I Can See the Horizon 

Sleep found me easily and peacefully. I usually suffer from insomnia and will lay awake for hours praying that slumber will come upon me. A peace I’d never known before washed over me as all of my children were under my roof in the same place at the same time. The people I value and love the most in this world. The ONLY people whose opinions about me I care about. I felt complete and whole.

But sad. Sad for what could have been. Sad for the upcoming goodbye. Sad from what my choice had taken from all of my kids without their permission. There had always been a feeling that someone was missing and while she was here that feeling was gone. But it would soon be back. Nevertheless I tried to revel in how lucky I was to even have this moment, this time, at all.

I have three daughters and two sons. Of all of my children, she is the most like me in every way. It’s almost scary how similar we are. Many times people would comment “its like looking at you when you were her age!” Or “She’s JUST like you at that age!”

And she is.

She’s tenacious, she has no filter, she looks like me, she sounds like me, she has the same mannerisms as me. Admittedly she does have my husband’s nose.

Driving to Taco Bell one day we said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. That happens within families all the time. Families that you share DNA with. “That’s never happened to me before,” she said with surprise. And it kept happening. My sisters and I are always speaking in stereo. It made me think how sad it would be to go through life without ever hearing someone who sounded like you.

And she’s just like her sisters. When a neighbor started up his motorcycle too closely they all screamed, shook, and started crying. All three of them. All at the same time. DNA is some powerful stuff.

But she’s herself too. It was lovely to hear her talk about the things she loves, the places she’s seen, the people in her life she cares about and how they’ve impacted her.

And still there was this thing hanging in the air. All the shared memories we had that she didn’t. My family is big on talking about “Remember when this happened…” and then proceeding to tell a funny or shocking story. So while she was like us in every way, and fit in perfectly, there was always the elephant in the room that reminded us that she had been gone.

So many mixed emotions. So much to untangle.

My husband was smitten. He reminded me of a new father doting over his infant daughter. Except we had already doted on her when she was born. I can read this man better than anyone and the looks on his face said, “I’m in love with this beautiful creature.” As he should be. She’s pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

And here is where I decided that this blog has served its purpose. For now, anyway.

When I was hurting it was here. When I needed to vent it was here. When I was scared, anxious, worried, happy, hopeful, suffering, it was here. You were here. Some of you lifted me with your thoughts and others pissed me off. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I just needed a good fight and you engaged me.

I know this journey is ever evolving and I’m not completely abandoning this space. There may be a time in the future where I need it regularly again. But this journey is no longer just my own. Now that our lives have come together again, and she is again a part of mine, our stories are intertwined and it’s not up to me what to share.

I have let adoption consume my life. That’s not an entirely bad thing. I’ve found sisterhood and courage in this community. I’ve found courage to stand up, stand out, and help make changes. I will always be an activist. Always. But I’m also a mother and wife. I can’t spread myself too thin so I’ve decided to focus my energy on certain endeavors that will allow me to balance things more equally. I lost my grandfather, who helped raise me, and a beloved pet who was my emotional support animal, this year. The wheels of time don’t stop turning for me to sit behind a computer.

So while I’ve already bowed out of this blogging thing pretty much, I thought I’d leave you all with a happy update. I’ll pop in once in a while. But it’s time to take back my life and focus on where I can really make a change, enjoy my family, and still remain a functional member of society.

 

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Unconditional Love

A love that will stay and persist without limits, without prerequisites. No matter what. To show unconditional love is to put yourself aside for the well-being of someone else. A sacrifice of one’s self because of this love. To voluntarily endure pain, hurt, disappointment, and more in the name of this love. To put someone else above yourself.

-Astrid

This is my definition of unconditional love.

Unconditional is defined as “not subject to conditions.” Love is defined, by man, as “an intense feeling of deep affection.”

Furthermore, God defines love as patient and kind, free of envy, boasting and pride. It is not dishonorable, self-seeking, or easily angered. It also keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices with TRUTH and does NOT delight in evil.

