Portrait of an Adoption

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You Have A Piece Of My Heart And I Have A Piece of Yours

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Dayna Farr

My birth mom loved me so much she sacrificed her own happiness to give me to a family that could provide the kind of life she was unable to at the time of my arrival. She did it because she loved me and I always felt her love, just as I felt the love of the mother who raised me.

My parents gave me great perspective of the path that had brought me to them and I am often reminded of how wonderful it truly was. It had taken years of interviews, meetings with countless social workers and background checks on everyone they had ever known before they received the call their bundle of joy was waiting for them.

They had almost given up hope. It was the day after the election and my poor mother had been up all night counting and recounting ballots. Her eyes were practically swollen shut and her much needed slumber had been interrupted by a ringing telephone. She was so tired that she abruptly answered it, but her tone quickly changed as she was told their baby was finally here.

She then called my father who immediately locked up his business and raced home. I met my new family on my third day of life and coincidentally, my maternal grandmother’s birthday, so it was impeccable timing. There is so much joy and happiness associated with that story and I never get tired of hearing it.

I don’t remember a time I didn’t know I was adopted. My parents were extremely open and honest with me. They set the tone of gratitude which in turn gave me an open heart and a greater compassion for people in tough circumstances.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I always wondered about my biological family, who they were and what they were like. I don’t think I felt like I didn’t belong any more than any other awkward kid trying to make their way through the world. But like everyone I had struggles, which at times had to do with the fact I was adopted. So I grew and learned and I now perceive it as one of the greatest gifts of my life.

You really don’t know and cannot even comprehend how much emotion you can have for another human being until you have your own child. As my eyes gazed upon my perfect little daughter for the first time, it was like a lightning bolt hit my soul and I got it.

In that brief moment I finally unequivocally understood how much both my mothers loved me and I knew one day I had to find my biological mother, if for no other reason than to thank her for a beautiful life.

Ten years and another sweet daughter later, I finally got up the courage to file the court papers to open up my records. My parents were a bit hesitant, but they warmed up to the idea. Given nothing but a name, my best friend and I frantically searched for and ultimately found my birth mother.

Her name was Lil and she welcomed me back into her life, as did my brother, sister and countless relatives. To say it was amazing is the biggest understatement there ever was. She was part of my life for many years.

During the past few years I have helped care for my father, as his health has been failing. Two weeks after making the heart wrenching decision to put my dad on hospice, I got a text from my sister Shawnee explaining that my bio mom Lil was in the hospital.

A few days later Lil and I were able to FaceTime and she gave me her prognosis. My heart sank and it felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach. She asked me if I had any questions and assured me she was at peace with it, although I knew she wasn’t and neither was I. All I could think was that we needed to make the most of the time we had. And we did.

Lil had gone to stay at my sister and brother in law’s house, so we all congregated there or at the hospital, whichever place the doctors told us she needed to be. I took days off, called in sick and spent as much time with her as I could. Her room was consistently full of visitors and there was laughter and joy sprinkled with the occasional tear or two.

Every time it came up, we told the story — our story. With each explanation of our relationship, I seemed to get the same stunned reaction, they were always surprised I was there. The same question, spoken with exorbitant confusion and befuddlement on the face of the inquisitor.

I would then explain, this wonderful woman, my first mother had sacrificed so much for me to have a beautiful life. It was my job and my honor to help care for her in the last days of her life. Our hospice clergy was actually moved to tears and then explained her father had given up a son as well, so it gave her hope for her own family.

I heard constant apologizing from Lil and she was absolutely embarrassed because illness is not pretty, nor comfortable, and I would reassure her that this is what your children do. I knew that she would do it for me, so I was happy to do this for her.

One particularly rough night she called me to the side of her bed. She told me to take her hand, to look into her eyes and to tell my mama I forgave her. She went on to explain that she didn’t want me to feel like she had chosen my siblings over me.

My heart shattered into a million pieces. With tears streaming down my face and a huge lump in my throat I explained that there was no reason for forgiveness. I really owed her because she had done so much for me. She had selflessly put her own feelings aside to do what was in my best interest.

I told her I loved her, my children loved her and that my parents loved and appreciated her too. Sadly, I knew this day might come. I was hoping against hope that we were past this and our reunion had paved the way for forgiveness, because it was not me that needed to forgive her. She needed to forgive herself.

Parenting on its best day is all about being insecure and feeling guilty, especially for those parents who have had to make the difficult decision to place their children for adoption. I am forever thankful to have not one but two women to call mom.

My sister and I each held one of our mother’s hands as she took her last breath and went to live with the angels. Fourteen years with your biological mom isn’t enough, but what amount of time could possibly ever be sufficient?

So, now I will mourn her the way she mourned me before we reconnected. I am certain the extreme heartache and loss I feel is just a fraction of the pain she endured and I am grateful for the selfless love she gave me.

I spoke at her celebration of life. As friends and family — both biological and adopted looked on — I talked about Lil, my mom, and I ended with this. “You have a piece of my heart and I have a piece of yours. Always have always will. And I will carry it with me until we meet again. Love you. I’ll see you on the flip side.” And I blew her a great big kiss.

Gratitude, love and forgiveness are the fundamentals of life and seem to be a resounding theme in every adoption story. I always felt lucky to be adopted and to have such a unique family, but this summer I found out how truly blessed I am.

Dayna Farr is a middle-aged mom of two wonderful, smart, beautiful grown women. She has a great son-in-law and two of the most amazing grandchildren anyone could imagine. She has had a blessed life and it began with adoption. 
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

A Week With An Eight-Year-Old

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Josie Mae Rigney

“What the flip?”
“Say bubble nuggets!”
“I have four girlfriends… well, I just got that one.”
“Son of a cracker!”
“I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it today or yesterday or tomorrow!”

High highs and low lows – sometimes I think I am not cut out for this, and other times, I think it is all I can do. He called me mom on the second day. He called Eddie dad. He climbs on me like I am a tree and doesn’t like to be alone.

I sit with him while he brushes his teeth. I read while he plays. I realized I don’t know how to play anymore. He will argue about anything. He got mad when I said that I wasn’t worried about Chuckie getting me at 3 am if I watched the movie. He got scared of the Five Nights at Freddie movie toys and spiders. He sleeps with a night light, plays with the cats, and is gentle with the dog. He does the running man at breakfast. When he got scratched, he came to me with tears in his eyes.

