I wasn't sure that I would manage a single blog entry this week, mostly because I seem to be at death's door. How is it that when the kid gets a cold, her nose runs for a day or so and then she's fine, but when I catch it shortly thereafter (and God knows I always do). . . it nearly kills me? I have asthma so even the tiniest of colds heads straight to my lungs like a bullet. And then I hork and gasp and make out my last will and testament and self-medicate and complain loudly until it finally goes away.

But my malady is not the topic of this particular blog entry.

I have a little dilemma. Or perhaps quandary would be a better term. In other words, I've got a problem. As my three readers know, my daughter was adopted at birth. At the hospital, we signed a communication agreement with A's birthmother. At that time, she didn't know how much contact she would want. We agreed to personal visits and generally left it kind of open-ended. We truly wanted to try our best to accommodate whatever she needed. The agreement is not legally binding.

I should step back a bit and tell you how we got to that hospital room.

Our adoption journey began in July of 2004, when we met with a social worker to get the process rolling. For the next several months, we filled out paperwork. We'd return a completed packet to the agency and then they'd send us another one. We had physical exams (P's doctor listened to his heart and then signed the form, while my doctor violated me six ways to Sunday), we supplied vaccination records for our cats and dogs, we got reference letters from friends, we got background security checks to make sure we weren't felons, etc. Finally, in January of 2005 we were pulling into the home stretch. We had separate interviews with the social worker. Then, finally, the home visit. She walked through our home and we showed her our fire extinguisher and our 487 smoke detectors (we had been required to install one in each bedroom, even though there was already one outside each bedroom). Nervous as we were, we somehow passed inspection and were considered formally approved to adopt. Technically speaking, we were approved as a foster home, because that is the requirement if you are to bring the baby directly home from the hospital (this is considered an "at risk" placement, because the parental rights have not been terminated).

Although the normal wait for a baby (at least through our agency) is around 18 months, somehow the planets must have aligned just right because we were selected almost immediately. We provided a profile (a scrapbook full of photos as well as a "dear birthmother" letter) to the agency and it was then shown to a potential birthmother. I believe she was given several profiles and as luck would have it, she connected with us in some way. We met J about a week later. Talk about nervous! I thought I would hyperventilate, drool on myself, trip on my own feet, God knows what. But the meeting went well and we really, really liked her. She was 23, working in a daycare, and was no longer with the boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant. She had a little boy and simply could not support two children. She was fighting to get child support for her first child, but was not receiving it.

Five days after the meeting, a few days before my 35th birthday, the social worker called me at work to tell me that we had been formally chosen and that no other couples were being considered. I cried at my desk. After so many years of loss and pain, it seemed our luck had finally changed.

The baby was due in three months. J and I spoke on the phone several times, and I took her out to lunch once or twice. It was an awkward time, but I really wanted her to know me and feel comfortable with me. The baby was due on April 26th but that date came and went. An induction was scheduled for May 3, 2005.

I am not going to include the details of the birth here because I really want to devote a post entirely to A's arrival. One of these days I will get around to it! We were in the delivery room when the baby was born. We had not known we would be invited into the room, so we were beyond grateful when the invitation was extended to us. It was an incredible gift to be there for the birth. P cut the cord (and then got woozy and had to sit down).

Two days later, we left the hospital with our new daughter. During those two days after the birth, we spent equal time in the nursery and in J's hospital room. J seemed to be doing well but we knew that she would have some hard days of grieving ahead of her.

Indeed, there were a lot of heartbreaking phone calls in those early days after the birth. Her pain ran deep and at times we really didn't know how to help her (she has suffered from depression for several years, which made matters worse, I'm sure). Two weeks after A was born, J went to court and terminated her parental rights before a judge. The birthfather did not show up, so his rights were involuntarily terminated. We were not permitted in the courtroom but we went to the courthouse (sans baby) to provide support. When J came out of the courtroom, her shirt was soaked with tears. I have no doubt that it was the hardest thing she'd ever done.

Over the next year or so, we had several visits. At first we got together once a month (at her request) and then less frequently. I called her with updates from time to time. I will admit that in the beginning there was perhaps a bit more contact than we expected (after all, we needed time on our own to bond as a family), but we honestly did our best to accommodate her and give her what she needed. Eventually, she got a boyfriend (a friend with whom she had grown up - a very nice guy) and a better job. She seemed to be doing better in a lot of ways, and her grief was no longer quite so palpable.

