adoption, family

Making Room for Bio Family 


The game of bananagrams is like Scrabble in the way that you make words out of letter tiles. It is unlike Scrabble in the way that each player is going as fast as they can, at the same time. Players are rearranging words to fit the new letter tiles they grab every time someone calls “peel!”

You start with 12 tiles. When you’ve connected all of them into words you can call a “peel” and everyone must add one additional letter tile into a word. You often have to break apart words you’ve already made and create something new.

Adopting our siblings was much like the beginning part of the game. We started with a bunch of unconnected letters and put them all together into a pattern that became “family.” Things don’t stay the same, though. When the two oldest disrupted and left for greener pastures, we rearranged our words once more into a new pattern. When my parents moved from Missouri to Connecticut to be with us, we added to our pattern.

Carl turned 12 last week. He wanted a few things. He asked for the usual things: Pokémon cards, Star Wars action figures, a card game called Phase 10 etc. Then he asked for something else. He wanted his biological father to come to his football game. I’m not sure if it was because he was a starter this year or because Bio Dad’s birthday card reminded him. Either way, it was his choice, and I was determined to make it happen, if I could.

A few days prior I had messaged Bio Dad on Facebook to remind him about Carl’s 12th birthday. BD forgets the birthdays unless I remind him. I think it’s more indicative of not living with the children, or having difficulties with organization than anything else. As soon as I remind him he sends a beautiful card and some money for Carl. The card says, “I hope you enjoy this day with your family.” Every card he sends reminds the children that he will always love them.

When I ask if he and his wife would be willing to make the one-and-a-half hour drive to attend the game, he immediately agrees. I give him the address to come to our tiny town with historic brick walkways and towering green forests. I’m hoping it looks nice and not boring compared to the city BD’s family lives in. After all, our “downtown” consists of only one street, albeit one with historical New England charm.

The game itself goes better than I could have imagined. It’s a close game, and we are up by one point until the fourth quarter, when the other team gets a touchdown and wins. BD comes with his new wife and a son he has from a different relationship named E. Luke is the volunteer EMT, sitting inside the fence, directly on the field. Marcus sits with him because he cannot stand Mary and Carl’s BD.

This leaves me in the stands with BD, new wife, and Little E. Eventually my mom comes to watch the second half. We all sit together. We all cheer together. I explain some of the plays (poorly.) Every time Carl’s name is announced on the loudspeaker all 7 of us go wild. He has the biggest cheering squad of anyone here.

The day is remarkably pleasant. Some of the interaction is strained but not nearly as much as I had assumed. They love the game. They love the town. Marcus and BD do not interact and therefore no one is required to break up a fight. BD and family compliment our little town and tell us they took pictures everywhere. I point out where Carl goes to school so they can see this too.

At one point I actually hit BD in the arm. Well it’s more of a back handed smack on his arm. Ok more of a series of rapid back-handed smacks on his arm. It isn’t my fault! I was so excited about a tackle that Carl made! I was overexcited and cheering and it just happened. Luckily he just laughed it off. I mean, what is the worst thing I could do in this situation? Hitting is definitely in the top 5 of things you should NOT do to your child’s biological family.

After the game Carl is studious about hugging every person who came to see him. He glows with pride over our compliments. Even though the team lost, he played very well. I leave Luke to handle the visit, exchange of presents, and good-byes. It’s time to drive Marcus back to his girlfriend’s apartment. The one she loves in with her mother, who is also Little E’s mother. BD seems unaware that Little E and Marcus live together. He asked me if Marcus lives with us. To make matters worse, Marcus’ BD and this BD do not get along either and Marcus is back in contact with his BD. Throughout the game, Little E kept giving me details about Marcus like his age and favorite color. Awkward.

Needless to say, I hasten our exit. I know how aggressive Marcus can be when he is angry with someone. The next night my Facebook messenger is flooded with pictures. BD has sent me baby pictures of Mary and Carl. Some alone, some with him, and some with Bio Mom. This is a treasure trove of items we have never been able to give them. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. BD did not give his children up willingly. But BD is forging this new relationship willingly. I am beyond grateful.

I’m pretty sure this contact means Carl is rearranging the pattern of his family. He is adding new tiles and fitting them in where he can. I don’t know where things will go from here. Two successful visits make me feel optimistic.

 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

 

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adoption

Bio Dad Visit Success!