If you are a believer in God then you know that you are required to try your best to love one another in the way he has described, unconditionally. However, let’s take the layman’s view and assume you don’t HAVE to love EVERYONE unconditionally. You are free to just “love” people, no qualifiers required.

If I asked you how you were supposed to love your child, based on what I’ve written above, what would you say? Unconditionally, right? Of course. That’s how we’re wired. It’s how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to love our children in a way that puts their needs above our own. Even if it hurts us. Isn’t that what it is all about?

The act of giving my daughter up for adoption was not selfless. I cannot say that it was because to claim that would be to imply that parenting my other children (all unplanned and coming at times that could be considered “crisis”) was selfish. And it wasn’t. However, when I relinquished her, it was because I was willing to suffer a lifetime of pain or never knowing who she was if that is what she wanted. If she never wanted to speak to me, ever, in her life, I was okay with that so that I would not cause her any emotional pain. Yes, it would hurt deeply, but I love my daughter so much (all of my kids really) that I would take that hurt so they didn’t have to. Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all take our kids hurt in a heartbeat if we could so as not to see them suffer? Of course we would, if we could.

What if you could? What if you COULD take that hurt away and make it a little better. What would you do?

What if you are an adoptive parent of a teenager. What if this teenager of yours is having a REALLY rough time emotionally? So they’ve asked to send their birthmother a letter. You let them write the letter and many things that are said in the letter hurt you. It’s only human to face insecurities. However, you know that sending this letter and hoping for a response back would be something to help a little with the healing of your teenager, even if it hurts you. Even if the thought of losing the child you’ve nurtured from infancy was almost too much to handle. Would you be willing to let your child continue to suffer and hurt so that you could make yourself feel more secure about your place in their life? If you answered “yes” then you do not love your child unconditionally. You do not love them selflessly. You are not willing to sacrifice yourself for them. Regardless of how many late nights you have stayed up with a sick toddler, regardless of how many bedtime stories you have read them, regardless of how many recitals you have been to. None of that stuff defines the true meaning of being a parent, a mother, a father.

The very definition of motherhood should be unconditional love. As a birthmom, I am willing to love my child unconditionally. I am willing to accept her for all of her faults and for all the things she may do that would make me feel bad. I will love her no matter what and do what is best for her. I will live with an unbearable grief for the rest of my life because I thought I was giving her a “better” life, even if that turns out to not be the case. My actions were in good faith at the cost of great personal pain and sacrifice, at the very high cost of great personal pain of my other children and family members. I did all of this because I loved her so. I let her call someone else “mom” because of this. Because I loved her and thought I was making the best choice I possibly could then.

It baffles me beyond reason how a person would not be able to do the same for their adopted child in return. Why they wouldn’t be able to suck it up, swallow their pride (“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”) and help their child heal. Not leave their child thinking they have been rejected and ignored. Are you that insecure that you would sacrifice your child’s well-being for it?  You would lie (“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”)

Adoptive parents who choose to break promises and cut off birth families for any reason other than they are DANGEROUS, I have this to say to you:

If you think that cutting off communication between your child and their birth family is the way to go – Don’t be selfish. Do the selfless thing. Do the loving thing. Put your child’s needs ahead of your own so that they can have a better life. A life that includes all of their family. You are not giving up your child. You are placing her in a healthy environment that includes knowing her roots. Remember, you are in control of the adoption so there is great power in that. Don’t abuse it.

Don’t ya like how all those things that we were told during our “adoption plans” can also be used for you?

Sibling Grief In Adoption

“I never know what to say when someone asks me how many brothers or sisters I have.”

