Just like that, our open adoption was shut. She refused to see their school pictures. She wouldn’t look at the pictures I texted to the oldest biological sibling. There were no more visits. She would no longer acknowledge the children she gave birth to. The pain was too great for her.
To do this story justice is have to start from the beginning. I’d have to start with her trauma, her losses, her past. I can’t because I don’t know it. I do know that she had several diagnosed mental health disorders. She had struggles with substance abuse. I know that she reported being abused and traumatized in some way, but I’m not sure how or where. That is her story and she has a right to it. It may not excuse some of the acts she’s committed or the choices she’s made, but it makes sense to me. After all, trauma begets trauma.
She had 7 children in total, by 4 different fathers. The Department of Children and Families ended up with custody of 6 of them. The oldest daughter has children of her own after spending years raising our little chickens. I’ve tried to reach out to her, but we’ve only spoken twice. She has financially and physically supported her mother on and off through the years. It may be too much of a loyalty conflict for her to make contact with us.
We save pictures. We keep school pictures and sports photos of the kids. We always order extra for the biological family. Most of the pictures ended up sitting in the DCF office, probably collecting dust. We used to provide them to the social worker for the biological mother, hoping she would ask for them. Now, we know differently.
We had an open adoption agreement. We agreed to 3 visits a year plus letters and photos. Soon after that, she violated the agreement. And then she did it again. And again. Therefore, she forfeited her legal right to the agreement.
So is it over? Are we relieved? Are we “done” with this birth mom? No. Of course not.
I believe in open adoption to the extent that is best for the child. Our children have both good and bad memories of this woman. It is our job, as parents, to honor their “first mom.”
We acknowledge their painful memories, hurts, and trauma. Yes, these things happened. Their anger is OK. We also acknowledge their happy memories, their grief, and their love. These things are also true. Their love is OK.
There are times when our Littles want to remember more than they do. I have reached out to their older bio sister in order to provide pictures and little anecdotes from their childhood. What songs did Birth Mom like to sing? She was creative with art projects, just like our Littles. She had the most beautiful eyelashes, just like our Littles. She ate carrots with salt while pregnant with Mary, so, of course, we all tried it to see if we would like it.
I scoured Facebook to find pictures of biological relatives the Littles don’t see in person anymore. I sent away to Shutterfly to get Lifebooks filled with whatever pictures I could find of their “first-family” members. My kids deserve this. They deserve to know.
I save their class pictures and sports pictures in a memory box. It’s for her. Someday, when she is ready, it’s there. Our therapists are working with the Littles to write letters to her, if they choose. We will keep it in a memory box. It will be there for her. Someday, when she’s ready, it’s there. If she is a never ready? The Littles will know we tried.
I don’t believe she is a bad person. She made some very bad choices. Yes, she did things that hurt my children. But that doesn’t negate her love for them or her role in our family. She may be in such pain and turmoil that she cannot attempt to see or hear about her birth children. It’s OK. Luke and I will love them and take care of them. She needs to take care of herself right now.
We will be their last parents. We will do what’s best for them. Respecting their past is best for them.
Adoption isn’t about us. It’s about them. Isn’t all parenting the same in this way? We sacrifice, we do the best we can, we love and love and love.
We wanted a family. We didn’t want the “perfect baby” to be an accessory to our story, like a handbag or shoes. We wanted these children to grow and change our family. They came with birth parents. They came with history. It is our job to shift this family dynamic in order to accommodate them.
We opened our adoption. She shut the the door. Right now, she can’t face it. That’s OK. From our side? This door is still open. If visits aren’t healthy, we still have the memory box. For when she’s ready. On our side, the door is open.
** Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
* If you’ve ever considered fostering or adoption go encourage you to start your own adventure!