Sunday, May 25, 2014

It Takes a Special Kind of Person To...

I'm sure you've heard people say this in reference to many things.  Heck, I know I've said.  I often hear it about my work. "Wow, Faith!  It takes a special kind of person to do the work you do."  Today, I heard my husband say it.  It was in direct response to my ongoing dialogue about wanting to eventually adopt a child from the foster care system.  I pointed out people we know (even peripherally) who have already taken this path.  His response was, "It takes a special kind of person to do that."

I disagree.  And I've been thinking about this statement that we all use so soften.  And I've come to think that maybe we use this statement to distance ourselves from the action that we know needs to be taken.  Maybe, just maybe, when we say that it takes a "special kind of person" to do something, what we are saying to ourselves is, "Well, that special person is not me, so I don't need to feel guilty that I'm not doing it."  Guilt is a difficult emotion to endure...and our egos move us away from it very effectively.  However, I would argue that guilt is a necessary emotion that we should not only not avoid, but should lean into.  It is with a healthy dose of guilt that we move towards doing the right thing, that we try to right our wrongs and that we sometimes choose to move past our comfort zones.

I said to Jason when he made this statement, "We are special people.  YOU are special.  Look how happy and loved your kids are, how they are confident and social in their world, how sensitive they are, how smart and funny they are...YOU are a part of that.  YOU have it in you."  He replied that he's already exhausted, pushed to his limits some days, short on patience and lacking the relaxation time and sleep he wants to have.  I wonder, does he think that these "special kind of people" aren't also exhausted, overwhelmed, pushed to their limits daily, and often question what in the world they got themselves into?  You see, when we defer to the "special" people to do hard things, we also put them in an angelic-type box.  And then what we do is leave ourselves out of the box because, of course, we know we are nowhere near that divine level of patience and kindness.  And then what happens then?  We become inactive.  People suffer.  In this case, kids in the foster care system suffer.

As I read this to Jason, making sure to get his permission to post this, he pointed out that guilt is not in the equation for him.  There are other reasons for his resistance to this idea.  Maybe even reasons I will get to explore here later. That is his experience, and he has a right to it.  But, I do think guilt plays a part in how we use this phrase, and why we use some situations.  I also think it can play a part in dampening our emotions and moving us away from scary things.  If my unconscious guilt stops my thinking there (you know, that part that tells me there is this special breed/class of people somewhere out there doing said good deed) then I don't have to roll up my sleeves, put on my galoshes and trudge into the deep, dark, murky water of "hard stuff."  So, if guilt is in your equation, or even if it is not, maybe it is worth exploring?  Perhaps the reason you can't or won't do something is just the surface.  Perhaps there is more to be learned about yourself.  And perhaps someone else could benefit from your self exploration.  Perhaps...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Things I Didn't Expect...

When Jackson was 17 months old, we lost all contact with his birth father, "A."  He had visited Jackson three times (not counting the social worker bringing Jackson to meet him when he was discharged from the hospital) by that point.  The last time we were together, we met at a Children's Museum, had a wonderful day, and promised to meet up again soon.  We even sent pictures over text of the kids sleeping in their car seats after our big fun day together.  Then he stopped responding to all texts, emails and phone calls.  Just like that.  Luckily, we are in touch with his parents (at his request, he urged them into our lives, and we are so thankful that he did) and they finally passed on the message that A decided he did not want to be involved in Jackson's life anymore.  They gave their impressions as to why, but because I have not talked to A, I do not feel comfortable speculating publicly.  I was not prepared for the feelings I would have in this situation.