This came out of my 12-year-old’s mouth while I was driving the other day. There was no warning for a statement such as this. No conversation that I can think of that brought it on. We were listening to the radio and she just blurted it out. It caught me off guard and I wasn’t really sure what to say. I have tried my best not to shroud in secrecy that her father and I relinquished the daughter that came before her. I would never want to give any of my children the impression that IKL is someone we should be ashamed of or someone who should be kept secret. To do so would deny her and denying her would be to deny our love for her. Regardless of this, for a child growing up with a sister who has been lost to adoption, challenges unique to these “parented children” are most definitely present. She is not ashamed of her sister and would love for nothing more than to have some sort of relationship with her. She used to be very vocal about how she has four siblings, not three. It seems that, over time, the reactions she has garnered from people have made her more aware that she has lost something. She is now uncomfortable disclosing to people that she has another sister, out there in the world, that she doesn’t know. She is uncomfortable with the fact that she doesn’t know her and this is, most likely, what is bothering her the most.

It is in moments like this that I freeze. Mom is supposed to have all the answers and yet I stumbled along not knowing exactly what was best to say. Instead of offering her a solution I sympathized with her. I stated, “I know how you feel, honey. Sometimes when people ask me how many kids I have I don’t know what to say either.” Her reply emphasized her guilt. If she did not include IKL in the “sibling count” then it made her feel horrible to dismiss someone so important in her life, her sister. If she did include her the questions came – some of them she could not answer and it reminded her that she had suffered a loss in her life, a tremendous loss. She was clearly looking to me for advice and stalling was not good enough. She wanted answers from me.

“You know that you don’t have to tell people how many siblings you have if they aren’t someone important in your life, right? You can say ‘I’d rather not discuss my sisters and brothers.’ and that is okay.” This was not a good enough answer for her. She said, “Well, like on worksheets at school when sometimes they ask you how many siblings you have or when you have to write about your family or family tree. That stuff. I feel like I’m lying if I don’t include her and I feel like I’m lying if I do.” And there it is. The catalyst for her dilemma. It is a legal lie to say that she has another sister, an emotional one to say she doesn’t. Where does the middle ground exist? It really doesn’t. She continued, “You know because I’m like really close to G and D and M but I’m not so close to IKL.” It was with this statement that my heart wanted to break into a million pieces. “Not so close” wasn’t sufficient enough to describe the lack of relationship between A and IKL. There was no relationship. She didn’t know her at all. Yes, A has written her letters, but the communication has been one-sided. IKL has never spoken to A. In A’s mind, however, it wasn’t safe to admit this. She needed to say they were “not so close.”

I had no answers for her. I told her that she should do what her heart told her to do and screw everyone else. Yes, that’s what I told her. If it made her feel uncomfortable to have to explain that she had a sister that was relinquished, then don’t tell them. If it made her feel bad to deny her sister, then do tell them. Still she was unsatisfied. Both of those options left her feeling bad. I told her how sorry I was because that was all I could do. One last statement and the conversation was done. “I just wish I never had a sister that was adopted out and that she just lived with us and we were normal.” My heart broke some more.

When going over options and deciding whether we should “choose” adoption, our other children were taken into consideration. The experts were telling us that we needed to consider the financial and emotional strain a new baby would place on the kids we already had. Another mouth to feed and care for would take away from them and they may suffer for it. I never imagined that the heartache adoption would wreak in my children’s lives would be so much worse than going without material things for a little while or having one more person to share mom with. My 12-year-old’s psychologist, in her first report, wrote that A told a story about a frog. The frog’s sister had been given up for adoption and the frog worried about this sister all the time.  She noted, “Underlying anxiety issues in regards to biological sister relinquished for adoption” How could this possibly be? I was told that my children would be better off. How could the ONLY child who has not one memory of the daughter I gave up be suffering so much? This was not supposed to be, yet it was and it is. There is nothing I can do to make it better. I am powerless. I cannot force a relationship and I cannot take back the years that were lost. I don’t have a time machine. I can only try to help her through her grief while I am still navigating mine.

