Missed Opportunities. Part Three. (The Way it Never Was)

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J and I have everything and nothing in common. We share kids, a dry sense of humor, and a disdain for picky eaters. We both have quick tempers and ample bottoms. It is actually much easier to think of all the ways we are alike than to think of all the ways our lives are different. When I start to think about that stuff, I start to cry/get angry which is not productive/results in mad voice. It doesn't help that we also live about as far as you can live from each other and still be in this country.

When we were preparing for her kids to come to Portland for the summer she and I both knew it was going to be really difficult. I knew that they would all fight (they did. Profoundly), that I would run out of patience (spoiler: every day by 2), and that there would be days we would all wish things would go back to normal with everyone in the house that they belonged to. Those days were the hardest. I realized that we were exposing everyone to a sort of trauma that might be hard to recover from. So, I joked about it a lot. I did some of that aforementioned crying. She and I had real talk on the phone. I pounded on the floor.

I wondered why we thought we had any business doing any of this.

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But. Even when everything was going wrong I knew in my bones that this was the only way through for our family. It's not as though someone might have predicted this situation based on our semi-typical "open" adoption set up: there were years of un-reciprocated communication and worries about everyone's health and well-being. We had asked for her address, etc., right from the beginning and after those first few months, we had given her all of our info. I didn't expect to hear from her, but I had hoped we would. And when we didn't hear it made it easier to not always do OUR best. I think that those experiences are the sort of things that give a lot of parents permission to let go and stop trying with their kid's other families. In those days of having two babies, a four year old, and drowning in diapers and strange work schedules, I made all the excuses in the world for not trying harder with J. It was harder to keep up with the letters and pictures than I thought it was going to be. I didn't know her and she barely knew us and maybe she just wanted to let us all go. Maybe it would be easier for her.

These are the lies we tell ourselves to get by.

Had we let go and had we just given up we would have lost so much. We would not have had this hard and beautiful summer. We would not have a deep and abiding love for our boy's brothers and sisters. We would not have been able to disrupt the fantasy that our boys were surely forming in their own minds about who and where they came from. Our relationship as a family would have stayed largely theoretical. We would not have a clearer picture of J's life and the choices she made when our boys came to us.That is… I don't know how to say this… powerful information that interrupts popular adoption narratives.

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I know that, as parents, we don't all get chances to put ourselves out there like this– even when we are desperate for them. Other times we get the chance and we blow it. I have written before (I think) that I believe that my boys live with a low level grief and understanding of loss every day. It is a part of them when they wake up in the morning and crawl in bed to give us a hug. When we are together with their whole family it catapults this grief into the middle of the room. It can get really ugly. This is, in part, because they know how many people they are connected to. They can suddenly put faces and feelings to their loss and it SUCKS and it HURTS and it's NOT FAIR. So when we get these chances we have to take that into consideration. And it SUCKS and HURTS and it doesn't seem FAIR and we open ourselves and say yes anyway.

J and I have talked about how we are blowing all of our kid's worlds wide open. I just want to put out there– for anyone who is wrestling with something similar– that it is worth it. This is a long game we are playing and it is worth it. There are people across this country who have loved my boys even when they didn't know if they would ever see them again and it is worth it. I don't know what is going to happen– my kids could hate me for all of this. Actually, I'm pretty sure they will. I am choosing to believe that we can drive out some of that hate with the truth of all this difficult love.

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22 Comments

  1. Hugs and don’t go. I love to hear your perspective. Honest, thoughtful, struggling, looking for space to clear your head. It is what life is all about. Too often now blogs are perfect and crafted to have life seem perfect, this is not what life is though. Life is missteps and struggles with high points between.

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  2. i do not want to seem as though i think you are a saint, because i know you are not. no one is, really. and i’m sure you mess up just as much as the rest of us. but i am so so blown away and inspired by your courage to have the difficult conversations over and over and over again and make the difficult choices because you believe deeply that they are the right things to do. you try so hard and maybe your kids will hate you, but i’m quite sure they will love you even more. i would. i can only hope that i can try as hard as you are with my family. xo

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  3. I love your writing and I believe in you, a stranger from far away. I won’t go into my past it’s mostly no good until the point when I realized that the loving can and could come from anywhere. People who love you because they have to. And people who love you because they want to. You are showing and sharing all of that with your family. They will know, in later times of all that will come, how many people are holding them up, how many are loving them, how wide is their net.
    You rock!