Now, he brags. He loves Sonic, Spiderman, and Ninja Turtles, but Sonic most of all. Eddie surprised him and sewed up his Spiderman suit while he was at camp. He plays Minecraft and Roblox, for hours if I let him. He argues about meals, wanting whatever he doesn’t have. He says he worries about being fat, but at age eight, he probably weighs less than 40 pounds. He throws fits over the strangest things, and if we are in public, and he is upset, he will run away just to see if we chase him, but he doesn’t want to be treated like a baby. He loves Legos.

He has a mom, and she calls about once a week. When you talk to her about what is going on, she gets defensive. Both he and his mom have said that if he is bad, it is not his fault because he has been through a lot.

I have decided that parents, parents in general, are some sort of twisted sadists-masochists, but I can’t give up or stop or say no or give in. He can pout for hours and love for days. He told me he doesn’t like to read when he first got here a week ago.

This morning he told me it was his favorite subject in school. We read every night before bed and each night he falls asleep faster and faster. We read on the couch. We read comics and graphic novels. We read about animals: sharks, deer, ants, and insects. He told me he knows everything, but he looks to me for every answer, and tomorrow he says goodbye, when he wants to stay.

I barely know where he came from; I don’t know where he’s going. He has two backpacks. One with a broken strap, for day camp, and one with four pairs of shorts, 7-8 shirts, socks, and underwear… oh yes, and a Spiderman costume. We added a plastic sword, a few cars, coloring books and pencils, a toothbrush, and not much else.

My mother says she needs to spoil me a little, that she never gets me anything, that she wants to do more for me, and we are going on a cruise where she largely bought me a wardrobe. His mother called once a week while he was living with strangers. She texted “Be good to my boy.” A father figure called once. Each of these phone calls lasted less than five minutes. She said she was doing her best, but we are not supposed to judge.

We are supposed to go into this and do our best, and reserve judgement. But I am Judgy McJucdgeface, but none of this matters, because he leaves tomorrow to go to someplace and someone new.

Eddie wants a girl. I want a girl, but mostly I want a child, but regardless of all of this, I leave for a month-long trip in a few days, and we were told this placement would only be a week. It was only a week.

We are fingers crossed, papers signed, and I’s dotted, 3/4ths of the way through adopting a little girl who is his age from another state. Who knows who she will be or how we will do? This process started long before the 8-year old boy was in the picture, before he was a twinkle in this mother’s eye, and I think Eddie knew I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to a child, but he said yes anyways because he was sick of fighting me every time, every time they called for a placement. I didn’t know the boy existed, and he didn’t know me.

They called for a five-year-old angry boy, for an eighteen-year-old woman’s one night stay, who couldn’t settle, and didn’t last in her placement after us, (We found plastic nails everywhere, and Eddie said she couldn’t come back), for a teen boy who needed to stay a week, for a seventeen-year-old boy who needed one night, then, for this boy, this eight-year-old boy who stayed a week, who gets so mad, but feels bad when he says “pissed” and says “Son of a cracker!” with a straight face, this boy who loves Sonic, and says he knows everything.

How do you leave in the morning not knowing where you are coming home to at night? How do you go, not knowing if you will ever come back? How do parents drop their kids off every morning and just trust they will be okay? There is so much trust we must have in this world, and these kids can’t trust anything, and then, we wonder why they can’t trust anyone.

josie-and-eddie

Josie Mae Rigney is new to the world of respite, foster care, and adoption. She and her husband Eddie want to adopt. She is convinced this journey is meant to lead them to unexpected places. She is a dreamer who can’t say no and doesn’t always know her limits. Her husband is anxiety ridden but wants to do anything to make her happy, and they are trying to become more than just a family of two with a lot of animals. 

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

The Complicated Calibration of Love, Especially in Adoption

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Carrie Goldman

Love. Such a simple word that encompasses so many possible meanings. I feel love for people in similar and different ways. Love for my husband. Love for my parents. Love for my sisters and my extended family. Love for my friends and their families. Love for my colleagues.

And, the most intense and complex of them all – love for my children. Complex because my children are the only ones who simultaneously crave, reject, embrace, need, challenge, inhale, absorb, return, share, fight, accept and question my love on a daily basis.

They light up with my love; it shines through in their smiles and their eyes. They fear the loss or withdrawal of my love, even when I show them a hundred ways to Sunday that my love is unconditional. They want to quantify my love, even though it can’t be measured. And no one has a more complicated relationship with love than a child who was adopted.

How do I convince my fifteen-year-old, who came to our family through adoption, that I love her as much as I love her younger sisters, who came to our family through our biology?

On a broader level, how does the world convince her she is loved and valued?

The same world that thrust a great injustice upon her by separating her from her first mother and her siblings, the world that passed her along to a doting foster mom to whom she attached and then was separated, the world that dropped her into our outstretched, naïve and eager arms, our greatest joy intricately tied to her greatest sadness, the world that views her story as a happily-ever-after and now expects her to be grateful, happy, well adjusted, and perfect at all times – how does she learn to trust the love of that world?

I love her so very much. And I need to convince her of my love every single day.

To match the giving of love with the exact need of any recipient is a moving calibration. There is no reliable unit of measurement for something so imprecise as human affection. We try. We offer up our love in words and actions, hoping to meet the ever-changing needs of our lovers, our children, our friends and our families – every relationship that matters takes some work.

Sometimes we find a period of time where all is in balance with a person we love. Oh, the bliss of those days or weeks or months where the love offered and the love received is in sync. When time spent together matches the intensity and desire for each other’s company, affections, attention. No one is chasing. No one is fleeing.

But then one person in the relationship inhales the sour breath of the beast that is insecurity, a beast whose presence twists the very air between two humans and makes greater the flaws that beckoned it in the door. Insecurity, also known as fear, feeds on the dark and scary parts of the mind, growing in strength and power as it distorts what is real and what is imagined.

Sometimes insecurity grows too big, until there is almost no space left for the relationship. But the antidote to such despair is hope, and hope fortunately needs less fuel to stay alive. These dynamics occur in any relationship, and the intensity can be magnified by a thousand when one of the partners is an adoptee.

I believe that the choice to be a parent is built on hope. The choice to be an adoptive parent is built on mountains of hope, oceans of hope, forests filled with the hope that a thousand seeds planted might one day yield a mighty tree.

How do I help my daughter choose hope day after day? How can I help her find happiness? How can I show her I love her enough, that her birth family loves her enough? How can I get her to love herself enough?

I ask myself these questions every day. I search for the answers in every place I can. I read books and blogs by adoptees, both those who are in despair and those who have found peace.

In moments of discomfort, I force myself to sit with the anger and rage and pain of the adult adoptees who write with derision and disgust about adoptive parents, because I can learn from their stories. With renewed hope and frank relief, I read and then reread the words of adult adoptees who are doing well, seeking to glean insights on how to help raise a thriving adoptee.

