Not So Permanent & Irrevocable After All

A little over a year ago, the daughter I had not seen since just a few months before her second birthday was in my arms again. You can catch up on that BY CLICKING HERE ON THIS HYPERLINK.

I never would have imagined we’d be where we are now. Without going into too many details, I’ll just say that the same rights a parent has to their minor child have been returned to myself and my husband via a permanent order of custody.

I spent last week reading IKL the story of my pregnancy, her birth, & relinquishment by way of the book I wrote covering it, Whispers of Grace.  How surreal to read the book I wrote about her, written just before we had contact with her, while she was sitting next to me, living with me, her bedroom just across the hall. I made it through almost the whole thing without shedding a tear. But there is no way to read aloud about what it’s like to permanently and irrevocably surrender your rights to your newborn TO that once newborn who is now beside you without shedding some tears. Her arms flew around me fast and she said, “It’s okay. I’m here now.”

How did I get this lucky? Why does my luck have to come at the expense of her leaving her friends, her culture, her home? How does she handle all of this with such grace?

I don’t know. I just know that I love her. It doesn’t feel like she’s been gone all these years. At the same time it’s so obvious she has and that hole where those years are can never be given back. We can only move forward. One day at a time.

 

Advertisements

The Clock Just Keeps Ticking

It’s almost 1 am. I’m up and thinking.

New information.

New facts.

New revelations.

A big bubble in my “birthmom” life has been popped. Things I thought to be are showing me that they really aren’t. I can’t seem to wrap my head around it all. There is turmoil right now but also cautious hope and excitement. Something very good has happened but it could also be very bad…it depends.

I’m feeling more used than I’ve ever felt, though. Huge betrayal, huge, and not just to me. To her.

All I have is time…waiting…waiting…waiting. How many more days until she has a say so of her own? Not ready to write yet? Pffft. So not true. More than ready, with or without you. Maybe you’re not ready.

What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. Isn’t that what Marmion wrote? But now I’m tangled in your damn web and I don’t know what to do. I want to trust you and fill you in but I also don’t want to do further damage to an already fragile perception of me and, more importantly, an already fragile perception of a little girl’s self-worth.

Thanks for putting me in this position. It’s great. I love it. It’s so damn fun.

Ripples like tidal waves are beginning to move through our household. Overwhelming emotions.

Does she have someone to help her with such feelings? Certainly not the people she’s supposed to be able to trust with them.

“Did our grandma sing the blues?”

Yes, she did. Songbirds run in this family.

I wonder if she ever wants to ask, “Did she want me? Did she love me?”

I wonder if she ever wants to say, “I don’t know how to feel! I don’t know what to do! I wish they understood!”

I want to so badly, so so badly. But I can’t. I can’t take the risk. Not just for me but the risk to her psychological well-being.

She quietly mouths, “Look at me! Here I am! That’s us!”

But my hands are tied. All I have is time. Time to wait, time to hurry up, time to wonder, time to wish.

I wait while the clock just keeps ticking.

The years are almost up. Everything will be on the table. Secrets will be no more and the truth shall set us all free.

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.

The Letter

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a personal update. And I’m not quite sure how to even start this blog. So many thoughts are running through my head and I can’t seem to organize them all. Even after 2 days of taking everything in. Where to begin?

Saturday afternoon I sent my oldest daughter out to check the mail for me. When she walked in the door I could see that she had a larger envelope. The color and type of envelope she was carrying is what IKL’s parents have typically sent updates in, in the past. That was confusing, though, because I usually only receive something in the actual snail mail about every 2 years or so. We had just received a small photo book several months ago. But, sure enough, the return address stated her parent’s first names and the PO Box they had set up for me to send things. I thought to myself, “What a pleasant surprise!” I anticipated some pictures, maybe an update.

Let me back up a bit…

Because, by nature, being a birthmother always means being scared you may say or do the wrong thing or that at any moment contact can be cut off, I sometimes feel as if I’m in a perpetual state of unrest.  Just before Christmas I had sent off a “Merry Christmas” e-mail. There was no response to that email. And even though (by this time) it had only been 16 days since Christmas, my insecurities started showing through and my mind went to those places. The places that say, “I must have said the wrong thing or overstepped my boundaries somewhere. I wonder if they’ve decided they don’t want to talk to me anymore. I wonder if this is how they are TOTALLY closing the adoption, by just not replying.” I have no rational reason to think they would do that. There have been longer time periods where they haven’t replied. But each time I don’t receive a response after about a week my mind let’s loose the beasts of worry. Let’s face it, there is always that possibility. And I think the fall out that led to no more visits may have given me a little bit of some PTSD about it.

Where was I? Oh yeah…

A package from IKL’s parents.

I opened the large envelope and saw a news letter type paper with pictures and some typed words. I started there. There was some talk of the new year, the Life Book I had sent, all very positive. The next line stopped my heart…

It stated that there was a letter enclosed from IKL to my husband.

