This morning I finished the year in review photo book for Sam’s first mom Tea. Last year I let him do all the captions, pick all the pictures, and the order. That makes for a much more authentic gift. That was my intention this year. Then I woke up at 5:00am, and decided I needed to get this project done, this year. I like to cross things off my list during vacation. My friend Clyde reminds me that when I die I’ll still have stuff in my in box… But, I still like to clear off space in the morning to be more present with the fam during the day. This week I’ve been doing a rather sensational job at just hanging, and relaxing. And what a shocker–Sam and Marcel are both about 200x calmer. Huh.
Earlier this week I posted about how much easier my relationship is with Sam’s first mom now, then say four or five years ago. I felt that ease when making the photo book too. I didn’t worry each picture for what is said, or didn’t say; “Does his hair look OK there?” and “Is she going to think it’s odd that he is wearing a red bathing cap?” Where did I come up with my concept of what she would find strange or not? I have made up so many stories about her judgments of me. And that stems really from my judging her.
So, whereas I am honoring my informal, spoken open adoption contract with her, crafted on the edge of a hospital bed six years ago by sending her “photos once a year” (which is more like three times a year now-but once a year I make the big hardcover photo book) on his birthday, there is another part of the contract that is unspoken. And, that is one I work on all year long: to weave her into our lives as effortlessly as possible. To challenge my own misinformed perceptions of her world, and the world Sam would have grown up in.
To me part of being the best mother to Sam is to acknowledge that in his case he would have done beautifully, and thrived, and been successful in his life had he remained with her. In placing him with me, to the best of my understanding, she made a thoughtful, loving, and excruciatingly hard choice based on circumstances to ensure that he would have all the opportunities and love he deserved. Opportunities and an abundance of love that may have been in shorter supply because of her circumstances at the time.
One thing I often put myself through is this kind of questioning that asks–am I doing what she asked? Am I giving him all of that and more? Am I meeting all of her expectations and then some? I would love to hear how some of out there wonder those same points, or don’t. How you navigate your spoken and unspoken contracts…
i think about it all the time. i am a mom of 2 boys through wide open adoptions. i am ever fluctuating between accepting that i am doing my best and worrying that i’m failing at meeting my sons’ first mothers’ wishes. it’s a tough yardstick against which to measure ourselves. i love your blog, your humor, honesty, and the beautiful writing and photography. thank you for making me feel a little more normal.
Thank you for this response. It was a very intense post to craft, ad put out there. Comments like yours help me to keep taking these risks.
I am the mom of a daughter in a just-fully-opened adoption (she’s 10) and I have struggled with the judgment piece ceaselessly since Eve was born. Yes, yes, yes, – my fear of judgment is a reflection of my judgment of Eve’s first mom.l also think my discomfort with Laura (both the actual Laura and the idea of Laura) was rooted in my internal doubts about my own authenticity as a mother.
Now, barely 10 days into the “fully open” part, I am astonished at how much less fearful and judgmental and anxious I am, and how much more clearly I see Laura as a person, her own person, and not as filling a role in my life or Eve’s.
I would answer your question “how do you navigate?” by saying “I steer for open water” – for the greatest honesty and the clearest vision of who I am, and who Eve is, and who Laura is. I look at my real interactions with my daughter and with her first mother, and their interactions with each other, and try to remember to use those as my touchpoints rather than allowing my assumptions and fears to drive me up the ladder of inference. I use every ounce of skill I have, and remember that I have skill and that I have love and that I have commitment, and I try to trust that those will carry us home.
Thank you for this post, and for everything you write. I have only recently ventured into the world of blogs about open adoption. Your blog gives me whiplash because I am nodding “yes yes yes yes’ so vigorously, to everything.