Recently I have read several powerful accounts of open adoption relationships at all stages of the journey. I have been very struck by the clarity, ease, and openness articulated in the blog See Theo Run for example. This has inspired me to record ours here, with the hopes that others may find comfort and understanding it what they are setting out to create. I am also feeling as if it is time for me to put more intention into the relationship that we do have deepening. I don’t know what that looks like, but I do feel that I have become lazy with it, and taken what we do have for granted.
It is not always easy. No relationship is. What helps, is my thinking about how much what we are doing here now, will serve to help Sam land firmly into his intact identity later.
Many of you have read this in parts elsewhere. Some haven’t. Soon, a very flushed out account of meeting Sam’s first mom will appear on the Fertile Source website. I’ll post a link to that when it appears. In the meantime, here is a bit about our beginnings.
When Sam was thirty-six hours old, we met for the fist time in a hospital in North Carolina. Up to a day before his birth, I was still operating under the assumption that I was going to be embarking in a closed adoption, because the birth mother, who I will refer to here simply as Tea, decided that she wanted it that way. She chose me to be his adoptive mother, two weeks before he was born.
I was initially disappointed when the agency told me about the adoption being closed. Although I had some fear around her changing her mind before the waiting period was over, everything I knew about the potential for relationship in an open adoption really appealed to me. This wasn’t going to be a deal breaker for me, because I decided that as long as I was open to it evolving, she might be too. My response, and my willingness for the arrangement to change down the road was communicated to her.
Sam was born at 2:43a.m. I woke up at 2:45a.m. wide awake, as if someone was screaming in the next room. That is one of Sam’s favorite parts of the story of his birth. I tell him that he was yelling to me all the way from North Carolina that it was time for me to wake up and be his mommy. His Second mommy.
His next favorite part is when I tell him how I ran all over the apartment screaming to myself; “He’s here! My son is born. He’s here! It’s time to go! I have a son!” That is what happened when Denise called from the agency at 5:oo a.m. to tell me I had a son, and that Tea wanted me to call her.
After holding her son in her arms, she had changed her mind. She wanted to know the woman who was going to be his adoptive mother. As unprepared as I felt for that first call (one cup of coffee, and several deep breaths later and I called her), I knew intellectually that this was going to be the best thing for all involved. Our first conversation was quiet and small in length. She told me he was so big that he was “scaring all the other babies in the nursery.” She called him “Fatso.” I still have that piece of paper, with “Fatso,” and “scaring all the other babies..” scribbled in blunt lead diagonally across it. Our conversation was careful and strained. She wanted to know how soon I would get there. I told her, I’d make a plane reservation as soon as the travel agency opened.
It had taken almost 24 hours to arrive from Maine, due to storms that had paralyzed travel across the country. On phone conversations from airport waiting rooms, we decided on his name (she wanted Joshua, I didn’t, we agreed on Samuel), and not to circumcise him. Every step of the way I was evaluating her tone, as if I had something to compare it to. I wanted to come across as the perfect mom to be. Inside I was terrified. It is such a complex way to start a “relationship,” with someone. It was not easy, or seamless by any stretch.
She was a God fearing African American single mother of three, fifteen years my junior with a large family support network, no current employment, and very little resources. Her adoption plan was supported by her parents.
She chose me, a 37-year-old, white, non religious, educator, and writer to be his single mother by choice because, I was “the most like her” she said.
The birth father’s involvement in this story was unclear at the time. Perhaps that had an impact on our relationship too. Maybe not.
My dear friend Ronda, was with me on the trip to NC. Honestly, Sam might not have been entrusted to me, had it not been for the ease in which she and Tea got along. Temperamentally I think they were much more in sync; two southern women with an easy sense of humor, and a laid back attitude. Sure, their relationship had less at stake than ours. But regardless, they were just easier from the get go.
One line, that I like to share here, and every time I tell this story, is how Tea was worried that I was not in love enough with Sam after we first met. Those were my words, not hers. The agency called me at the hotel, after our first meeting to say that Tea needed to see my joy. Her baby was beautiful, and if I didn’t think so, this was going to work.
The combination of 24 hours of air travel and layover, and my overwhelming sense of empathy for her grief was not translating into the happy, enraptured new Mama she needed to see. After ninety minutes of sleep, and a shower, I burst back in that door, and let her know exactly how I felt with certainty and elation.
In short, she said it was up to her to feel the sad part, and up to me to bring this child joy.
It would not be the last time that Tea told me what I needed to hear, just when I needed to hear it.
To be continued…