There are two reasons why I am writing columns back and forth with Lizzie, our son’s birthmother. The first is to understand what Lizzie thinks and feels in certain situations because I believe this knowledge will help me be a better adoptive parent to our son later on when he starts asking me questions about his birth parents and adoption. The second reason I want to write columns back and forth with her is to potentially educate other people on open adoptions, clearing up many misconceptions and showing them how dynamic relationships between adoptive parents, birth parents and children can be.
I do sometimes fear that I might write about things or issues that might be painful, disappointing or sensitive to Lizzie. It is a risk writing some columns because I’m being very honest and personal with my feelings and I don’t always know what angst certain topics might cause her or whether or not I’m opening up a wound she is trying to heal. I imagine she must feel the same when writing about topics from her perspective as well, being fearful that I might feel threatened by her or perhaps not like something she has to say. Even though our adoption is an open one there is still much I do not know about my son’s birthmother and how she might feel in regards to situations surrounding our son’s adoption.
Recently, I felt great angst after sharing a column with Lizzie titled ‘Introducing Catherine.’ In the column I revealed telling our son (now 3 ½) for the first time about the existence of his sister, Catherine. Shortly after sharing this column with Lizzie I noticed that she had posted a couple of somewhat gloomy Facebook postings admitting she was going through a difficult time. In addition, unlike Lizzie, I received no email response about the recent column I had shared with her. My monkey mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that I had upset her with my Catherine article – knowing that she hoped someday for her two biological children to know each other, and that my article saying we were just now telling our boy about his sister surely distraught her. That must be the reason for her gloomy, depressed mood so I thought.
Come to find out, her depressed state had nothing at all to do with my article or anything about our or Catherine’s open adoption for that matter. Had I not felt comfortable enough with our relationship and written her to specifically ask if I had upset her with my article I would have kept assuming, incorrectly, that her dismay was all about us. This incident makes me so grateful that Lizzie and I do indeed have a very open running dialogue going via email and these columns. I’m so blessed to have access to this very private part of her life. I wonder how other adoptive parents make sense of miscommunications that sometimes happen through open adoptions? Would they wonder continually like I did that birthmothers spend much of their time pining over their “lost” child? Or fear continually that deep down the birthmother must want their child back?
Despite what we might think, her life is not all about our adoption. She struggles with other things. I’m guessing I’m not the only adoptive parent who is surprised by this, not that I don’t see the logical rational behind it; I see our son every day as a reminder of our adoption where she does not. Other adoptive parents might think similarly to me; perhaps they too always have a feeling that their birthmother must be regretful at times in regards to her child’s adoption which causes her depression in life. I’ve learned to not really question whether or not the regret is there, but rather question how much regret is there.
Through this recent exchange with Lizzie I’ve learned a very valuable lesson. As an adoptive parent it is important to remember that our adoption is not always on center stage in the live’s of our child’s birthmothers despite any regret she might feel over placing her child for an adoption. As much as adoptive parents might think and fear that all the birthmother ever does is long for and pine away for their child(ren) making her depressed, this simply is not the case.