Despite proclaiming to my husband every September and October that it is too much work, I continue to host this thirty-day series every year, because I learn so much from the honest submissions of people who have every possible story to tell about their experience with adoption and foster care, and I know how much their stories need a platform to reach others.

Their stories are invaluable. I observe and listen and wonder what combination of internal resilience, good parenting, genetics, access to birth history, love, acceptance of grief, and endless empathy is needed to raise an adoptee to wholeness.

My oldest girl is my first daughter, and I am not her first mom. Therein lies the conflict. She did not choose this situation; it was foisted upon her and packaged as “you’re so lucky” by the world.

I’ve come to believe that the way through all of this is in allowing and validating ALL the feelings and viewpoints, even the ones that don’t fit the happily-ever-after narrative. It is an indisputable fact that my daughter lost something immeasurable and irreplaceable when she was adopted, and, yes, she also gained a family that brings her huge amounts of laughter, love, and stability.

Radical acceptance of things outside of my control has helped, as has the acknowledgment of unpleasant truths. I did not create the circumstances that led to my child being placed for adoption; those wheels were set in motion long before I ever knew of her existence. Yet, as an adoptive parent, I have come to see that I am also part of a larger system that contributes to her pain. Both of these realities co-exist.

She is allowed to feel all the feelings. She can be the adoptee who is pissed off at what happened to her and she can be the adoptee who is doing well. There’s room for both. She can be furious at me because I’m not her biological mom, and she can love me to fiercely for being her “Mommio”, as she calls me.

Like our biological children, our oldest daughter does have many aspects of her life that are lucky. Lucky to have parents that adore each other, lucky to be able to travel and go to a good school and live in a comfortable home, lucky to have an enormous and doting extended family, lucky to live in a city where we can practice our Jewish faith and our neighbors support us.

And, unlike our biological children, she is terribly horribly unlucky in many ways. Unlucky that she isn’t growing up with her first family, unlucky that she has to wonder if we love her sisters more (we don’t), unlucky that she has to worry about whether we think she’s good enough (we do), and unlucky that she has to battle legitimate fears of abandonment in every relationship she enters.

What seems to be working best for our family is to just open our arms and our hearts and our ears and accept it all, every last conflicting bit of it. Our oldest daughter rages against the unfairness of being adopted. She hates being adopted. And she adores our family more than anything in the world.

As far as the proper calibration of love, we subscribe to the belief that we always have an endless supply of love to offer, and we simply add one more piece of love to the scales when necessary.

When she makes a mistake, we add a piece of love. When she has a success, we add a piece of love. When she questions if her share of the love is enough, we drop a few more pieces of love onto the plate. When she is hungry and no amount of food can fill the emptiness, we serve love with a side of love and love for dessert.

Last year, she programmed herself into our phone as “Most Loved Child” and we all laughed about it, even her sisters, because we all know that it is her way of poking fun at the beast of insecurity that lurks in adoption. I still smile every time she calls and my husband answers the phone with, “Hello, Most Loved Child.”

Those are the moments of balance, when the love is just right. It’s in the laughter, the raucous family dinners, the loud and crazy game nights, the watching of our favorite shows, the groaning at Dad’s jokes, the roughhousing with the little sisters, the Shabbat dinners and the family trips. The astonishing moment when everyone is okay, and the love offered matches the love needed to feel content.

Yes, that is when the calibration of love is just right, and in those moments, I can see the roots and shoots growing of from the seeds planted in the garden of hope.

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

Does She Know?

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Anne Sawan

The first night I spent with my daughter I looked into her eyes and I started to cry suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that someday this beautiful baby of mine was going to be faced with a lot of pain. That at some point she would realize what it really means to be adopted. That despite the loving books we read her and the beautiful words we use to explain it, the reality is there is a sorrow and loss in her life that no one can take away.

Several years later I was at a function with my family when an older woman came over and asked about my children. She knew one of my daughters was adopted and quietly whispered into my ear, “Does she know?”  She wasn’t being rude, just curious. She was from a different generation and culture than me. A time and place where children weren’t told if they were adopted and parent were encouraged not to tell, not to talk about it.

Secrets.

I nodded and whispered back, “Yes, she does.” The older woman smiled and patted me on the shoulder, “It’s better that way, don’t you think?” Then she walked away.

Secrets…perhaps she had her own.

I sat there for a while after she left and looked at my young daughter, mulling over the question in my head, does she know?

Does she know? Yes, she knows she’s adopted. She will tell you, if it comes up, “I am adopted.” We have conversations about adoption, have read a few books that explain what adoption is and many nights as we lay together I tell her the story of how her dad and I flew far across the ocean, wrapped her up in a pink blanket and took her home to a big party of waiting siblings and excited relatives. But does she know? Does she truly know what it means, this word, adoption?

No. How could she know? She was young and busy with more important things like trying to figure out how to cross the monkey bars and ride a bike and count to one hundred. Her head full of birthday cake and colorful crayons and soft lullabies and that’s how it should be. She knows we love her. She knows her siblings love her. She knows we wished for her. She knows we flew high above the mountains and across the ocean to get her. She knows her family both far away and those close by helped us. She knows about the country she came from, what they eat, how they speak. She knows a word, adoption, but it’s all abstract to her. She doesn’t really know all of it. How could she?

She doesn’t know yet about the never-ending sorrow that must have filled a faraway woman’s soul as her belly began to grow and stretch, making room for the mysterious little arms and legs that were budding deep inside.

She doesn’t know about the rivers of joy and sadness that flowed together in the woman’s heart every time the child inside of her moved and danced, a tiny foot sending ripples of life across her tightly pulled skin.

She doesn’t know about the spirit of grief and loss that hovered like an unwelcome messenger in the sticky summer air, warning the woman that as the dull pangs of labor grew longer, her time with her secret was growing shorter.

She doesn’t know yet about the millions of tears that were shed and the hundred of kisses of joy and sorrow and thanks and love that were showered upon her before the woman finally wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to another, saying goodbye.

So, does she know the word, adoption? Yes, but does she truly know what it means?

No.

It’s a hard truth, a harsh reality to take in, that love and pain can be so connected. So entwined. So when will my daughter truly know what adoption means? When will she finally learn and really understand the whole truth?

Maybe, when it is her turn. When it is her turn to hold her own child, be it through the miracle of adoption or the magic of biology, then she will know. When it is her turn to gently kiss her child’s soft cheeks, gaze with awe into her child’s sleepy eyes and breathe in all of her child’s sweet wonder, then she will know. When it is her turn to wrap her child in a soft blanket and bring the child home to her family, then she will know. When her heart rises up and she cries a hundred tears of thanks and joy and sorrow and love then maybe she will know… finally, and truly know what this word, adoption, means.