I didn’t even get to the rest of what was written. I began to shake the large envelope so that it’s contents fell onto the couch where I was sitting. The whole time I was thinking, “Did I read that right? No. I must have read that wrong.” Sure enough, two smaller envelopes fell out of the large envelope. One had no writing on it and one was sealed with a “TO: and FROM:” handwritten on the outside. Now, my husband was in the most precarious of positions at this moment. I didn’t care. I busted open the bathroom door and shouted, “You got a letter from IKL! You got a letter from IKL!” He looked at me like the crazed maniac that I was. I don’t think he fully comprehended what I had just said. His response was, “What? From who?” I repeated myself. Again, “To me?” I just shook the envelope at him wanting him to take it while repeating, “Yes, yes, yes!!” It was then that he asked me to leave the bathroom. I realized how silly I must have looked and exited.

My husband was so sweet. He wanted to open the envelope perfectly. I wanted him to tear open the envelope, the hell with it all!! He asked for scissors to make the perfect straight incision at the top of that little gold mine he was holding. He was careful to make sure he didn’t accidentally cut the actual letter itself. I tried to take it from him because he was being too slow. I said, “I’ll open it, here give it to me.” He pulled it out of my reach and said, “Stop. I want it to be a nice opening.” Yes, I was a lunatic for about half an hour. I admit it. I own it. I wanted to respect the privacy that the letter to him had held. I wanted to respect IKL and the fact that she had written to my husband and not me. But, more than anything, I wanted to hold something she had held. I wanted to touch something that had been in her hands. I wanted to see words written from her own hand. A hand that, not so long ago but oh so long ago, I had touched. A hand that I had counted all the fingers on, kissed. You see, we have never had any communication from IKL. From her parents, yes. But never directly from her. No e-mails, no letters, no phone calls. About a year and a half ago I began writing to her and sending her things, as well as her sisters, but J never had.

For one, J isn’t big on writing letters to anyone. He will only write if he can type it out and print it. He loathes writing by hand. Always has. For two, J wasn’t quite sure about me writing her, let alone doing it himself. He didn’t want to “step on toes” as he put it. He didn’t feel he had the right. He wasn’t sure if she would even welcome it. Me, I decided to just bite the bullet and do it. In my heart I felt she needed it or, at the very least, would enjoy it. J was very unsure. But, then again, J has reason to be. He never has had the best self esteem and I know that at many times in his life he has always struggled to feel accepted and loved by others in his life. Why should he feel that this child we had “given away” would feel any differently. He really didn’t feel he had the right at all. No, that’s not exactly right. He felt he didn’t deserve to reach out to her. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

I watched my husband as he began reading this letter. For a few moments, at the beginning, I panicked and thought, “What if its a rejection letter? What if she wants him to tell all of us to leave her alone?” I pushed those thoughts aside and watched as a smile came across J’s face. And then tears. I rarely see my husband cry. We have been together for over 16 years and I have probably seen him cry maybe five times. But there they were. Those tears, streaming down his cheeks. He began to read aloud. Oh how sweet those words were.

It became so obvious to me why she had chosen him to write to. There were some fleeting moments, during my 30 minutes of lunacy, that I worried she had written him because she hated me. I was very wrong. She asked him to please write her, even if he had nothing important to say. She told us some things about herself and then expressed that she was having a struggle with knowing who she was. She ended it by telling him that she loved him. She didn’t know why because she doesn’t know him, but something inside of her loves him.

If someone had told me that day that in my mailbox would be either a winning lottery ticket or a letter to J from IKL and I had to pick, the winning lottery ticket wouldn’t even be given a thought. This was SO much better. It affirmed to me that she did, indeed, enjoy and benefit from the letters I have been sending. It affirmed to me that she didn’t hate us or hold a grudge. It affirmed to me that she had conquered some of her struggles enough to go outside her comfort zone and compose a letter to the father that enabled her to have life.

Many adoptees can be told, all day long, that their birth parents love them. Some need to hear it from the horses mouth. The same applies here. I can be told, all day long, that IKL is doing well. I needed, truly needed, to hear it from her to have some peace. And such a peace, for now, it has brought.

Human beings are imperfect things. We make mistakes. We all do. I was promised an open adoption with visits. That did not end up happening. And it was wrong. What I am thankful for is that contact was never totally cut off and that IKL’s parents are willing to do the right thing now.  This is a small blessing to me in this world of hurt called “Birthmother.”

I am hopeful for the future, in regards to IKL. There was a mention of having a visit the next time they are in our state, however they do not know when that will be. I mailed off our letters to IKL this morning. J spent 2 hours composing the “perfect” letter for her. He said, “If she wants me to write her every week I will. Whatever she wants.”Does this me that I am in a reunion of sorts? I don’t know. Maybe it does! For now, I am content. This happens so rarely in the adoption world. I am going to just enjoy being content for now. I’ll take it where I can.