Our last visit was in August of 2006. Sometime thereafter, she stopped answering the phone when I called, and didn't return messages. Eventually, I figured out that she no longer wanted personal contact. Since then, I've sent several letters. Each one has been accompanied by photos. In one letter, I asked her to contact the agency if she no longer wanted me to send the letters and photos. She did not contact them, so I made the assumption that she did want to receive them. In September of 2007 she got married (as far as I know, anyway - she had mentioned the date during our last lunch together the year before). I knew that she planned to move. In my last letter I asked her to let us know her address and her new last name. I don't want to lose track of her because when A is an adult, she may want to make contact.

She has not contacted me or the agency with her new address, name, etc. At this point I feel like the ball is in her court. All this time I have been guessing about what she wants (does she like the letters and photos? or does reading them make her emotional pain even worse? am I sending them too frequently? too infrequently?) It would make life a lot easier if I just KNEW.

So, should I continue sending periodic letters (I've been sending them every 2-3 months) to her old address with the assumption that they will get forwarded? Or should I wait to hear from her?

This relationship is surely the most complicated I have ever known. I will always love her and want nothing but good things for her. I mean, how do you thank someone for giving you the greatest gift of your life? It's an impossible task. I just wish I knew how to navigate these waters.

Edited to add: Someone who left a comment asked why I have kept in touch with A's birthmother. That is a good question. I think part of me just wants her to see how happy and healthy and active my daughter is. I want her to think, "I don't have to worry - she is fine." I want her to be at peace. I lurked on a message board for birthmothers and some of them would give their right arm for letters and photos, but many aren't getting them. Part of me does it for my daughter. It is my understanding that all adoptees go through a crisis of abandonment at some point in their lives, that it is almost unavoidable. When my daughter asks (and I think someday she will), "Does my birthmother know about me?" I can say, "Yes, I sent letters and she knows all about you." I almost wrote a whole post about how I dislike the term "give up for adoption." I never use it. I don't want my daughter ever to think anyone gave her up or gave up on her.

If I Google J's phone number, I do get a different address. But to me this feels sort of stalkerish. Like, "See, I found you!" I really want the information to come from her. She made an incredibly mature, selfless decision when she chose adoption, so it's sort of baffling to me why she can't just tell me how much or how little contact she wants.


Marginwalker said…
Wow...this is a strange situation to be in... My instinct would be to keep sending updates, and err on the side caution by not sending too much or too often (but, how much is too much, and how often is too often if she doesn't tell you?). I'm afraid I'm not much help here, but from where I sit you've done everything with great tact and care, and very obviously with her feelings in mind.
Anonymous said…
Claudia: My God-Mother has 2 adopted children, I think I've mentioned that before, anyways. She sends the birth mom's a letter every 6 months and then a Christmas card with the picture of the kids together, and then sends school pictures of that particular child to that particular bith mother. She says that she doesn't get much of a response, other than they apperciate it and that's about it. I guess from their prospective what else are they suppose to say??? I say contact her every few months, with the picture and letter, because in the end you can tell A that you tried to keep in contact with her birth mother all these years. You're trying and you're doing a good job at keeping her in the loop. Regardless of a response or not at the end of the day you can sleep with a clear conscience.
Matthew said…
I would think about why you are keeping contact and act on that.

Is it to keep the birth mother informed? If so, you think she would have said something.

Is it for your sake? Keep doing what you want to do.

Is it for A's sake? Keep doing what you have been doing so as not to loose contact. Try to dig through the newspaper where this person lives to find out if they married if you want to track them down. If letters are not being returned, then she has not moved.

My 2 cents.
Anonymous said…
Claudia, your posts always invoke some emotion (usually laughter) and this one is the same. It is so clear through your writing your concern for A's birthmother. I, of course, have nothing helpful to offer, but I wanted to thank you for what you have written. A obviously has such a thoughtful mother, who takes SO much into consideration into her future. Tammi
Anonymous said…
You are a wonderful,thoughtful mom(or should I say "mother"). I'm not surprised because you are a wonderful, thoughtful daughter. And don't say "You have to say that because you are my mother".
By the way - how can anyone write something that actually makes sense at 5:58 in the morning?

I love you!!!

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