Anne Cavanaugh Sawan is a mother, psychologist, and writer. She lives in New England with her husband, five children, two dogs, three cats, and several chickens. Her picture book, “What Can Your Grandmother Do? won the International Picture Book Contest held by Inclusive Works and Clavis Publishing in 2014 while some of her other writing has been featured on Adoptive Families, Grown and Flown, The Mid, Scary Mommy and Blunt Moms.

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

Nearly Home

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Savannah

I arrived at 2 weeks old in a baby blue onesie two sizes too big.
I was grey and malnourished.
I would be the smallest baby that my mother ever had.

Your definition of mother is different than mine.
To you mother is the one that gave birth to you.
But I do not associate with the person that birthed me.

I call her by her first name.
She was not made of maternal material.
Because a child’s life is worth more than a pack of cigarettes.

She left my brothers and sisters inside while she went out for a smoke break.
Her name was just a word that rolled off my tongue.
I never loved my birth mother.

I loved my sisters and brothers and my new father and mother.
I may have been birthed by her but she did not treat me the way a mother would.
The way a mother should.

My definition of mother is the one took me from the one who mistreated me.
Saved me from that type of abuse.
Engraved her love in my heart, erasing the name of the one who was supposed to be my mother.

“Nearly home”.

The place I first met my mother.
Not in a hospital.
But a home surrounded by woods with a trampoline in the yard and a dog that loved to lay beside you.

A home is where you are loved and taken care of.

My younger siblings do not live in a home.
Yes they have a roof over their heads and sometimes have food on their plates.
But they are left lonely when their mother finds a new object for her affection or addiction.

I have 13 siblings.
Thirteen.
Nine that I share blood with.

Nearly home.

The first mother I ever knew was someone I had no DNA match to.
The first family I ever knew I shared almost no DNA similarity with besides my sister.
I spell mother L-O-V-E.

They asked me to spell family one day in elementary school.
I spelled out A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N.
I had a very normal upbringing except for having to visit my younger siblings every month.

They lived with my birth mother.
We would sit in a white room with plastic tables and plastic toys.
Observed for our behavior, making sure we were stable.

When they should’ve been making sure to save my little sisters and brothers from the person they call mother.
Not the one who I would call mom.
She would not share that title.

Her sense of entitlement tied her down like a sail on ship with no direction.
Her moral compass is broken and her ship is sinking.
But the passengers on that ship did not ask for this.

Hostages on board being defined by their mother’s actions.
They are tied to that ship by the DNA that flows in their veins.
In my veins too.

She gave me height, hair color, and my constellation of freckles.
But my real mom gave me happiness, compassion, a moral compass that always seems to point me in the right direction, and a life with more love and family in it that I could have ever asked for.

Savannah is the teenage daughter of Petrecia Shales, who also wrote a piece for this series called Lucky, But Not Lucky Enough

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

A Decade Later, We Have Four Kids and Four Open Adoptions

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Rachel Garlinghouse

Do I take a gift?  Do we provide a snack for all the kids? What time is best? What should I wear? What should the child wear? We must avoid nap time. And mealtime. What will the weather be at the park?   What if the baby is fussy and won’t let birth mom hold her? Was this a terrible idea? I’m so nervous.

There are so many questions and concerns that cross our minds in the earliest days of open adoption.  We, as the adoptive parents, want to put our “best foot forward.” We want to be perceived as qualified and capable, in addition to loving, confident, and thankful. We spend many months prior to and after the adoption trying to prove to everyone around us that we are good enough to be our child’s parents.

And of course, those opinions that matter most to us belong to our children’s birth parents. After all, they were the ones who chose us to raise the child.

The open adoption relationship is incredibly unique. There are no two alike. There’s no guidebook. No rules. No map. The relationship feels fragile and yet, so deeply rooted (and growing).

In essence, it’s like no other relationship.

Twelve years ago, we said yes to open adoption. Originally, we had swiftly marked “semi open” on our adoption paperwork. It felt safe, like a compromise. We would provide updates via the adoption agency to our child’s birth parents, but we wouldn’t be faced with uncomfortable visits, phone calls, or texting. We’d live our life, and they would live theirs.

Looking back, I know we made that choice for two reasons. The first, if I’m honest, was selfishness. We wanted our child to be OUR child. We didn’t want to “share.” The second reason was ignorance. We simply didn’t have a good understanding of why open adoption was important and how we could make it work.

But our commitment to a semi open adoption was abruptly changed the day we were on our way to court to gain custody of our first child. The social worker called to say our daughter’s birth mother did want to meet us after all, and she’d be waiting for us at the court house.

It felt a lot like Hide and Go Seek when children chant, “Ready or not! Here I come!”

Of course, we couldn’t and wouldn’t say no to meeting our daughter’s birth mother. And upon meeting her and putting our arms around her, we knew the idea of a semi-open adoption was just that: an idea.

A decade later, we have four kids and four open adoptions. The road has been anything but easy. In fact, openness in an adoption is a lot like adoption itself:  complicated, bittersweet, ever-changing.

We keep our children’s adoption and relationship details private out of respect for all involved. But I will say that experience truly is the best teacher, and open adoption requires a lot more from our family than I ever expected, including flexibility, patience, grace, forgiveness, empathy, trust, and commitment.

The thing is, any worthy relationship is going to require work. A lot of work. And as a parent-by-adoption, it’s my privilege and honor to put forth that effort in order for my children to have a healthy relationship with the people who birthed them and love them.

I’ve also had to work through my own feelings of being okay with “sharing” my children. They aren’t just my children, either. They are OUR children: belonging to both the birth families and to us. And that is okay. I have made peace with being my kids’ second mom. Not second place, but second in terms of when the children came to us.

My children have the blessing of communication, history, and future with their biological parents, affirmed and encouraged by us. I won’t say it’s been an easy journey, because it has not.  But I will say, it’s absolutely worth it.

View More: http://lajolieviephotography.pass.us/gar-fam-spring-17

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of six books, including The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption:  The Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey.  Rachel is a mother of four, Christian, cheese-fry and dance-party fan, Black Lives Matter advocate, type 1 diabetic, and breast cancer survivor.  Learn more about her family’s adventures and connect at her blog White Sugar Brown Sugar.

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

All The Things I’ve Been Through Are Shaping Me To Be A Stronger Man

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Rayshawn Milton

My name is Rayshawn Milton and I was adopted at three days old to a very versatile family who I know love me and I love them, but for some reason, I still feel all alone. I’ve met my biological mom a couple times while I was younger. We never discussed the reason she didn’t want to raise me, which was confusing.

