During the six months between when Dylan's birth parent's rights were terminated and when we can apply to the state for his adoption, we must be monitored by our agency. This means we must attend a support group meeting or trek to the office each month. In January, to cover this obligation, we were invited to speak at the conclusion of a weekend intensive, which is essentially an orientation with people who have just "signed on the dotted line" and launched the process to become adoptive parents.
Almost exactly two years ago, M. and I sat in the same room and listened first to a birth mom talk about her experience placing her child and maintaining a relationship with him and his adoptive family, and then to a new adoptive mom, who brought along her adorable tiny baby. The stories they related really helped us understand how this whole open adoption thing could work; they had a powerful impact on us. So, eager to "pay it forward," M. and I agreed to tote Dylan across the city and talk about our own experiences bringing him into our lives.
It was kind of strange. In a way, meeting with these new hopefuls brought me back to a very painful time: the period in my life when I wasn't sure I had much more to give to our family building efforts. And a time when embarking on the path to parenthood via adoption brought both new optimism and increased risk. As I looked out on this group of people, I wanted to tell them that I knew they'd probably already been down a rough road, and that while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately, they should strap themselves in for some more bumps on a wild roller coaster ride (to mix some crazy metaphors).
Asked to share "our story," we spoke honestly and from the heart, though I think how we ultimately matched with V. and brought Dylan home is more interessting than how we actually related it all. We need to hone our story-telling skills!
The questions from the group were good. One person asked what we know now that we wish we'd known when we were in their seats. At first we responded with some technical tips about the arduous process to get "in the books." Then upon further reflection, I said two things.
First, I had kind of expected that when we final "got" our baby, there would be this magical moment when he was placed in my arms and he felt like ours. That single, special moment never came. Instead, because of our attachment to his birth mom and our desire for the match to continue to progress smoothly, for us the moments immediately following his birth were just as much about her and how she was doing as they were about him. And oddly enough, I am glad for that. We will have a liftime of magical moments with our son. But V. was our focus at a time when she really needed us.
After our talk, one of the participants thanked us and said that she now realizes she and her partner need to progress with more thought about what they can offer a birth mother than what she can offer them. So, that reframing is a good thing, I think.
Second, for a long time I've recognized that I attempt to manage my stress by fighting to control things around me. Part of that is struggling to anticipate things I can't possibly predicct. During our long wait, I spent ungodly amounts of psychic energy trying to guess how things might unfold so that I might have a chance to better prepare for them emotionally and otherwise. However, at some unidentifable point shortly before Dylan's birth, things became so unpredicatable, I just had to stop fighting and go with the flow. Looking back now, that made it so much more enjoyable. While I don't think its in my nature, I wish I hadn't tried so hard to figure everything out much sooner. I told the group that I wish I'd known there was NO way I'd guess how my baby would come to me and trusted more that however it happened - as long as it happened - I'd be okay.
Of course, throughout the whole session, Dylan was adorable. I think I caught in a few people's eyes that same baby lust that the little guy in the session we attended 24 months before had tiggered in me. I must admit, it was so gratifying to show off my son.
Like most new parents, when we are out and about with our little guy, he attracts lots of attention. People want to know what his name is, or especially how old his is. They often comment on how much hair he has and his gorgeous dark eyes.
And when people make these comments, there's always a little something in me that wonders if I should share that he is adopted. If I know the people, or the conversation becomes more involved, I will usually say something. More and more, though, I just say thank you...without adding, "he's adopted, so we have nothing to do with how cute he is."
Recently I noticed that I feel less driven to share that he was adopted when I am out alone with Dylan. When M. and I are together and Dylan attracts attention, I feel more compelled to reveal the special way he joined our family. What's weird is that I think this relates to some kind of latent fear of the questions that might come up when people can see that this little boy obviously came from some other gene pool than his parents'. I want to pre-empt any odd assumptions or awkwardness.
I hope this is something I get over soon. I'm surprise by how challenging I am finding it to navigate the issue of when to try to "pass." I know that when to share what with who about a child's adoption is a hot top with ambigous answers. Ultimately, I want Dylan to make the decisions about disclosing that information. But until then, I need to work on my own feelings and language related to "telling."