My first, gut level feeling was sadness.  Intense grief.  We love A, and Jackson is a piece of him.  It was our pleasure to share the amazingness that is Jackson with A.  It's clear that Jackson takes after him in many ways.  The thought of Jackson not having that connection with his biological father broke my heart.  I still cry when I think about it, the pain is that deep for me.  I remember saying to my mom over the phone soon after we received the news that no, A was not just busy, he had intentionally stopped responding to us, "Mom, I don't get why I am so sad about this.  I can't seem to shake it."  She said, "Honey, your dad did the same thing essentially."  Oh yeah.  Shit.  While the situations are completely different, as a child, I felt abandoned by my dad.  I still do in many ways.  Whether he actually abandoned me, whether he really loved me...or not...were not important pieces of information as a young child. All that mattered was that I would go a year or more without talking to him and I often waited three years at a time to see him.  On a deep level, I was not feeling Jackson's sadness, I was feeling my own.  As I processed it more, I was also feeling sadness as Jackson's mom.  Because now it is ME who will have to try and explain to him why A stepped out.  It is ME who will have to try and help him understand that A loves him, even if he can't show him that love right now.   And it is me who knows that no matter how many times I say those things, Jax will feel what he has to feel.  I can't protect him from this.

Which brings me to feeling number two in this story.  Anger.  Raging, burning anger.  Because he is hurting MY son.  Yes, I know he is technically "our" son (with A obviously included in that "our"), but when someone is hurting him, he becomes MY precious baby to protect.  How dare he step out and leave me to pick up the pieces?  How dare he leave me to answer questions that only he can answer for this sweet boy?  How dare he NOT want to see this little boy who wears dimples and a smile just like his, whose laugh brings joy to everyone he meets, and whose sensitive heart most certainly has some origin in him?  I just don't understand it.  He is rejecting our son.  And I don't approve.  Not one little bit.

These are feelings I did not expect to experience in these ways going into this whole adoption thing.  The power that birth parents hold over our children is staggering.  At the beginning of the process, I knew expectant parents held power over ME.  I knew that it was they who would decide if I was worthy of being a mom.  I also thought I knew that once papers were signed, the power was all mine.  I could make this hypothetical child into anyone I wanted to.  I could raise him my own way.  Looking back, I'm not sure how I missed this.  I saw birth parents as a beautiful addition to my child's life and didn't think to prepare myself for what would happen if his birth parents actually hurt him.  And of course, I could never have known how vulnerable my heart would be.  I am at Jackson's mercy.  If he hurts, I hurt. If I even think there is a chance he will hurt, I hurt.

Nope, I did not expect this at all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sharing my Story

So, a few things have happened recently that have led me to think that the time has come for me to think more, talk more and hopefully write more about my story;  specifically about how I became the mother of two children who are a mere six months apart in age.  I think the part of my (our) story that many people find so fascinating is the open adoption part.  I often say that I don't get that, how people are so surprised and, dare I say, impressed by our story.  I know so many other parents walking that same road.  And yet, somehow, it just isn't talked about in the broader culture.  From my perspective, being entrenched in the adoption world, it is just life as normal.  Yet, there are these reminders that have become frequent lately that suggest that the life we are living with our children, with our son's birth family, is not "life as normal" for everyone.  I've decided I want to share our story, and I want to try my hand at writing about it and see what comes of it.

Two things happened recently that have led me here.  First, a friend of mine has written an amazing book that I will be posting a link to here, on my blog, when it is released on Amazon on Memorial Day.  It is about her long and arduous road through infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss.  In her book, she talks about her fears and anxieties about adoption.  When she describes how difficult the concept was to her, how impossible it felt to her that she would be able to love a child who was adopted as much as a  biological child,  I realized that I have something to share with her, and with other parents or parents-to-be out there.  The second thing that happened that my sister found herself talking with a woman she had just met about our story.  The woman shared with my sister that she had placed a baby for adoption many many years ago and that she had also adopted two children.  She said her birth son found her when he was an adult but only met with her once because his adoptive parents had such a hard time supporting him in this relationship with his birth mother.  I thought, how sad.  When my sister finished telling her about our relationships and our view on adoption, the woman had tears streaming down her face.  She asked my sister to thank us (thank US?!  Still blows my mind). And then I thought, perhaps my story is not just useful to other potential (or current) adoptive parents?  Is it possible that our story, our hearts, could also provide support, hope and encouragement to birth parents or parents considering placing their children for adoption?

What I know is this: if there is even a small chance that I could add something to our culture's story about adoption (which, let's be honest is an inaccurate and fear-based story overall), then I should write.  I don't know where my writing will go, but I am committing publicly, here.    So stay tuned...(for the few of you still around:))