possible. There is so much to learn, so much to prepare, so much to teach. So make the most of the time spent waiting researching and networking. It helps make the time move faster and it will help keep you sane.
Now back when I was a waiting mother would I have been able to take my advice? Yeah… no!
MC: If you could do any part of your adoption so far in another way what would that look like?
Jill: Wow, where to start? Actually, looking back I think that we were able to handle things pretty well considering we had no agency, no guidelines, no mentors or anything of the sort. Despite how close we all are and the wide range of emotions that each of us has felt including a great love for and attachment to this little boy, we were able to be amazingly respectful of each others’ feelings. That said, there are a few things that come to mind.
The first thing I would have done differently is how we communicated with River’s birthfather. For the longest time Angie, or our adoption lawyer were the official spokespersons with River’s birthfather. This wasn’t the most effective way to communicate as there were still many unresolved and hurt feelings between Angie and birthfather and communication with the lawyer was very impersonal.
Once I contacted River’s birthfather myself I found that he was very receptive to talking with us and was also very supportive of Angie’s decision to place River in our family. If I would have opened the lines of communication with River’s birthfather sooner we could have avoided months of anxious waiting and most importantly we could have spared the pain Angie had to deal with stirring up many of those unresolved and hurt feelings with her ex.
I would also have changed the way we communicated to my husband’s family the nature of our adoption. Understandably, it was a while before Angie was ready to tell many of her siblings (Cory and Angie come from a BIG family including 7 other siblings, 3 spouses of siblings, and 16 grandchildren) about her pregnancy and decision to place River for adoption with us.
Unfortunately, secrecy within family whether justified or not can breed confusion and contempt and I often wonder if anyone still harbors ill feelings towards us, Angie or River as a result.
Jill sounds amazing!
We adopted locally and had met the birthmom and her family many times prior to her giving birth but NOTHING could have prepared any of us for the moment we went to the hospital to meet/picked our new son. Witnessing her pain at giving up her child was gut-wrenchingly difficult/awkward and something I’ll never forget.
Thanks for a great interview – it just reminded me of that moment.
[…] is a cop out but try as I might I could not do a better job answering this question than I did in my interview with Mama C back in the last Open Adoption Interview in March 2010. So please allow me to quote […]