I know that some of you may be thinking that she is picking up on things I have said or done. To that I say, “Are you stupid?” Why in the world would I project my feelings onto her? IKL is talked about as something positive in our household and nothing else. A has come to feel this pain on her own accord, because something is missing in her life. Already having one older sister she knows that bond that sisters share, which adds to this. She is constantly thinking about the “what could have been.”

Should I have never told my children about IKL or the adoption at all? Then they wouldn’t have known or felt any of this grief. No, they wouldn’t have. Not at all growing up. Except when they did find out, and they would have, it may have been more destructive and devastating for ALL of my kids, IKL included. I refuse to keep her a secret. She deserves more than that. And I refuse to lie to my children. Even if it is a lie by omission. These lies will have to be addressed one day and I do not want to go down that rabbit hole.

Sibling grief in adoption loss is very real. Parented children, born prior to placement as well as after, are affected by it. There are no books about it, no expert advice. There isn’t even a children’s book in existence that deals with the loss of a sibling to adoption. There are literally no tools to help parented children navigate adoption. What I’m learning is that they do face a lot of the same challenges that us adults face. The only difference is they had no say so in it at all. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Like adoptees who sometimes feel like their lives are not in their own control, parented children can sometimes feel the same way.

It can hit you like a ton of bricks, the realization that your choices have caused your children psychological issues. Some will say, “Well, we’re going to have an open adoption so my children will always know their brother/sister and won’t have these problems.” I just laugh. I was going to have an open adoption, too. Go ahead and make your plans and hopefully they will work out. But when they don’t, you’ll be left picking up the pieces.

Life in Limbo

My last personal update was in the middle of January so I figured it was time to write again. I’ve been struggling a bit more with things, in regards to adoption, and I think that getting it all out would be helpful. I am almost finished writing a memoir novella about the time of my pregnancy, birth and the following weeks. I know this has taken its toll on my emotional health as revisiting that time period is always difficult, let alone writing about it. At the same time, it is healing to get it all out. I plan to self publish on Kindle with the majority of the proceeds going to our new organization “Saving Our Sisters” for family preservation efforts.

So where am I now? I feel as though my life is in a perpetual state of limbo. I am always waiting for the next communication, the next picture, the next update. As of lately my thoughts have obsessively gone to everything adoption. I play out endless amounts of scenarios in my head. In some scenarios IKL comes to visit with her adoptive parents and we all have a great time and continue to grow closer and closer over time and are just one big happy family. In another, IKL decides she doesn’t like the intrusion of her privacy and tells her adoptive parents to stop giving us updates. In yet another scenario, IKL hasn’t said anything at all but we have overstepped boundaries by writing and sending pictures every three months and they have decided to cut off contact altogether.

These are all extreme possibilities. I know that, rationally. I still can’t keep my mind from going there and to countless other places that are similar. I feel as if I am living in this fantasy world that I cannot escape. My parented children have surely suffered for it, as my attention is not 100% on them, as well as my friends and family.

If you may recall, from my last personal update, my husband had received our first direct communication, ever, from IKL. We were, and continue to be, overjoyed. She had asked him to please write to her, as he never had before, and he did. We all did. I emailed IKL’s adoptive mother and let her know we had sent the letters off. She responded that IKL would be happy to know J would be writing this time. I tracked our letter and it was delivered. And I haven’t heard anything since.

No email, no letters, no nothing. For all I know that package is still sitting in the special PO Box that is set up for us to send things. I hate wondering, questioning, not knowing. Did we cross the line? Did we say something wrong? Did she get the letters? Is everything okay? I don’t think its purposeful. I doubt that IKL’s family obsesses about this adoption stuff like I do. But still, it hurts to wait for crumbs.

