An end of the year ache-and a call for wisdom from first/birth parents

The decision to go visit and then not visit Sam’s first family last summer, is one I am working through today.

We’re all still working out way through this one. Perhaps the hardest part for me is the not knowing how this impacted Tea*, and her relationship with him. I sense she may still feel angry at me–hurt–frustrated? I did not tend to our relationship in the aftermath in the way I should have. I retreated so hard and so fast after it happened, because I felt like I had done something so wrong–publicly and privately by putting so much energy into that trip. And, although I am certain (because of things I have chosen not to talk about here-those moments in our childrens lives we must protect) that I made the right choice for Sammy**-I sense I made a very wrong choice for her and her other kids, and her parents.  All of this wondering is coming up for me so hard because for the first year in Sam’s life we have not heard from her at his birthday or Christmas. Everyday I race to the mailbox and feel my heart sink when there is nothing there.

I have no control over her actions.

This is one of the most desperately difficult parts of being an adoptive parent in my opinion. I do all that I can imagine to care take this relationship between them–and this may or may not “work” or have the desired impact. I have written to her (about a month ago) trying to explain how things unfolded so abruptly. Trying to find the balance between an apology for how this might have been such a crushing disappointment to her and her kids to have us cancel a week out, and to share how Sam was just not ready at this moment for any number of reasons to make the trip. And, how I wasn’t either. How I have every intention of trying again as soon as everyone is. What didn’t I say in that letter that she really needed to hear? Where can her and I find space to repair and build?  Of course this leads to bigger questions–what is our relationship–and did it ever get off to the start it needed? Can it now?

Then I sent I photo book at Christmas, and a couple of texts. I have heard nothing.  Is there anything else I can do but wait?

Friends who I have been sharing this sadness with who are adoptive parents, or adoptees are all asking me how Sam is doing. I say I know he feels it. Sam is not my talker. He is a deep little dude who holds things so powerfully inside his heart.  He doesn’t bring it up, but that doesn’t mean anything. He asks me daily if I think that his birth father has received the photobook we sent him ten days back. We wonder together if he has, and how much he must love seeing all these pictures of Sam. How the hell does Sam hold all of this in his seven year old self?  Today he has a piano lesson, and we have a date to go whack the hell out of some baseballs down at the park. He pours a lot of it out that way–music-sports- running-wrestling and not hearing his name the first ten times I ask him to do something….

I had a few other aches and pains to share this morning–a kind of let it all out and leave it behind post. But clearly this is what I needed to share out, and ask for help on today.  I’d love to hear from the first /birth parents out there who might have some wisdom for me on this one. Or also to hear from adoptive parents, or adoptees who worked through peices like this, or who felt like they were caught in the middle of it. Share your wisdom–we’d all love to hear it. Yes, of course I realize that Tea’s choice to not connect this week may have NOTHING to do with us. She may have fifteen other very big things going on… But putting all that aside–what else can I do–other than pray and wait?


*Tea is the name for Sam’s first mom. She has three kids who are all older than Sam. I had planned to visit her this summer with the boys, and then ended up cancelling the trip about a week prior to going when Sam made it clear to me that this was not something he was able to take on just yet. She lives on the other end of the country.

** For weeks afterwords he and I enjoyed this uncanny connect, the likes of which I had never before had with him.  A kind of–we made it through and survuved together-experience that I imagine people experience after a natural disaster? The disaster in this case was what was manifesting for Sammy emotionally. So our journey closer to each other was allowed to happen–while hers was not.


  1. I think your last sentence is powerful – what else can I do but pray and wait? That IS the hard part – we want to DO anything we can to hold our children and their birthfamily and to be that link. Sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes we have to choose, and moms will choose their children…every time. And of course that is painful. I absolutely believe there will be repair in this relationship….when she is ready. The hard part for you is that you ARE ready….and she is not. But you have begun building that bridge with the letter, the photo book…she knows you are there. When she is ready, she will come half way herself. Until then, continue to hold her in your thoughts as we all know you do so well. I believe she can feel that, some way, some how. As an adoptive parent, I totally can feel your pain. I want so badly for things to always be good, easy, and smooth between us and Jackson’s first family…but just like with ANY family, ruptures happen. It is a key part of any relationship. Trust that beautiful Sam is enough to bring you all back together again. Because he is!

    • DAMN! That is so helpful. I just spent another hour on a draft of an email I didn’t send. What a beautiful reply Faith. Thank you. I really needed to read every word you wrote. I will wait. And he will be OK, and she will make her way back one day. She does know we are here. She is family. Family. Oh family.

  2. Faith is EXACTLY right, and I can say that from the point of view of a birth parent. I have no problem contacting my daughter’s mom to wish them a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or a ‘Merry Christmas’, though contacting her first on my daughter’s birthday is a tough one for me. I think it’s because I don’t want to “call attention” to the role I played in her daughter’s life even if she likes the connection somehow. Anyway, that was running through my head as I read the first couple of paragraphs of this post. Then I read the rest of them and realized that Sam’s birth mom, like Faith said, may not be ready. I’m certain that the fact that her biological son wasn’t ready to see her was a huge emotional blow, and even though you’ve made overtures to her since then that prove you weren’t just making up excuses, I have a gut feeling that she’s still blaming herself somehow. I know it must be VERY difficult to continue to make overtures to her and not hear anything back, but until she’s ready to confront the relationship again, that’s what needs to happen. Even if she “knows” that you guys are there, I would guess that you sending at least semi-regular texts to let her know that you’re thinking about her and that you really miss the relationship you two had before all this happened would be awesome for her to hear even if she’s not ready to respond. I hope that helps!

    • Monika-I so appreciate your perspective and your time to comment. The birthday piece has always been a time of rich connection with Sam’s first mom for all of us. As I mentioned this is the first year she hasn’t contacted us/him on his birthday. Your insight on what might really be bothering her–or keeping her from connecting –the emotional blow of his not being ready is really helpful to consider. I was not looking at it from that lens. And I will keep sending her messages of love and invitation. I can always do that… Thanks again.

  3. yep, dealing with some similar issues. Listen, I truly think that as long as you are putting your children’s emotional needs before yours (sorry, that’s my bias, that kids should come first) and focus a bit more on your “own” family (yes, I know that is a relative term with open adoption) that your children will thrive. I’m sorry if I missed the fact that you are getting some professional guidance around all this, you are a wise warm mama but having a counselor etc to look at what is your own need to connect with first parentsversus what is your children’s need might be helpful. Good luck!

  4. Oh believe you me I have plenty of support, professional and other! I am all in favor of people getting all sorts of help. I am working on my stuff here too. We all have sooooo many triggers in our shared stories right? Her silence triggers my fears and my Mama Bear. And my changing our plans may have triggered who knows what in her… Thank you for chiming in your thoughts too.

  5. I do not fit any of the categories that you are asking about.
    But as an unexperienced person in this realm, I still feel that you are Sammy’s mother and he is your son. That’s all.
    That’s all I would concentrate on because right now,
    I think that that is the most important thing you two have going on at the moment.
    The relationship you develop right now will last a lifetime.
    He will find whatever relationships he wants to later…if it becomes important to HIM.
    His shoulders are little.

    But what do I know…..

  6. When we were working out a transition for our daughter, my hubby said something to the effect of he wanted the other foster family to have a good transition. The caseworker said it didn’t matter, we had to keep what was right for our daughter even if it meant it wasn’t right for the former foster family. As in, you can’t make everybody happy, so just keep Sam at the top of your thoughts and actions.

    I think you’re on the right track to continue to send out letters, etc. When she’s ready, she at least doesn’t have to wonder if you are too.

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