The Adoption Rollercoaster: Reunion?

As my relinquished daughter gets older it’s become more difficult to keep up with personal updates in regards to my adoption story. The older she gets, the more I realize that it isn’t just my story to tell and I have become conflicted about just what to share and what to keep private.

I see so many birthmom blogs of mothers early into the adoption journey blogging all the details of their great open adoption story. I see the same thing with adoptive parents as well. I’m guilty of putting things out there without thinking as well. I’d just like to remind everyone to be cautious when publicly sharing your story. The way you see things may not (probably isn’t) exactly how your child does.

Even so, I would like to share some things that have transpired. I’ll keep things simple out of respect for IKL’s privacy. I won’t imply that I know how she feels. This is just my side of the story and I’ll stick with facts and how I feel.

I learned that some decisions had been made for my daughter, by her adoptive parents, that I did not agree with. I felt there were some definite issues going on and could reasonably correlate adoption to some of them – again, my opinion. As you already know, I had an open adoption, with direct communication with my daughter (phone calls, visits, etc) until she was almost 2 years old. Direct communication, and visits, were cut off at this time. I still received periodic updates from her adoptive parents, sometimes sporadically, through email and there were a few photo albums mailed over a decade. I saw things through their eyes and while my daughter was becoming old enough to express herself and how she feels, I was not privy to what that may be. I’m going to assume it was the same for her as well.

Where were we? Some decisions were made to address “behavioral problems” and I didn’t agree with those decisions. I felt that the decisions made would reinforce any feelings of rejection or abandonment and wouldn’t really get down to the root of the problem which, I believed, adoption played at least some part in. I do believe her adoptive parents felt they were doing what is best, even if I didn’t agree – and it still didn’t mean it was right or the appropriate course of action. Of course I never expressed this to them for fear of risking communication being cut off altogether.

This started 2 years of emotional hell and the realization that I may have made a huge mistake. My fog began to lift and I found my voice.

At the beginning of that 2 year period, I went out on a limb and asked permission to write to my daughter for the first time. My request was received well and with much enthusiasm. I was hopeful that maybe the door to openness would begin to unlock. Previous attempts and open invitations to Skype, connect via social media, and visit were unanswered. Well, the open invitations to visit (and some even included that my daughter not need to be present if they were uncomfortable with that) were always answered with, “if we’re ever in that state.” So, the warm welcome to write a letter directly to her gave me hope and was something I viewed as promising. After all, regardless of any hard feelings, what’s truly best for my daughter would be for her to NOT be put into a position of Us vs. Them. She should never have to “choose.”

My first letter, written 2 years ago, came about 6 months after I learned of the decisions made as a desperate attempt to help heal any wounds caused by adoption that may not be being acknowledged. Carefully I composed an email, written to her, for her adoptive mom to print out and pass on, explaining, to the best of my ability, why she was relinquished and a little bit of information about what me and her father were like. I had to choose my words carefully as it would be first read by her adoptive mother and father. But I wanted to be honest. Quite the conundrum.

After hitting “send” I waited. A few hours later I received a message back saying that it was “beautifully prophetic” (whatever that means) and would be printed, placed in an envelope, and given to her.

Time went by. A few months later I decided to take a bolder step and send a photo book of our family and another, more casual, letter. I asked if the attorney’s address I had, from all those years prior, was still okay to send things. I didn’t get a response right away so I sent the package anyway. A few days later an email arrived with a PO Box address I could send anything in the future. This, again, gave me more hope. More openness. They were now allowing me to know the town they lived in, even if not their address.

About every 3 months me and the kids would send letters. Sometimes we’d include other things. Pictures, a life book, a handmade pillow, etc. Each time IKL’s adoptive mother would email that she was receiving these things but was not yet ready to respond or have contact but that she was hopeful that one day she would. Part of me would be devastated each time but the other part of me understood and didn’t want to push too hard. I felt that if she didn’t wish to receive communication, at all, I would be informed.

Things went on this way for a while and then, almost a year ago, we got a package in the mail. You can read about that here: https://musingsofabirthmom.com/2015/01/12/the-letter/

4 months after that, I learned that my older parented daughter had received communication from IKL via social media. I won’t go into the details as that is their story to tell, but, suffice to say, I learned a few things that my parented daughter felt was important to share.

IKL had written me a letter, before my husband’s letter, and was under the assumption it had been mailed to me. I never received any letter.

IKL thought I had received her letter and was ignoring her since I never wrote back. (I had been writing every 3 months – this leads me to believe not all – maybe not any – of my letters or packages had been given to her)

IKL was more than ready, excited even, to have a relationship with her first family – again, my perception.

IKL did not want her adoptive parents, at first, knowing she was talking to her sister.

It was very hard not to jump in and tell her the truth. I don’t have all the facts and do not want to put her in the Us vs. Them game. I encouraged my parented daughter to encourage IKL to be forthcoming with her parents and removed myself from the situation altogether. I was not going to be the one to “tattle” on her for talking to her sister and betray any small amount of trust she might have for me. Nothing she was doing was dangerous and I made an executive decision, as her mother, to let the relationship unfold while guiding and educating my parented daughter about reunion. I thought she needed this contact and that it was good for both girls.

A few months later, I received an odd email from IKL’s adoptive mother stating that IKL had told her she was talking to my parented daughter. Just that line. Nothing more. I responded that I had never spoken to IKL and that I was glad she had told her. I asked how she felt about it. Her response what that she thought it was great and that I could talk to her if I wanted, too…she’d ask IKL how she felt about it.

I waited a few days, to see if I’d get an email back, and heard nothing. Since IKL had liked a few of my photos on one social media site, I decided I would initiate a hello message. I’d been given permission to talk to her, so I did. It went well. Short, awkward, and beautiful.

As it stands now, a few more months in, my parented daughter and IKL continue to grow closer thanks to social media. I’m more cautious about contact as I don’t want to overwhelm her. I want her to know I’m here, but I don’t want to be pushy. 15 is a difficult age for any kid without throwing in the added bonus of being bombarded by a whole other family eager to get to know you.

She’s always receptive and kind when I do message her. I see, in her, a tenacity, a love for life, pain, ambivalence, passion, stubbornness and a huge heart. It amazes me just how much like myself and my husband she is.

So, for now, we are okay. Baby steps. I’m not foolish enough to think this will be a happy ending to a reunion. I know it takes work and I’m not even at the tip of the iceberg for all to come in the future. I am hopeful, though. Hopeful that maybe one day we can build a relationship and make up for lost time. (is there really ever any making up for it, though?) 

For now I am happy that my children get to have some sort of relationship with each other, on their own terms, and that I still have the possibility of one with her. Far too many of my dear friends have crossed that bridge into “no hope” and it breaks my heart.

I’m letting IKL take the lead, make the choices, decide for herself. No one else has, thus far. She’s earned it. Hopefully she’ll decide to take the lead with a place in my life. If she doesn’t, I’d be heartbroken, but understanding.

I was never supposed to be in a “reunion.” I was promised my daughter would grow up knowing us. That’s what’s most infuriating. But, there’s nothing I can do about that now except look forward.

As of right now, I’ll continue to ride the adoption roller coaster and enjoy the plateau for a while.

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