Easter is just around the corner so today I sent off another “package.” It included lighthearted letters from myself, J, and our youngest daughter. I also made a DVD compilation of our home videos over the years for IKL to “see us in action” so to speak. Since she has no memory or recollection of seeing us in person, or hearing our voices, I thought it would be nice to further complete her picture of who we are. I am wondering if that, in and of itself, will be enough to cross the imaginary line that may or may not exist within our adoption relationship. Will her adoptive parents be upset about this? Will they let her watch it? Will they feel like we are communicating TOO much? I’m sure I’ll fret over this package being mailed until I hear a response, if that’s any time soon. I will probably torture myself with more outlandish (yet possible) scenarios. I don’t know what to do to escape it. I can’t stop writing and sending things to IKL. She enjoys it, needs it, wants it. I have to keep doing it.

I need to learn to relax. I need to trust that if I’ve stepped over the line that I will be politely told with no hard feelings.

Easier said than done. I am powerless. Really, IKL is powerless. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know our last names and I would bet that her adoptive parents determine when she can look at pictures we’ve sent and which things she is to have now versus later. I remember, at the beginning, sending a letter along with her right after TPR. I told her all the reasons I was doing what I was doing. I’m sure there was a lot of “adoption positive” speak. I have no copy of the letter but I remember the general gist of it. I poured my heart out with love. I also gave pictures of my other children and family members to her parents-to-be and the first letter they ever wrote talked about her “birth family box” and how things were being stored in there for her. I wonder if she’s ever seen any of this or if they don’t feel it’s the right time yet.

Yes, we have no control. Neither does IKL. Even as a teenager.

My oldest daughter, M, did not write this time. When I informed everyone we were sending off another package in time for the Easter holiday she said, “Do I have to write her?” My heart broke. I asked her why she wouldn’t want to and she replied, “I don’t know what to say. She never writes back.” I think the withholding of a letter (the first time for M) is a way for her to have some control over things. She is hurt that IKL has never written back and is upset that J received the first letter when he had never written at all. Her reasoning is probably, “Dad didn’t write at all and she wrote him. If I don’t write then maybe she’ll write me.”

How do I help her understand? I feel like the limbo of my life also extends to my children and juggling doing what is best for them and protecting them. But what is protecting one child may be hurting the other. I cannot force M to write to her sister but this means that IKL may get her feelings hurt with the absence of a letter from M for the first time. And I am powerless to get IKL to write to M. Even if I wasn’t, I would never want to force her to do something she wasn’t comfortable with either.

These are all the things I wasn’t told about. A successful reunion, in the future, relies on more than just me and IKL. There are so many outside factors to be included that could make or break it. My other parented children, my husband, IKL’s family. I worry that M not writing to IKL may hurt our chances of building a relationship in the future.

This all sounds so very self-centered, and maybe it is. I want nothing more in the world than to have a part, any part – even a tiny part, in IKL and her family’s life. My heart has been hurting for so many years.

This isn’t what I signed up for. I had no idea. I really didn’t know.

Letters From the “Kept” Siblings

Today I will open up an intimate part of my life for all of the world to see.  I will share with you a few letters that IKL’s sisters have written to her.  I do this in order to show that the effects of an adoption are much broader than one may think of at the time.  Even if you are planning on placing your first child, you must consider how your future children will feel in order to make the best decision for you.  While my children are not crumbling to the ground and devastated by IKL’s adoption, I wish that someone would have told me that this would be difficult for them too. To my knowledge there isn’t any literature for parented children, as I’ve stated in previous posts, to even introduce the fact that they have a sibling who is adopted out. I had to wing it. My youngest is now 12 and she is the only child I had post-adoption. As you will see, just because she wasn’t around when IKL was placed doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect her.   The first letter is from my oldest daughter and was written when she was 12 and is unedited.  We will refer to her as “M.”

Dear IKL,
I Wish I could see you right now, how we might be completely alike or very different from each other.  In case you don’t know my name is M.  I have always wanted to see you my whole life, like where’s my sister and is she even real , why can’t I see her,  I miss her.  All those questions where answered when I found out you were real ( of course) and that I could wright you a AWESOME letter.  Hey maybe one day we could be like pen pals or something like that.  You know what?  I feel like your’e my friend actually.  We don’t Really know eachother so lets start now.
I have a dog named R and a cat who is obsessed with me named B, don’t be fooled by the name he’s a boy.  I play guitar and clairinet, and a little bit of piano.
I have a best friend named J, Her mom is my art teacher and did i mention that i wrote a book and that I am awesomly creative in art.
I am in two bands, one in which is a classical and one for church, I’m a singer and a song writter.  I used to live in {redacted} now I live in {redacted}.  But i still go to {redacted} school.
Not very many people are nice to me and my friends there but outside of school me and my friends have totally different lives.
Everyone loves us or thinks we are awesome at my friends church.and I think the people there are awesome too.
in A couple of days me and my friends are going to do a flash mob, ask your mom if you dont know what it means,( not that you wouldn’t but still) and we all have to wear awesome sun glasses and leather jackets and it is going to be AMAZING.
Wish me luck little sis and I miss you SOOOOOOO much i REALLY want to see you, NOW i can’t put it in words its like saying,” Oh no you cant play the guitar anymore or saying you can’t use the bathroom anymore”.  Thats how ridiculous it is.
As you can see, M struggles with missing her sister.  A sister she doesn’t even remember meeting. She said she has vague memories of the last time we saw IKL (when IKL was almost 2) but nothing very clear. I think its important to note that M struggles to make herself look like someone worthy of her sister’s love and friendship.  She really focuses on playing herself up in hopes this will make her more appealing to her sister. It’s all her 12 year old mind knew of.
This next letter is from my youngest daughter, “A,” and was written about a year and a half ago when A was 10. It is unedited as well.
Dear IKL, april 7 20013
  This is your birthsister A. My mom said we are both silly and thats true we both look alike a lot alike, M (our sister) and you look alike to. I like horses, games, and music. My favirite singer is Bruno Mars. Who do you like? What is your school like? Mine is fun, big and doesnt allow bullying. I am 10 years old. I have a dog and a cat R and B. R is 4 and B is 7. My mom said you have a dog. What is it’s name? Maybe someday we could talk to each other. What’s your house like? The games I like to play are Whoonu (its a board game), Little Big Planet, and Borderlands and Red Dead Redemption. I wear glasses or else I can’t see good. (I can’t see small words). My favorite books are Bad Kitty books, and Dog Cases. I like to rite pomes and draw. I could send you one of my pomes. my favirite toy is my furby but the batterys died last night 😦 I ate sooooooo much easter candy I got sick. my baby cosin M got scared of my sister m’s drawing she made on our bedroom wall. It was funny. my dad snores so loud that m (cousin) thought ther was a bear sleeping in his room but my mom showed her it was just uncle j. Now when you ask her if theres a bear sleeping she says its just uncle j. lol. I have to share a bedroom with my sister. it gets anoying sometimes. My cat whenevr hes sleeping hes always on my bed. I have a youtube chanel if you want to see me. I hope you are good and I love you.
Love,
A
A’s letter is slightly different than M’s as A is a bit younger at the time of writing it. She still expresses a desire to talk to and have a relationship with IKL and tries her hardest to let IKL into her world. Clearly my choice of adoption has impacted my daughters. This was, initially, one of my biggest concerns when choosing adoption. I was assured than an open adoption would allow my kids and future children to grow up knowing their sibling. This has not happened. Each of the girls wrote another letter via snail mail about 3 months ago. IKL received it.  To this date she has not felt comfortable enough to communicate back with the girls. It is heartbreaking to see my daughters reach out to their sister and get nothing back. I don’t blame IKL at all. I’m sure it’s tremendously harder for her to even think about what to write back or if she should write back. It’s just a tough place to be in and something that all moms contemplating adoption should really think about.  My mother’s heart is pulled and torn.