I’m becoming a very brave person and this Adoption Awareness Month I want to share my story with everyone so all my friends and family could honestly see the real me and how I feel inside. A lot of my close friends don’t know that I’m adopted, so I feel like this would be a great way for everybody to hear my story!

I don’t know who my biological father is and I definitely would love to know who he is but I feel like God blessed me with an amazing adopted dad who shows me nothing but father love and I’m really grateful for him.

My adopted mom is a very beautiful lady who raised me until she just wasn’t able to anymore, due to her having a lot of problems.  Being human, we all have our own problems and it’s harder for some people to deal with their issues.

I’m nineteen years old and my adopted mom and I have been through so much. As far as I can remember, we’ve been moving from house to house. I’ve never experienced having my own bed and room up until now. Growing up, my mom would have to hustle for us to have food to eat; she would have to beg people to let us stay in their house for a few days.

It used to be hurtful and confusing to encounter this instability. Because I was so young, I felt like I was incapable of helping and I hated for us to go through those hard times. When I reached eighth grade, I lived with my dad and stepmom because my mom was incapable of still raising me.

My dad got into an incident and had to serve time in the penitentiary, and my mom left me to live there with my dad’s other baby mother. I was distraught, although I do love my father’s other baby mother for everything she’s done for me, but I really just wanted to be with my own mom.

At that point, I felt like my mom just didn’t love me anymore. I felt alone and I used to cry and pray every night and text her and let her know about my uncomfortable living situation, and she didn’t really show concern.

After I completed eighth grade, my living situation got too bad for me to handle, so I called my mom’s sister and asked her if she can please let me live with her and she came to rescue me.

I lived with my aunt from my sophomore year of high school up until I graduated. If it wasn’t for my aunt, I would probably would be homeless living on the streets. I love my aunt to the core. She definitely came into my life and showed me mother love and I thank God for her every day.

All the things I’ve been through are shaping me to become a stronger man. I know there are so many kids and adults out there who’ve been adopted, and I still feel alone, just like I feel that’s why I want to spread awareness about adoption and let people know that we adoptees need authentic love too, just like all the other human beings in the world.

The pic with my white blazer on is my adopted mom and the one with the purple cap and gown is her sister, my aunt. I would like to say that I love both my adopted and biological family and I believe some things just happen for a reason but you got to stay strong, optimistic and put your faith in God. I truly appreciate everyone in my life that has helped me stay grounded from the bottom of my heart.

What inspired me to speak out during adoption awareness month is I don’t really hear about it much, and I’ve been affected by it tremendously. Being adopted and feeling abandoned twice by two people who I thought would love me really taught me how to just love myself more. I’ve been really shy and embarrassed to talk about my life but I feel like I have a purpose and that is to help inspire people who going through the same thing or just going through things, period.

I know there are so many children and people out there who’s been damaged by adoption. I’m not saying adoption is a bad thing, but there are different stories for everyone. I’ve read some beautiful stories. Another reason to speak out is that my adopted family doesn’t seem to see that I’m hurt to the core. I’ve watched all my adopted cousins with their real relatives and I use to just pray I could see my biological brother and sisters.

I’ve been through a lot and I think I found my purpose really early in life, so I’m going to work until I have fulfilled my destiny. I pretty much have a strong relationship with everyone from my adopted family but not my biological family. Thank you again for reading my story. I really appreciate it and I do hope my story will inspire someone!!! This means a lot to me.

rayshawn rayshawn-and-aunt rayshawn-and-mom

Rayshawn Milton is nineteen years old. He is working full time and will begin classes at Truman College in the spring of 2019. His main hobby/interest is music. He is an aspiring singer-songwriter and he is using his gift to share his story. He hopes it inspires the world.

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

My Mother and I Have Been Close Our Whole Lives

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Michelle Adams

My name is Michelle and I was adopted as an infant. My biological mother, Nancy, was a freshman in college in 1971 when she had me. I was adopted through a priest that was a friend of my family that somehow knew of Nancy, I’m not clear on how.

My mom and dad, Lenore and Edward, were told there was a baby girl coming. Two days later, I was brought to them. I have always known I was adopted; it was never kept from me. I have a brother that was also adopted but from a different biological family and he has known he was adopted as well.

An uncle of mine helped to arrange my adoption. That particular uncle and my aunt were my godparents, their daughter has been my best friend my entire life. It could not have been a better placement. I am very happy with my family. My mom and I are amazingly close, we travel a lot together, we get along really well and we genuinely like each other.

About eight years ago, the uncle who helped with my adoption was in the final stages of his life, and I just felt it was time to look deeper into who my biological parents were. Shortly before my uncle passed, I had a moment with him privately when I thanked him for helping me find my perfect family.

As a child and a teen, I had never asked a lot of questions about my biological mother for a few reasons. I never wanted to hurt my parents’ feelings by asking. I didn’t want them to feel like I wasn’t happy or grateful to them for adopting me. I was partially scared to hear any unpleasant truths about my biological parents; I would rather have a fairytale dancing in my head.

So, I began the search with very limited knowledge. I quickly located the best possible match for my biological mother — a woman named Nancy — and I sent her a letter. I wanted nothing other than medical information. It wasn’t long before Nancy emailed me. She had gotten the letter and was completely shocked I had found her.

Nancy spent a short period of time locating my biological father, Mike, and she gave me his contact information. I was thrilled that Nancy had gotten in touch with Mike and will always be grateful for that. Aside from that, I resent Nancy. She has never told her husband or her son about me. She told me she never wanted me to contact her again. I feel that she is living a lie.

I also understand that is her choice and her issue, but in a very judgmental way, I feel her marriage has a huge underlying issue if she hasn’t told him she had a baby forty-seven years ago. I can get carried away with these feelings and then I stop to think, it’s really her loss.

I’m a good person. I live a good life, I was raised to be a decent human being, I’m active in dog rescue so I’m doing some good in the world. I have an amazing support system in my life and it’s just sad that she doesn’t want to be a part of it. Her loss.

Mike, however, couldn’t wait to get to know me. He never even knew Nancy was pregnant and clearly received the shock of a lifetime when, forty-two years later, he was told he had a daughter. We created a quick bond through emails and Facebook and I also became friends with his wife Patty. I loved hearing from Mike.

I was nervous to tell my mom and dad that I had found Nancy and Mike. Even in my forties with the wonderful relationship I’ve always had with them, I never wanted them to feel that they weren’t enough. Searching for Nancy and Mike was just about finding the final pieces to my puzzle of who I am.