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  4. I can’t breathe. I am silently crying. This is the long game we are playing. It is so painful and so important for our children. It is also an important story to tell so that the current adoption narrative–one that romanticizes everyone’s role (but especially the adoptive parents’ role) gets disrupted. Enough with the “brave, selfless choice” role for adoptive parents. Enough with the “chosen child” (for whom “love is enough”) role for our children. Enough with the “brave and loving choice” role for our children’s first parents. Enough. It is a false narrative that is not healthy for any in the triad–least of all our children.
    You nailed it, as usual.

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  5. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ~Martin Luther King Jr
    All you need is love. ~The Beatles.
    You’re giving them the love, girl. I have to believe that will win out in the end.

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  6. i love seeing your words. and more important feeling them. thank you again. xoxo (and i hope that you are keeping your hosting fees up to date! and keeping these words safe in other places as well. love you all.)

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  7. Thank you. Thank you for continuing to share your family’s story here in this space. Your boys are a few years older than mine, so it sometimes feels like reading your blog is like a peek into a potential future of mine. And your reflections reflect the revelations that likely come with having older kids with more complex thoughts about what it means to be an adoptee. Thanks for the heads-up and the encouragement to not back down from the excruciatingly difficult conversations.

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  8. Happy you’re back. Your voice has been missed. My family (formed through adoption) situation differs from yours, but I still find much to relate to in and learn from your writings. Your willingness to risk is powerful. I appreciate your sharing your experiences — both the trials and the triumphs.

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  9. Thanks so much for coming back, and writing this. It is so relevant and resonates so deeply. We are in that black hole where no communication is coming back and we need this reminder to keep trying, to keep it open. And your words…” I believe that my boys live with a low level grief and understanding of loss every day. It is a part of them when they wake up in the morning” are so true for our daughter as well. Thank you so much for putting it out there. It really helps.

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  10. I applaud you for trying to keep their story in front of you. To try and shape it and mold it to be as truthful as possible. Because although the truth can hurt, at least it’s the truth. We are part of a semi-open adoption. We were young and naive and pretty much would have taken any sort of agreement to be able to adopt our infant son. To his birthmother, semi-open may as well be closed. We’ve worked through our agency to try and get pictures, letters, basically anything that he can connect with, to no avail. Maybe she’s just washed her hands of him, and of us, but his “truth” is so confusing for him. He so desperately longs to be a part of our family story from the beginning, to wish away this birthmother that he doesn’t know, and I can see that longing in him at age 6. I cannot give him the answers he desires or the understanding that he seeks. It breaks my heart for him.

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  11. Thank you. I learn so much from your posts…more than I could ever put into words in the here and now in this space. Just…thank you. Love to your boys and to the whole FAMILY. All of it.

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  12. Wowwee, I’m not sure how to put into words how this has made me feel. I don’t want to say it wrong, but I guess I’m so impressed by you. Growing your family as you have, particularly in the open way you have, it’s more than just birthing a child, it’s so much more than that and I don’t know that I would be strong or responsible enough to manage it. You are a conscious, engaged and warm hearted person. Okay, maybe you won’t always get it exactly right, but who does? I believe in love, acceptance and great communication. Our girls and me may not always agree, but they know they’re loved always, regardless and you do that and more every single day. I’m a little bit in awe x

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  13. Thank you for continuing to share the truth of your path, of the lived experience of opening yourself and your family up to the hard stuff. I have seen the damage that ignoring the hard stuff can do to a family. Somehow I don’t think that facing it head-on can possibly do more damage than avoiding it.

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  14. Wandered back here “just in case” and so glad I did. There is so much not-right that can’t be undone, and you are brave to confront it, and maybe even braver to write about it, to challenge us.

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