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We finally did it! We pulled off a bio-dad visit for Carl. It started with a closed Facebook group where I posted pictures and report cards for Carl and Mary. I invited bio family into the group, when I could find them.  Bio mom joined, but only looked at a few pictures. She hasn’t watched the video I posted of Marcus graduating high school. It breaks my heart.

“Hate me,” I want to say to her. “Go ahead. It’s OK. Just please, please watch him walk. It’s one of the few things he really wanted. For his family to see him graduate.”

But I say nothing. It’s not my place. Bio Dad, however, has been as involved as he can. He has looked at everything I posted. He’s made comments and asked questions. He isn’t Marcus’ biological father, but he watched the video and congratulated him. Bio Dad sends cards if I remind him about a birthday or holiday. He was very open in asking me to tell him when their birthdays were. That’s OK. He’s trying.

I’ve asked the kids if they would like to write a letter or make a phone call. The response is usually “no.” But I float it out there, just in case. Luke and I often say however the kids feel is fine. We support them. This is their biological family. It’s their choice. It’s fine to have more than one set of parents. It’s good to have many people who love you. The door is open.

Finding Bio Dad was tricky. The address he gave to DCF for the open adoption agreement isn’t valid anymore. Nothing we sent to the department got picked up. He had himself listed under an animal on Facebook. Let’s face it, I was looking under his name, not searching for something like “The Stallion.” Eventually I skipped through the “Friend” lists of enough relatives to find him. Waiting for him to respond was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done.

Bio Dad’s response was amazing. I couldn’t have even hoped for this. He wanted to do whatever he could to contact the kids. He thanked us for taking care of them, which he didn’t need to do. He opened up about the bad place he was in when DCF was involved. He told me about his own family history, and why he didn’t have any support when he lost his case. He never mentioned why he stopped coming to the visits at DCF. I never asked. It’s not important.

The only important thing is what kind of relationship, if any, the kids want to have with him.

Bio Dad was very nervous about the visit. He kept texting me about how nervous he was. How emotional he was. After all, its been 3 years since he saw Carl. He was so open and emotional, I started to feel like I maybe accidentally adopted a 40-something-year-old man.

“He’s going to hug you, you know,” I say to Luke, “just you wait!”

The visit, itself, was amazing. We all sat together at a McDonald’s in the mid-point of our 2 addresses. When Bio Dad saw Carl, he practically ran to him. Carl got swooped up into a big hug and Bio Dad shook with tears.  He silently cried behind his sunglasses many times. We stayed right there through the visit in case Carl needed us.  I’m happy to say that he didn’t. We got to meet Bio Dad’s new wife of a month. She was lovely. He says that meeting her and becoming religious are the things that made a difference in his life. I’m glad.

He also brought Carl’s little brother from another previous relationship. The little guy is 5 and was terrified of the whole situation. He burrowed into his stepmom’s side. He was meeting Carl for the first time he could remember. He had a little yellow cast on is left arm. Stepmom and Bio Dad both rushed to tell us it had been an accident from riding a bike. We told them we know all about little boys playing rough. Carl broke his leg playing soccer 2 years ago. They looked relieved.

After eating lunch and talking, we encouraged Bio Dad to take his boys out to the playscape. He almost hesitated to take them on his own.

“It’s fine,” I told him, “We will stay right here.”

That’s all he needed to take the two kids out and play a rousing game of tag. This was a much better visit than sitting in a DCF visit with a social worker watching. Stepmom chose to sit inside and chat with us. It was pleasant and eye-opening. She had been in foster care as a child. She was happy that Mary was getting treatment. She told me about how they always prayed for the children. She told me they prayed Bio Dad would see them again someday.

“I have a question to ask you,” Bio Dad said over ice cream. They boys came in sweating and happy for some ice cream before we left. Bio Dad looked nervous as he asked me, “Would it be alright if I posted some of the pictures we took? Can I share them with anyone?” I was dumbfounded. Luke and I looked at each other.

“Your camera, your pictures, your kids. Yes, Of course! Do whatever you’d like!”

It wasn’t all puppies and roses, though. To be honest, the kids have a history of being hurt by this father. And they never forget. He has since apologized, but some things can’t be wiped away. Yes, Carl had a good time at the visit, but he was relieved to go home. Although we were open about the visit with Mary, she adamantly did not want her own visit, and did not want to see pictures from this one.