My parents both took the news better than I ever expected. To show exactly how similar my mom and I are, the first thing she said was, “What do they look like?” That is TOTALLY me.  I wanted to know what they looked like, who I looked like. To answer that, I’m a complete combination of both of them.

When I told my dad, he just smiled and said that it was wonderful that I found them and then he wanted to know about them. It could not have gone any better than it did. It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

Mike passed away four years ago from colon cancer that went undiagnosed for too long. Mike and I sadly never met face to face, but we liked getting to know each other in the short time we had. I regret never meeting in person, but a year later, when my dad was dying, I learned to never live with regrets again.

My father passed away three years ago. Between my dad and Mike, both of these men were so special to me, whether I had them for forty-four years or just a couple years, they were amazing, sweet and wonderful to me.

When my father was dying, I did whatever my heart told me to do and I don’t have a single regret from that time. So, there was a lesson learned in that and I’ve been able to share that with two very good friends who have lost parents–live with no regrets, do whatever it is you need to with that person while they are around.

My parents had lived in their home for 50 years. I wanted my mom to be in a retirement community as she is very active and very social. We spent a year going through everything in her house and getting her ready to sell, downsize and move. It was a long, hard year going through a lot of memories and doing a lot of work, but she has been settled into her new lifestyle for over a year and both of us could not be happier.  She is so busy that most times she can’t even talk to me; she is off to another event.

My mom and I have been close our whole lives. We have traveled a lot together.  We love getting away for a few days. Most recently, we followed our love for Chihuly and headed to Seattle to see his exhibit there. Neither of us had been to Seattle before and wanted to make the most of it.

As a side note, my mom has been on oxygen for the last number of years, so traveling requires a little coordination. We planned this trip to each see a few things we were interested in and still have a little down time to recover. We both wanted to see his exhibit so that was step one of the trip.

That same day, we headed up the needle where we enjoyed a lovely glass of wine, potato chips and an amazing view. It usually doesn’t take too much to make us happy.  I am actively involved in dog rescue and have a lot of people I know on Facebook through rescue that I’ve never met in person.

When I posted I was heading to Seattle, one of the other volunteers, Cindy, begged me to come visit her and her rescue puppy that I had actually gotten from a dog auction.

Mom and I headed out for what we thought would be a short visit with Cindy and then to explore a little of Mt. Rainier. After chatting for a little bit, Cindy offered to be our tour guide. We spent over eight hours going up and back down the mountain with this amazing person that was born and raised in the area and that gave us the most specialized tour we could have ever imaging.

This day – just like everything – fell into place.  And that is usually how we travel, my mom and I; we just go with the flow and everything ends up being perfect.

Even though Mike has passed away, I remain close to his wife, Patty. She has a daughter named Trish that is my age, who makes beautiful custom jewelry.  I am Facebook friends with both Patty and Trish, as Mike was always open and honest with them and his son about me from the get-go.

About two years ago, Trish was in a jewelry show that was maybe an hour and a half from me, so I asked my girlfriend if she would go with me to surprise Patty and meet her in person for the first time.

I was a nervous wreck when we got to the parking lot. I walked in and Patty was in the back. I went right up to her and she knew exactly who I was. We hugged for a long time and then started talking like we’ve always known each other. It was wonderful. We decided we needed to get together again and since Trish was busy with the show, she didn’t get to talk with us much, and we needed more one-on-one time.

About a year ago, Patty and I decided to meet up and Trish was going to come but fell ill. I had asked my mom to join us. We met at this cute little place about an hour from me. The three of us talked and laughed again like we’ve all known each other our entire lives.

Patty brought me a picture of Mike from when he was younger. She was cleaning out things from their house and thought I would like it. I carry it with me in my wallet every day. It was emotional, it was sweet and it was comfortable.

Mom and I got back in the car to leave and I’ll never forget her saying to me, “Thank you for including me in this part of your life.” Brings me to tears, the sweetness behind that. I guess as scared as I ever was of telling her that I was searching for these people, she was just as scared of maybe being left behind.

For Christmas last year, I bought one of Trish’s custom pieces for my mom.  She wears it all the time and constantly gets compliments.  We are all now connected in some way.  Mom and I both look forward to seeing these ladies in mid-September. We are family, and I am so happy to have all of them in my life.

michelle-a-1 michelle-a-2

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

How Did We End Up Here?

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Anonymous

7:15 a.m. It’s Friday morning. Time for breakfast. I stand in the kitchen as my daughter explains with discomfort that her stomach hurts and she’s not hungry. She asks to take a, “stomach pill,” to which my husband says, “Of course,” while trying to negotiate with her something for breakfast. “I have a headache, too,” she adds.

My husband – her biological father — and I look at each other, a quick reassuring glance that we are in this together. We are all sleep deprived. This week our daughter only woke three nights with nightmares, a decrease from weeks where she has three nightmares in one night. However, unlike most nights where we are able to help her fall back to sleep somewhat quickly, last night, she remained awake for over an hour. As did I.

It was around 3 a.m. I heard her feet walking on the wooden floor before I saw her silhouette in our bedroom doorway. This time, tears were streaming down her cheeks, and her voice was shaking as she said, “I had a nightmare.” I wrapped my arms around her body and pulled her close as she cried, her body feeling lifeless in my embrace. She began telling me that she was at a grocery store with my husband and me, smiling and happy. Then, suddenly, she was taken by her biological mother and two men. She was forced into a car where she tried to escape, but could not because, “special locks,” kept her from opening the car doors. She said she screamed for help, just like we told her to do in our, “if someone tries to take you,” talks, but no one came. And as she looked out the car window, she said her mother and the men shot and killed us. She said her mother laughed when we died. “I tried to get back to you,” she said through tears, “but she wouldn’t let me.”

As Friday night rolls around, our daughter shares how hard it was to focus at school today–on what the teachers said, on what she was supposed to read, on the games she played during recess. She points to red splotches that have appeared on her body, “anxiety rashes,” she calls them, and asks if she really has to go this weekend, and WHY no one is listening to her.

I dig deep to muster up the courage to look at her and say what is the truth, yet has become, out of pure dumbfounded desperation, my habitual response, “Daddy and I are listening. We hear you, kiddo.” I hope she does not hear my anger, sadness, disappointment, or disbelief; I no longer know what else to say or do.

She is my daughter. Those are words I never imagined I would say. Nor did I imagine the battle we — my husband, daughter, our families, friends, and I — would endure. When I met my husband, he was a single father raising a toddler, his biological daughter. He had already lost his home, and most of his physical possessions, during custody court proceedings.

