Birthmother: Fork in the road

By Birthmother – “You came to the fork in the road and you took it.”

A wise therapist once used this line on me.  He explained to me that sometimes it doesn’t matter whether I turn left or right.  Either way, I make a decision; I pick a path and I don’t stop travelling.  Experience tells me that without accepting a chosen path there is no chance of moving forward.  How can anyone survive if they stop at the fork indefinitely, or if they travel down one path without turning their gaze from the path they left behind?  Can’t you imagine the calamity as such a doubtful traveler rides head-first into a cliffside?

Occasionally, though, life offers unsolicited visions of what the OTHER path might have been.  As I learn more about the mother, Karen, who adopted my son, I am keenly aware that her path could have been mine.  Karen and I have so much in common.  We are similar in age, and even more similar in our personalities.  Karen is open, honest.  Her emotions are exposed at all times (including her love, which she gives automatically as an extension of who she is).  She enjoys the simple things.  She is open to new experiences and embraces them with enthusiasm.  It comes as no surprise that a person with so much openness and emotion would fall easily into traps of depression.  Again, I can relate.

So as I hear about Karen’s life as a mother I can instantly imagine myself in her shoes.  I cannot help but be aware that her life could have been my life, and vice versa.

Could I be living in a safe and healthy home strewn with a toddler’s toys?  Could I be living in a home where play, learning and make-believe are around every corner?  Could I share the joy of taking a young child on adventures, watching the child’s eyes grow wide with excitement at each new experience?  Could I be the mother trying to soothe the anger of a screaming toddler at the local grocery store?  Could I be the one getting covered in bedtime kisses after reading my child’s favorite story book for the 100th time?

Yes, yes I could have chosen that life, but I did not.  I gave birth, but I am not a mother.  I chose not to be a mother.  The consequences of this choice have only begun for me in that I will spend the rest of my life seeing what I’ve missed.

Moreover, I will spend the rest of my life seeing what my children have missed by not having me.  Did I hurt them by giving them up?  Will they be angry?  Doubtful?  Insecure?  And will I be the one to blame?  The older I get, and the older my children get, the more these questions will keep me up at night…

…unless I find some way to make peace with the choices that brought me to this place in my life and with the consequences of my actions.  ***Does this entry end here?  How DO I make peace?  Is it selfish to enjoy life without my children?  I didn’t give my children up so that I could live a happy, carefree life.  I wasn’t ready to take care of another person.  I was NOT in the secure, healthy place then that I’m in now.  Are my children the ultimate judges of my actions?  Is my peace dependant upon their judgement?  Is it enough to know that my choice, good or bad, gave other people the chance to be parents?  I don’t know.

Adoptive mother: Introducing Catherine

Catherine is our son’s sister. We (myself, my husband, and our son) have never met her and I have no idea if Catherine even knows of our existence.  Yet it is because of her that our son exists at all and that Scott (my husband) and I are parents.

It is strange that such an influential person in our lives might not even know of our being and has been talked about so little in our household. So why have I never mentioned her before?

It’s complicated. Our son’s adoption story is a bit complicated. But whose adoption story isn’t complicated right?

In the shortest explanation possible I’ll tell you this: Our son’s existence on this earth was initiated when Catherine’s adoptive parents asked Lizzie to have another child for them bringing to life a sibling for Catherine. Due to things getting complicated in trying to make that happen and Catherine’s adoptive parents splitting up when Lizzie finally did get pregnant, our son came to us in California instead.

Scott and I both agreed that we would be completely open with our son about his adoption, and we never wanted any part of his adoption story to come as a big surprise to him. We want to tell him his story early enough so it would simply be how it is (no sitting down with us one day and dropping a bomb on him about he being adopted.) We want him to have always known his story. This is not to say that today our boy knows his full adoption story. Far from it. Certain details of his adoption are clearly a bit complicated and should be told at an age appropriate time in order for him to understand what it all means. Our job as his adoptive parents is to sift through his adoption story and introduce facts to him when we think he is ready to digest them or when the right opportunity arises. In the case of telling him about his sister – who we don’t even know and have never had any direct contact with – it seemed like an appropriate time never surfaced itself.

At times early on in our son’s life his sister, Catherine, was mentioned in front of our boy when we would tell our family and friends his adoption story but he was much too young to understand what we were talking about at that time. More recently there have been a couple of times when friends who knew about our son’s adoption story asked us about his sibling within earshot of our son. It really bothered me that we would be talking about her when our boy didn’t even know who she was and could now understand what we were talking about. It was time to tell him about her. So Scott and I made a conscience decision yesterday to go out of our way to introduce our son to Catherine.

I was a little bit nervous and apprehensive about what he might say or think of the whole situation.  Would the news be a big surprise to him? Did we wait too long to tell him? Would he be happy or sad that she lived far away and he couldn’t meet her? Would he ask us questions about her?

I grabbed my laptop in preparation for our discussion and I pulled up a recent picture of Catherine, now seven, sitting on her pink bicycle that Lizzie had shared on her Facebook wall. Before dinner when we were all in the kitchen Scott sat down with our son in front of the computer and we both explained to him matter of factly and in the simplest of terms about his sister. We did not want to make a big deal of the news so we made our discussion short and sweet. It went something like this: “We wanted to tell you that you have a sister who also grew in Lizzie’s belly. Her name is Catherine. She is adopted also. She lives in a city back east. Perhaps someday we will all meet her. Here is her picture.” (Whew, it was finally out!)

Our son’s response to my amazement was nothing at all about Catherine or the picture. He didn’t even comment on her cool pink bicycle which surprised me since I know how much he likes the color pink. All he cared about and wanted to do was watch a video on the computer, his usual response when any electronic device comes in front of his face.

The whole situation was a bit laughable looking back on it especially considering how apprehensive I was about revealing this particular piece of our son’s adoption story to him; yet I was so glad that Catherine’s reality was finally out. Now we’ll be able to talk more freely about her as time goes on. Like telling our son of his adoption, this monumental detail of his story has turned out to be just another non-event in our son’s life – as it should be.

Note: A couple of days later after mentioning Catherine to our son, he confirmed hearing what Scott and I had told him while walking through Target. He was jabbering on to himself as he often does, verbalizing various random thoughts out loud to himself, when out popped, “And I have a sister.” in between something as random as “We are getting diapers,” and “I have purple shoes.”