Mary says that she is afraid of Bio Dad, but that she likes him “as a person.” For now she only wants to get letters and cards. She does not want to write back. We never lie to our children about their Bios. Everything is an open book, including the reasons they came into care, which oddly enough, social workers never told them. No matter how uncomfortable to us, we share whatever information we have. We offered Mary a visit when she gets to the weekend pass stage of her program at the therapeutic treatment facility. She declined. She isn’t ready, she tells us. That’s fine.

This visit went better than I could have hoped. Even if it didn’t, we’d still offer another to the kids. Carl had fun. We were all safe and I think our families built some mutual trust.

And of course, before walking off, Bio Dad clasps Luke’s hand and pulls him in for a hug. As they walk away I arch an eyebrow at Luke. “Told you so!”

FTTWR                                                         Vote For Me @ The Top Mommy Blogs Directory

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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adoption

Biological Parents: Waiting for the Pony

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When I was 4, my father promised me a pony. He said it would be white and beautiful and that it could live in a barn next to the enormous house he would buy just as soon as his “ship came in.” I believed him. When I was 6, he promised me a pony. He said I could ride this pony when I came to see the big beautiful house he would buy near the ocean. I believed him. When I was 10 he told me that his “money was going to come in soon,” and that I could have a horse. Despite my misgivings, I believed him.

My parents divorced when I was 4 years old. During my childhood my father would bounce around from apartment to apartment, never staying in one place for too long. He also bounced around from fiancee to fiancee and the occasional marriage. During our bi-weekly visits he would often spon great tales about how fabulous life would be if he married so-and-so and bought the big house with my horse. Then he would leave me in his apartment while he took his newest “lady friend” out dancing on the town.

Needless to say, the fabled pony never appeared. A small part of me believed that someday he might actually pull off one of the many business schemes he was always planning. Sometimes I actually believed he would marry and stay with one of his nicer more stable girlfriends. It wasn’t the empty promises he made that hurt me the most. I wasn’t looking for a pony. I just wanted a relationship with my dad.

During my teen years I questioned why my mother encouraged me to have a relationship with him. She tried to keep her own negative experiences with him to herself.  I think my mother wanted him to know me. She wanted him to watch me grow up because, despite his many flaws, he was my father. She wanted me to have visits and phone calls to understand him for what he was. She recognized my right to know my own origins. I only realize now how wise she was in doing so.

My father was a confusing, difficult to explain, part of my family tree. But I had a right to this part of my history. Knowing him allowed me to see him for the man he was; irresponsible, flawed, and caring in his own way.

“He won’t be around forever,” my mother always told me. She didn’t want me to have regrets. She was right. He died this past summer, and I do not have regrets. I know that I was a good daughter to him. The flaws in our relationship, which began in my infancy, were not my fault. In the end, my mother’s early actions were able to provide me with a sense of peace when he died.

It pains me that my own children are growing up so beautifully, and the people who created them don’t see it. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not comparing them to my father. My father wasn’t the greatest but he never hurt me physically, neglected my basic care, or put me in imminent danger. The situation isn’t the same in this way. But I believe it’s the same that despite all the mistakes that were made, these parents loved their children. Despite what our children sometimes believe, they are NOT throwaway kids.

My husband and I tried an open adoption agreement, we tried saving memories and pictures for the biological parents. Our overtures were not received. Not at all. It’s been almost 3 years now. It doesn’t matter how the biological parents of our children feel about us, or about DCF. It doesn’t matter what kind of people they are. Even the things they put our children through cannot negate what matters. All of this pales in comparison to the amazing children we are raising.

“Look at them,” I want to say, “See how beautiful they are? They have your eyes. He looks like you. These kids are beautiful human beings.” I can’t say this to them. We have no contact, at their choice. It’s alright if they won’t hear us. It’s alright if they won’t hear our children. Maybe they can’t.

But I made it possible anyway. I created a closed Facebook group with pictures of the little chickens through all of the years they missed. This isn’t about giving them access to my children, or putting my children in danger. Maybe the biological parents will never pick up the school pictures we ordered them (which are still sitting in the DCF office collecting dust.) But online, it will always be there if they ever want to see.

It took me awhile, but I managed to find and include older biological siblings and both biological parents into the group. At the very least, nothing at all happens. At the very worst, we start a web of contact that may backfire. I don’t want my children to be the ones always waiting for that pony to materialize.  Despite everything, my choice has been made. I have just cracked open the door on our closed adoption.

 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

 

 

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adoption, family

Adventures in an Open and Shut Adoption

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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!

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