You see, we live in a county that favors the biological mother; in a mother State. I know the law says differently, but what the law says and how it is practiced do not necessarily align. Along with this lesson, we have also learned that the court gives a biological mother infinite chances, but not a biological father.

She is my daughter. Along with my husband, I am the one who helps her with homework, expects her to clean her room, makes her lunches, drives her to appointments, signs her up for activities, takes her shopping for clothes and shoes, teaches her about self-care, provides consistent rules, puts her to bed on time, holds her when she is scared, sits with her when she is hurt, shares in her laughter, dreams, and prayers, talks with her about sports, art, music, giving back and whatever her kind, loving heart desires.

She is my daughter. But I do not need the title of being her mother to love her. She has a biological mother. Her biological mother suffers from medical and emotional challenges that she refuses to address. She has demonstrated poor decision-making skills and clear abuse that have led to my daughter experiencing nightmares, stomachaches, headaches, increased anxiety, skin rashes, panic attacks, accidents in her underwear, and at times, hair loss. And these are just the immediate effects.

Common sense and life experience, oh, and research(!), tells us that even a one-time traumatic event can disrupt development and the formation of a sense of self.  Have you ever been in a car accident? It only takes a second to happen, but the memory and effects can last for a life-time. Imagine what happens with repeated trauma in childhood . . . with your mother.

To address concerns we had about our daughter when in the care of her biological mother, a number of years ago my husband and I turned to the court system. We thought (naïvely) legal involvement would help our daughter and hopefully, her mother. Things had escalated to the point where legal intervention seemed the only way to help our daughter.

When we entered court, it was because our daughter was reporting that she was not being given food and water during visits, including overnights, with her biological mother. She would return to us ashen faced and sullen; often looking deflated and defeated. My husband would make dinner for her while I rocked her. Then, we would sit with and spoon feed her. It was as if she didn’t have the energy, or maybe even the will, to feed herself.

After a visit, our daughter would come home smelling like a dirty ashtray; we could almost see a layer of smoke on her. Due to a heart condition, our daughter was not to be around cigarette smoke. She would often become physically sick after a weekend visit with her biological mother, which while we couldn’t prove was due to stress, was due to stress. This was yet another reason we turned to the courts; to protect her lung and heart health.

And we pursued legal action because the end of a visit often resulted in police involvement. When court ordered visitation ended, my husband would arrive (at our daughter’s biological mother’s home) to pick up our daughter.

He would ring the doorbell, knock on the door, repeatedly call on the phone, and eventually, because no one answered, contact the police. When the police arrived, they would force open the door to remove our daughter while her biological mother screamed obscenities. As our daughter has grown, she has shared her memories of these times; of wanting to come home, but being locked in and forced to hide; of hearing the police arrive, and being pried from her mother’s grip to safety.

When we entered court, our daughter was also not being picked up after school for visitation as scheduled. Our daughter would fall asleep at school waiting, literally for hours, for her biological mother to pick her up. School staff would repeatedly call her mother, and when she did not answer and did not call back, my husband would receive a call.

He would stop whatever he was doing and go pick up our daughter. In our state, the school could have easily contacted child protective services instead of contacting my husband. Who knows if that would have changed anything, but sometimes I wonder if that would have resulted in a better situation for our daughter than what we have now.

Over the course of years in court, our daughter’s biological mother has repeatedly made false accusations, lied to lawyers and judges, fabricated evidence, and created stories that could have resulted in my husband and me losing our jobs and careers, respectively. But she has yet to be held accountable for anything. Literally.

In fact, a guardian ad litem (GAL), who is an attorney for a child, was appointed at the beginning of our court adventure. Initially, the GAL told us if our daughter’s biological mother had something like cancer, and her ability to parent was affected due to her diagnosis or because of treatment side effects, she would be expected to follow doctor’s orders to address parenting challenges or her visitation would be reduced, if not suspended. Based on this conversation, we expected that our daughter’s mother would be required to follow medical orders as well as court orders to address health issues that influenced her parenting. Yay!

So, imagine how baffled we were when the GAL stated that, “For the 99% of the time your daughter is with you, you can fix what happens in the 1% of the time your daughter is with her biological mother.”

This statement at minimum reflects how poorly, if at all, this GAL is trained in child development and especially, child trauma. In our state, it easy to hire a GAL if one is not appointed, but incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to remove or fire a GAL; and it does not matter if we can no longer afford our GAL. AND it has been explained time and time again, that we have no recourse to hold our GAL accountable. We have repeatedly been told, “It looks bad to fire the GAL,” and “The GAL has no liability, therefore, no you cannot sue.”

Our daughter has twice, yes, twice, experienced parental kidnapping across state lines. “The crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person by force or Fraud, or seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time,” is how the Free Legal Dictionary defines kidnapping.

And parental kidnapping, “is defined as the concealment, taking, or retention of a child by his parent in violation of the rights of the child’s other parent or another family member. Violated rights may include, for example, custody and visitation rights.” According to law, everyone, that is a felon.

Combined, we have spent two different holiday breaks working with the FBI, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and police in different states, trying to locate and bring our daughter home.

One time, upon our daughter’s return to us, she shared that she hid in our city for over half a week in her biological mother’s home. When the police arrived at her mother’s home daily in an attempt to find her, she said she was forced to hide and threatened with physical harm if she screamed.

The results of all of these incredulous, scary, and forever life-impacting acts has been an increase in visitation with her biological mother.

I am not crazy, nor am I creative enough to make this up. But there are days when I sure feel insane; like I have fallen into a nonsensical abyss or wish I would wake up from this horrible nightmare. I believe in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

And in the past years have come to understand that saying to mean that in raising a child, the village also supports the parents. While we have some friends and family who are truly unending in their unconditional support and understanding, we have lost friends through this process because we have had to cancel one to many times.

We have learned that our lives can change in a flash, so we can either makes plans with a caveat of having to cancel at the last minute, or repeatedly decline invitations and pretty soon, not be invited anywhere any more. Trauma can be difficult to understand.

Currently, our daughter continues not to be fed and is inhaling cigarette smoke during visits. She is still physically, emotionally, and psychologically abused by her biological mother. Court orders are still repeatedly violated and blatantly disregarded by her biological mother, without accountability or consequence. And the GAL appointed to represent our daughter, continues to advocate and act as an attorney for her biological mother.

Our daughter continues to demand people listen to what she wants because she wants to, “tell her truth.” Yet the GAL, has told our daughter that she, “HAS,” to see her mother and is acting, “like a brat,” when she expresses herself. Therapists repeatedly attempt to convince our daughter that she needs to give her mother, “another chance.”

All of this goes against our daughter’s wishes. The system we thought would help us, our daughter, and her biological mother, has only created further trauma; it has been an experience of hermeneutical violence beyond our imaginations.

We heard our previous attorneys, who were from a renowned law firm (thought that would mean the best representation . . . ha!), tell us that we needed to show the court we were willing to spend every last cent for our daughter in court. I remember thinking, “Really?”

Then as now, I am trying to reconcile how the court views spending every last penny so that we are unable to meet our daughter’s basic needs-say just food, shelter, water, clothing-let alone our own (“care for yourself first so you can care for someone else”) equals great parenting. We listened though, and (mostly) did as advised.

The bills keep coming as we have spent and borrowed almost every last cent, yet our daughter continues to suffer. The direct effects the court system has on my husband and me as caregivers, as parents, as productive members of society are broad. We are continuously managing our daughter’s worries and fears, physical symptoms, and academic challenges while trying to balance our own feelings. The stress is real and high.

Here is what I know for now. I am a parent. I am a mother. I have responsibilities, but no rights. I am unable to proceed with adoption as my daughter’s biological mother will not give up her parental rights, nor will her parental rights be terminated because things just, as we have repeatedly been told, “aren’t that bad.”

While I continue to have hope and advocate, while I continue to believe that this too shall pass, while I continue to wonder who to turn to next, and who, if anyone, can help us, I find myself thinking, we can’t be the only ones. I refuse to give up. And I continue to wonder . . . how did we, our society, my family, our court system, end up here?

 **I have spent years wondering when I would share our story and how. Due to continued legal involvement, and to protect our family, for now, I have chosen to tell only a brief overview of our story, with some vagueness, and to remain anonymous. I hope that soon, just as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford so courageously did, I am able to share our story openly. – Anonymous

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter

She Comes Home

Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

By Jennifer Watson

“Wow…” I say softly to the bundle in my lap, “you are a very tiny little person.”

The very first thing I ever say to my daughter.

I’m sitting on the low, pink couch next to K’s hospital bed. The baby lays along the length of my thighs. One of my hands gently cups the back of her head (her little head barely filling the palm of my hand at all) while my other hand rests gently on her tummy.

My hand covers her entire body; she is so little (I learn later that she is 5 pounds 9 ounces…pretty much the smallest a newborn baby can be without needing to spend some time in the NICU.)

A teeny face peeks out from between a pale blue/pink striped hat and the swaddling blanket. The face has dark skin (I’m surprised that her skin is paler than I had expected) no discernible eyebrows yet, barely visible eyelashes, a broad-ish nose, and a sweet heart-shaped mouth.

She is sound asleep.

I look up to see K watching me with her daughter. Her face is unreadable. I have no idea what she must be thinking as she watches me hold her baby. Of what she thinks of me. Of knowing that tomorrow may be the day that she gives her daughter to me forever.

“She is so beautiful.”

“Yeah,” K replies in her deep yet breathy voice.

I look back down at the tiniest person I have ever held. She sleeps deeply. I imagine coming into the world is a fairly exhausting process.

“Is it okay if I take a picture of her?” I ask K.

She nods.

And so I pull out my phone, click one picture and send it to Chris. And then one more as the little bundle stirs.

I finally notice that the social worker is taking her leave of us, but not before she introduces me (“And this is the adoptive mother”) to the day nurse who has come to check on K and the baby.

The day nurse nods at me, but says nothing seeing me holding the baby. She, in fact, looks at me with an expression like she smells something bad. If I weren’t so mesmerized by the baby, I’d probably be really upset by this woman’s obvious dislike of me or perhaps her discomfort, but at the moment I can’t let myself get upset. The social worker and K don’t seem to notice me getting The Stink Eye from the nurse.

Soon the social worker makes her escape and Nurse Stink Eye makes several more visits over the next 30 minutes to check on her patients and, no doubt, to make sure I haven’t dropped her little charge.

Before she signs off from her shift, Nurse Stink Eye announces that they have some tests to run on the baby, transfers her from my arms into a waiting hospital bassinet, and whisks her from the room.

I look at K.

Now is the time.

I have to talk to her and say what’s been in my head since the moment I found out that I was coming to Florida to meet her and the baby.  So I get up and sit on the edge of her bed.

“This is weird, isn’t it?” I ask her.

“Yeah,” she answers solemnly.

We look at each other for a minute saying nothing and then I hear myself saying the thing that I’ve been dreading saying, but knowing that I can never move forward with any of this if I don’t, “You know…you can still change your mind. We haven’t signed any papers.”

She stares at me for half a minute.

“No, I wouldn’t do that,” she says finally in her strangely deep yet breathy voice. “I wouldn’t ask you to come all the way down here and then back out. I’m not that kind of person.”

I look away, not able to speak. This is so hard. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for K. What she must be thinking or feeling.

Finally, I look back and say, “I know. But you can still change your mind. Chris and I will be okay if you do. We’ll be fine.”

“No,” she says, “I’m okay. I’m okay.”

But I don’t know if she’s saying it to convince me or to convince herself.

“Okay,” I nod, echoing her. “Okay.”

And again we look at each other in the awkward silence following what is the real agreement between us. No adoption agency people, no papers, no attorney, no social worker.

Just the two of us. Here in this room together.

Making a pact that she will give her baby to me and I will take care of her baby for the rest of my life.

We are okay.

“So,” I say breaking the silence, “do you have any questions for me? Anything you want to know?”

“No, not really,” she says, “they told me a lot about you.”

I nod.

But before I can say anything else, Nurse Stink Eye returns with the baby and hands her to K giving me another withering stink eye look, which I choose to ignore. Instead, I look at mother and daughter. They look perfect together. She looks right holding this little baby.

This is so hard.

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The teeny tiny bundle who went home with Jennifer in 2011 is now a tall, energetic 7 year-old who loves her two cats (Kubo and Beetle), pizza (preferably Domino’s), playing on the school playground for two hours every day after school, swimming, tennis lessons, painting, telling the world’s worst knock-knock jokes, soundly defeating her mom in Qwirkle and Uno, her special lovey (Purple – a size 2t fleece jacket), and her favorite doll (Margaret). She wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.

Jennifer Watson writes about her journey in her adoption blog In The Present Moment. This piece is from March 4, 2012 when her daughter was 6 months old. Today Jennifer Watson is certified SoulCollage® Facilitator and the owner of Soul Unfolding. She facilitates personal growth workshops around Rhode Island. She is also wife to husband and #1 Awesome Dad Chris, artist, writer, crazy cat lady, movie buff, and an avid reader. 

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter