Part 2 of 4:
The following journal entries have been shared by one of our adoptive parents. These open, honest and heartfelt entries provides an intimate glimpse into the emotional rollercoaster and realities of open adoption. Now a mother of two, we are truly grateful for being able to share the following. No names or any identifying information has been shared.
#10 – Four Week Reflections
Today marks Moonbeam's 4 week birth day. Wow, how time flies. Our precious little girl has achieved all of her 1 month milestones, including turning her head from side to side while on her belly, focusing on our faces, recognizing mama and daddy's voices and visually tracking movement. We couldn't be more over the moon with happiness at our good fortune - we are amazed that this perfect little baby has found her way into our family forever. This four week milestone also provides a mark of resolution that I have come to since Moonbeam's birth. The past month has been awesome, for sure, but it has also been emotionally difficult. I have wrestled with my emotions over how I feel about my position as Moonbeam's mom, Birth Mom's position as Moonbeam's first mom and what my role is in bridging all of the complex relationships that are unfolding together. The process hasn't been easy. I have struggled with Birth Mom's grief over losing her daughter and what role I have played in contributing to this loss. Sometimes I struggled to be truly happy for our family, as I was acutely aware that another family has lost what we have ultimately gained. I didn't expect to feel grief over this, but I did. I know that Birth Mom doesn't regret her decision and has respect for us and nothing but hope and happiness for Moonbeam's future, but I also know that this decision is met with a heavy heart for her. There is nothing I can do to ease this pain, which has been a hard realization for me to come to. What I have also come to terms with is that I have not been a contributor to Birth Mom's loss - that her loss and pain are her own crosses to bear, just as my own issues are mine to bear. None of us come through life unscathed, it turns out. I plan to bear my own crosses with as much grace as I can and not feel guilt for the pain that others must endure.The second piece of the puzzle that I have struggled with is others' perception of our relationship with Birth Mom. We have been met with reactions ranging from shock, confusion, worry, happiness and curiosity over what our open adoption means. I have grappled with where I stand amidst others' reactions as I try to defend my position. I don't fully understand everything myself, nor am I truly able to put a descriptor of this relationship into words. What I do know is that when it is my husband, Birth Mom, Moonbeam and I hanging out, exchanging pictures or sending texts, the relationship makes sense. The minute I try to explain this relationship to others, I start to feel self-conscious and question myself. But I received a really sound piece of advice yesterday from a friend of mine - she told me that no matter what, people are going to have opinions about everything we are doing as parents ... from what we are feeding our child, to where she sleeps, to childcare decisions we make, all the way to how we are handling this relationship with Birth Mom. She told me, in so many words, that I need to (wo)man up and say to hell with them and their opinions. If it's working for us, that's all that matters. As for the rest of them, too bad. At this four week anniversary, I can honestly say that I am ok with everything. That I feel secure in my position as Moonbeam's mom. That I will always recognize that Moonbeam is also Birth Mom's daughter, and that this doesn't compromise my position. I can say with certainty that I am doing my best, not for me, but for Moonbeam. I have promised her a strong sense of identity so she can grow up with a solid foundation of who she is, and I plan to live up to this. Our relationship with Birth Mom is not about my husband or I, it's about Moonbeam. No matter what, Moonbeam is always going to have been adopted. She will always know this and at some points in her life, she may struggle with this. My job, as her mom, is to help her become the best Moonbeam she can be, and our plan is to help shape her with love, honesty and openness. We are forever grateful for Birth Mom - she has entrusted precious little Moonbeam with our family and she has made our dreams come true. She deserves the right to know her daughter... our daughter. We are early in the stages of this relationship, but I feel we have laid a pretty sturdy foundation. People, including friends and family, may not get it right now. They may not get it in a year. But eventually, over time, maybe they will. Parenting birth children doesn't come with a manual. Neither does parenting a child through adoption. We are excited for the spontaneity that this new role has offered into our lives - parenting Moonbeam has been a pretty wild (and amazing!) ride so far.
#11 – Love and Biology
Yesterday on a one hour "me break" at the pool, I had an interesting adoption-related encounter with a mom in the change room. After finishing my swim, I headed back to the change room where there was a mom who looked about my age getting her baby ready to go swimming. I stopped to admire her pretty little girl and we got to chatting about babies. I mentioned that I had a month old baby at home ... as per usual, the woman eyed my body suspiciously and then commented that I was ambitious for going swimming only four weeks after birthing a baby. I didn't hesitate to tell her that our baby was adopted and after expressing her congratulations, the questions and comments started flooding in. The first comment the woman made was "I could never do that." My response: "Never do what?" And she replied, "Adopt." I was taken aback. I am sure people have said this behind my back before and I've heard people say that they could never place their child for adoption (don’t get me started on that one), but I am a little perplexed as to what she meant by never being able to adopt. I thought about launching into a descriptor of my history with endometriosis, my ten year struggle with trying to conceive, my failed attempt at fertility treatments and the heartache that accompanied me through years of childlessness. And that maybe she would have a different opinion if she in fact had been through similar experiences. But I decided not to get into this sort of stuff with a complete (half naked) stranger in a public setting. Instead, I saved the comment to ponder later in the confines of my own mind. I was really left wondering - what did this woman mean by saying she could never adopt? At first I thought she meant that she wouldn't be able to manage all the complexities and sensitivities required with maintaining the various relationships with the birth family, but after she reacted so strongly to my admission that our adoption was "open" and that this meant contact with the birth family, I'm pretty sure this isn't what she was referring to. The financial costs? I doubt it. The only thing I can rationally think of that she meant was that she didn't think she could love a child that wasn't biologically linked to her. Maybe I'm out to lunch here, but seriously, I have no idea what else she could have meant. The idea that a person couldn't love a child that isn't biologically linked to them seems absurd to me ... it always has. I love my husband so incredibly much and guess what? We're not biologically related, yet we still have a very deep love for each other. I love my nieces and nephews on my husband's side of the family, and we're not biologically linked. I love my friends, my friends' kids and we're not biologically related. In fact, the sheer number of friends and unrelated family members that I love probably far outweighs the number of people I have in my life that I love that are actually biologically related to me (i.e. 2 parents, 3 sisters - two who are only half-sisters ... would this mean I only love them half as much?, 4 grandparents, 10 aunts and uncles, about 30 cousins and only one biologically related nephew). I also have a ton of family that I don't really know (second cousins, great aunts/uncles, etc.) and, even though we're biologically related, when I'm being honest, I don't know if I'd go so far as saying I "love" them ... I don't even know them! So how is it possible that a person couldn't love a baby that they didn't give birth to? Love is in your brain, not in your blood. Without a doubt, I love my baby. I have never even questioned this - I have loved her since I knew about her. When I first saw her, I had no doubt regarding love for her. This little girl is my daughter, through and through, and I feel fortunate that I don't need genetics to open my heart to her.
#12 – On My First Mother’s Day
Today is Mother's Day. My first real one, with a real live baby. The first one where I can legitimately say I'm a mom and I can join the ranks of women that go out for brunch, get flowers and beautiful Hallmark cards. But I don't forget. I don't think I ever will. I don't forget all those Mother's Days where I plastered on a fake smile and wished everyone around me the happiest of days. Or coming home after family/friend celebrations, curling up in a ball and sobbing, asking my husband when it would be my turn to celebrate too. I don't forget how my heart ached every time I saw a baby in their mama's arms or a small child holding their mama's hand. Those scars are here to stay. So dear friends, please know that for those of you waiting, trying, deciding - today you have my heart. I understand. I hope my story can offer you a beacon of hope. That dreams do come true. That the perfect little baby will make her way to you too. *** This morning I woke up with a two month old baby on my chest, smiling and cooing just for me. The sweetness is oh so sweet. It doesn't erase the bitterness, but I do think that the years of bitterness have made the precious moments with my daughter so much sweeter. I know what it's like to lose, to have empty arms. Today is a happy day for our family. I owe it to everyone to enjoy today, to relish in the moments I've been longing for all these years. For anyone still waiting, I owe it to you to be happy. I owe it to Moonbeam’s birth mom. So for our little family, today will finally be a happy Mother's Day. Thinking of you today.
#13 – Where we’re at
Wow. Time flies when you're having fun - even faster when the fun involves a sweet little baby girl. Moonbeam is 3 months old. She'll actually be 14 weeks tomorrow. I've been a mom for 14 full weeks. I feel like it's been forever, that this little girl has been my reason for getting up every morning, for smiling, for existing my entire life. That everything I've done up until this point has been preparing me for loving, raising and shaping this little girl. Yep, there has been lack of sleep, arguments with my husband over who is going to clean the bottles or make dinner and moments of inexplicable worry and panic. There is less time for my husband and even less time for myself. But despite all this, there have been moments of the greatest happiness I've ever experienced thanks to the sweet gummy smile of this little baby. Over the past few months, I've had to really think long and hard about some difficult things - things that although I would like to push to the back of my mind, I've decided to just deal with then and there, as they pop up. This process has validated how I am moving forward. Some of the things that have been on my mind are: 1. Family issues. I had a fear that my family would not accept Moonbeam as well as they would accept a child that was genetically linked to them. However, time and time again my family has shown me that this is not an issue. Yes, we adopted Moonbeam, but who cares? She's our daughter. She's a member of the clan. There's actually no question in my mind that all members of my family have accepted her - and how awesome is that? Any fear I had around this has dissipated. Moonbeam is one of us, no matter her genetics or what uterus she grew in. I can't imagine our family loving her any more if she was my biological child. 2. Questioning our decision to adopt vs. IVF. One of my friends recently announced to me that she finally had a successful IVF. I am over the moon excited for her - her journey has not been an easy one either. One of the first things I did after finding out (after congratulating her) was begin to question whether I had done the right thing by not pursuing IVF and by letting go of medical intervention as a way to build our family. This was difficult to explore. What if we had conceived our own biological child? Would I be happier? Would things be less complicated? I thought about this for a few days and came to the conclusion that no, I wouldn't be happy-ER or that things wouldn't be any less complicated. I love Moonbeam so much, and can't imagine life without her. I wouldn't trade her for any other baby. She is MY baby and biology wouldn't change the way I feel about her. In terms of complications - having a baby does complicate things, no matter what. There are added pressures, way less sleep, more things to keep organized and less time for your significant other. And there's very little "me" time. This is what complicates things, not anything related to having adopted this baby. 3. Our relationship with Moonbeam's birth mom. I was scared about this relationship heading into open adoption, but it's turned out to be better than I could have ever hoped for. We have regular visits with Birth Mom and going through the application process, I’m not sure how I would have perceived this possibility. But it's been good. Birth Mom loves Moonbeam and anyone who loves our kid as much as she does is welcome to see her and shower her with love! She acknowledges me as Moonbeam's mom and we acknowledge her as an important part of Moonbeam's life – Moonbeam is her daughter too. I'll admit that I do get a little nervous when she comes over, but this is my own anxiety that I need to work through. She never gives me cause to be nervous and the only indications she gives about how we are parenting Moonbeam are positive (e.g. she recently gave me a card in which she wrote she can't believe her good fortune at finding the best mom - me - and gave me a picture where I'm holding Moonbeam the day she was born). I'll also admit that there IS awkwardness in the relationship, mainly because we are just getting to know each other on a personal level, even though we entered into a very personal "contract" 3 months ago and have gone through some pretty personal moments together. I think in a way we also want to seem flawless to each other - I often don't want to seem as neurotic as I am and I think Birth Mom doesn't want to seem like she's messing up. I'm sure she doesn't see me as neurotic and I definitely don't see her as messing up. But still. We're working through the relationship and are getting to know each other. So far so good. So far we all genuinely like each other. The other awkward part of our relationship is what to call Birth Mom. Some that I've considered include her first name and Mom. When Moonbeam is little, Tummy Mommy might be appropriate. I haven't asked Birth Mom what she wants to be called, and every time I meet with her it's something that I want to ask her but am too shy to broach. I know that I need to address this sooner than later - sure, Moonbeam isn't talking or understanding what I'm saying, but over the next 9 months before that happens, we should really start to get comfortable with this. 4. "Are you sure you're doing the right thing by being open?" Unless coming from close family members or super close friends with whom I actually like to bounce ideas off of, I really hate this question. It bothers me - do people really think I'd intentionally be doing the WRONG thing when it comes to parenting my daughter? If I didn't believe whole heartedly that open adoption is the best way to go, it wouldn't be a part of our family. Or do they think that they are imparting some wisdom and knowledge of the situation that I have never thought of but that I really need to hear from them? This question is so judgy ... as though I need randoms telling me what the right way to parent is. But really, this question is just a part of parenting. People are judgy no matter what you do - people form opinions about the formula we feed, the bottles we use, the way I hold the baby, how we get her to sleep ... it's kind of crazy really. I'm doing things because I think it's the right way to do it - just like they are.***I think the most interesting part of where we're at right now is that open adoption plays a smaller role in my life than I thought it would. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it or dwelling on things as I had in the first few weeks after Moonbeam was born. We have established some healthy patterns and boundaries with Birth Mom that seem to be working for everyone right now. If the time comes that we need to adjust, we will. But for now, most of my days are spent being a mom, just like any other mom. I fret about whether I'm doing enough for my daughter. I feed her, clean her bottles, get her formula ready. I change her diapers. I cuddle her, sing to her, dance with her, take her for walks. I rock her when she's crying. I do her laundry. I'm the face she sees when she wakes up in the morning (when she gives me a huge baby grin!) and I'm the face that she sees as she's closing her eyes when I rock her to sleep. I'm her mom and nothing will ever change that. So where we're at right now is good. No, it's freaking fantastic. Moonbeam is seriously the cutest kid in the world (with my nephews and nieces trailing right with her) and I can't imagine being happier.
#14 – Not Forgetting
It's a beautiful sunny day - the perfect backdrop to reflect the happiness I'm feeling in my heart today. Sometimes I forget about how amazing this whole experience is. But today I'm remembering. Last week I got a package in the mail from my friend’s mom and dad. I've never met either of them and was surprised to receive a baby gift from this (very sweet) couple. Over the past two years, I've had the good fortune of getting to know their daughter, who seriously has to be the sweetest, most thoughtful person I've ever met. And now I know where she gets it from.In addition to the little outfit they sent Moonbeam, they sent us a card with warm wishes and heartfelt joy over the news of Moonbeam's birth and how special she is to our family. The card made me cry and jolted me back to the miracle of our story. And since then, I've been trying not to forget. Trying not to forget that I am finally a mama. That this sweet little babe is here to stay. That the downs are always followed by ups that are much more colorful and joyful than I could have ever imagined. That, like my friend’s mom wrote, although Moonbeam doesn't have my eyes, my hair or my genes, she has my heart. Oh boy does she ever. Trying not to forget that she is more than I could have ever hoped for. Trying not to forget that our family's story is full of grace and love and mysticism and fate. Everything happened so fast for us that sometimes I know I forget how lucky I am. I go about my day, making bottles, changing diapers, packing diaper bags, doing laundry and totally, 100% forgetting that my life has changed forever. That after 10 years, we have a baby. That I am the subject of people's stories about the miracle of adoption. Sometimes I wonder if we had been on the list for longer if I'd be less prone to feeling overwhelmed by all the details of motherhood, if I'd be less worried about the ebbs and tides of our open adoption relationships, if I'd be all around more appreciative. This baby came so fast that sometimes I think I forget how hard it could have really been. We could still be waiting. We could have gone through a failed match. And I'd be hoping for nothing more than my current life. It's hard to be perpetually thankful, elated, joyful. I want to be, really really badly, but I don't think it's possible. So today, rather than be concerned about happiness into perpetuity, I remember that Moonbeam is a miracle for my husband and I. That, like the card my friend's mom and dad sent so eloquently lays out, "each new baby is a miracle that has never happened before and will never be repeated." Today, I will marvel at Moonbeam's sweetness as she naps in her swing, at her laughter when we make funny faces and funny voices, at her coos when we take her for a walk outside. I will marvel at her cries when we go for her immunizations this afternoon and I will marvel at how she is quickly calmed and soothed in my arms once it's all over. I will marvel at the miracle that is Moonbeam, that is our little family. Today I will try not to forget.
#15 – Mama is a State of Mind
We are enjoying the freedom of long summer days and our lack of schedule. Moonbeam is loving getting to know her family, especially her cousins. My husband is enjoying spending time with his dad working on various projects. I'm enjoying relaxing and most of all, I'm enjoying being a mom. Coming home for family visits during our years of trying to conceive were tough. Year after year we would meet new babies and congratulate our friends/family who were all becoming new parents while our own arms remained empty, while our dreams of parenthood remained unfulfilled. I often felt out of place... not quite fitting in with the women who were keeping an eye on their children, talking about milestones and concerns, discussing the possibility of a third child. I didn't fit in with the guys either, laughing in the garage, discussing upcoming house reno projects and fixing anything mechanical. This summer I can happily say that I finally feel like I fit in. We've been having some beautiful family/friend meals and gatherings since we arrived. Last night as I held my daughter and watched the kids play, talking casually with the other moms, it hit me that I've made it. After all those years of sitting on the outside looking in, I'm in. In a way it saddens me that the emotions that come with infertility and treatment failures defined the perception I had of myself all those years. No one treated me as an outsider - it was me inflicting exclusion on myself. What I realized last night is that it's not just the main mamas raising the babies - it's ALL of us raising the babies. We are all teaching them about the world and shaping these little people. All these years, I was impacting these little guys too without realizing that I did have a big role in their lives. All these years I was a mama too - I just didn't have my baby yet. We are all mamas, shaping the people around us. It's hard to see it when the failures and the losses are so fresh. But life is happening at every moment and we are leaving our mama mark every step of the way. We've been mamas all along. Being a mama is a state of mind more than anything. I know it's easy for me to say this because of the side of the fence I sit on. But I also know that I held myself back from the role before anyone else did. I wish I would have given myself permission years ago to feel that I was a part of the club too. But the reality is that I never fully trusted that my time would come. You're a mama too. No matter if you are going through treatments, haven't started trying yet, are pregnant, have given birth, are on a break, have lost your babies, are adopting, have adopted or have resolved to remain child free. You are a mama because those little folks in your life don't see you any differently than the other women in their lives. You love them, you help shape their perspectives and they look up to you for guidance - this makes you a mama. It's the love in your heart and not the babe in your arms that makes this so. Today I understand. Today, if no one else has done so, I give you permission to BE the mama you already are in your heart.
#16 – What I’ve Learned From Moonbeam
Today Moonbeam is 19 weeks old (mommy speak for 4.5 months!). Wow. Like seriously wow. This little girl is growing up right before my very eyes and I'm trying to figure out where all the time has gone. A lot of it has been spent adoring this little person that we love so very much. A lot of it has been spent doing laundry, cleaning bottles and changing diapers. Most of it has been spent learning the ropes. Over the past four and a half months, I have been through some intense mama schooling - some of it baffling, some of it kind of disgusting, but all of it super good. Without very much notice at all, I had to quickly learn about umbilical cord care, cleaning poop from the many cracks and crevices little girl babes have, good vs bad poop colours, the importance of burping, how to quickly and efficiently deal with poop explosions and how to find time for eating and sleeping and cooking and cleaning and and and... The learning curve was steep. But learning to be a mommy has been the best educational experience I've been through to date. Google has been a reliable teacher. So has my mom. The women in my life have been amazing sources of info - my sister, my aunt, my gramma, my mother in law and sisters in law, my gal pals… But the best teacher, hands down, has been little Moonbeam herself. She has taught me more about life in these short 19 weeks than anyone or anything ever has before. She's got good values, this kid. Among her top lessons: Smile. Never stop smiling. Even when you're sad, distressed or uncomfortable - if you can throw in a smile, you will remind those that love you that the outcome is going to be a-ok. Smile when you wake up, smile when you're going to sleep. Smile at strangers and at those you love - not only does it make you feel good, it's the winning ticket to making many new friends and to swaying people to your side. Be present. At times I catch myself spinning my thoughts about the future (e.g. return to work stress, childcare stress, you name it stress). Then I look down at the baby I'm holding in my arms or pushing in our stroller and in seconds flat, I tune in to what she is experiencing at that moment. I tune in to the sound of a bird singing, the feel of the wind on my face, the movement of the light on the carpet. I tune in to the radio announcer, to the sound of the fan spinning and the feel of Moonbeam's breath on my chest. She brings me back to the now and it's amazing. Everything is new for her, everything is remarkable. She is my little yogi. Any discomfort can be cured by a full tummy, a cuddle and a nap. Enough said. Family matters. Friends are great, don't get me wrong. But family is the most important thing. Family for us means unconditional love and acceptance. Cousins are your first friends and grandparents, aunts and uncles give the best snuggles. There is no one that I feel more comfortable leaving my baby with than her grandmas. There is no one that gets as big a kick out of baby giggles or developmental milestones than our family members. I am beautiful ... and smart too. I need to believe this, because this is Moonbeam's truth. If I waver on this one, Moonbeam's perception of beauty and intelligence will shatter. I define her understanding of what beauty is and for her to grow up feeling beautiful and smart, I need to know that I am the things she sees in me. I am her female role model - I shape her understanding of the world of women. Prioritize! Since Moonbeam's arrival, I've had to quickly learn that when there is free time, I need to make a conscious decision as to how I'm going to spend that free time. I've learned that nap times need to be used for the things that I consider important (important, by the way, has shifted to hold new meaning ... like I used to think having a shower was a given - I've reclassified it as important ... in other words, not necessary, but high on the priority list). Bottle and formula preparation are important. Having enough sleep is important. Having my morning coffee is important. But making sure I have a clean shirt to throw on is now less important (seriously, I've actually contemplated if dried poop or puke is "cleaner" ... dried puke won hands down). Curling or straightening my hair? I can't even believe I used to do this on a daily basis. Definitely not important, which means it doesn't get done. Motherhood is amazing and provides so much opportunity for self-reflection. Moonbeam rocks my world and I know I rock hers too. We are in this together and I couldn't ask for a better teacher and student, all wrapped into one.
#17 – Transitioning
When we gave ourselves the go ahead for open adoption, I knew we were signing up for a lifelong commitment with a child and with a birth family. I knew that there was a risk that the birth parents may change their minds before or after the birth of the child. My husband and I agreed that the relationship with the birth family was for the benefit of the child. We wrote in our dear birth parent letter that we were looking for members of our future child's birth family to become extended members of our own family. What we didn't know is how difficult this was all going to be when it actually happened. I never prepared myself for the guilt that came with taking home a baby from the hospital while another woman, another mother, went home empty handed. I never prepared myself for the emotional attachment to my child's Birth Mother. No one told me how hard it was going to be to separate myself from our daughter's Birth Mom and refocus our adoption so that it was centred on the child and not her Birth Mom. The moment Moonbeam was born, I knew that I was her forever mom. I never questioned whether Birth Mom would change her mind ... I just knew that it was all meant to be. What I didn't know was how hard it was going to be to separate myself from being Birth Mom's main supporter to being Moonbeam's main supporter. This transition has taken until now - 8 months in to our open adoption - to fully implement. I don't know if it's because Moonbeam is starting to show the first tell-tale signs of making strange to anyone other than me or if it's just time itself that has started to work its magic. I don't know if it's because we are finally starting to get some distance from Birth Mom – more time between visits and fewer texts / pictures. I don't know if it's that it takes all moms about 8 months to wrap their minds around becoming mothers (bio moms get 9 months to prepare, whereas my husband and I had a week!). Regardless, it has taken until now for me to confidently head into our next visit with Birth Mom and know that although I love and care for her, my main focus is Moonbeam's well being and emotional health, not hers. For me, this is finally about Moonbeam and not about her Birth Mom. For the past 8 months, I have felt vulnerable. I think a lot of this has to do with there being a possibility that my child could be taken away from me until the adoption was finalized ... therefore I sort of held my breath while social workers and judges put their stamps of approval on the authenticity of my motherhood. Until that point, I wanted to give Birth Mom an opportunity to change her mind if she really wanted to. I never wanted to be the one to break up a mama and her babe... and transitioning from the mindset that placing Moonbeam for adoption was Birth Mom's choice, and not because of me took a long time. Since the adoption has been finalized, I have had to work through strain on my relationship with Birth Mom that didn't exist before the adoption was settled in court. I have had to find my footing as a mom and move away from being Birth Mom's main pillar of support ... and move towards just being Moonbeam's mama. I never prepared myself for sadness or guilt associated with adopting a child. I only prepared myself for the eternal bliss that would come as a result of welcoming a child into our lives. Looking back, if anyone did try to prepare me for this, I certainly never thought that it would happen to ME. I never guessed that I would struggle with being an adopted mom. 8 months in to this, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I no longer feel afraid that Moonbeam will shun me as her mom when Birth Mom is around (although I always knew it was unrealistic that the baby I'd cared for since the moment she was born would turn her back on me for biology, the feelings were there!). I don't feel like I have to impress Birth Mom with how amazing of a mom I am or that I live up to any standard I set on paper through our homestudy or in our dear birth parent letter. I don't feel I need Birth Mom's approval that she made the right choice, because I have come to realize that her journey through grief and pain is not a reflection of me at all. It's not my daughter's Birth Mom that is going to give me the title of Mom, it's Moonbeam who will.
#18 – What I Wished I’d Known in the Beginning
In the beginning, in the first few weeks after Moonbeam was born, I wish I would have known... That Moonbeam would look at me with stars in her eyes more and more as each day passed. That I was her Mama, through and through and there was nothing that could stand between us that would ever change that. That Moonbeam would look at Birth Mom with stars in her eyes, understanding that there was an indescribable love and connection between the two of them. That this love and connection would never jeopardize my position as Moonbeam's mama. That there was nothing I could ever do to make Birth Mom's pain go away. That my texts, pictures, conversations and emails would never make her pain go away. That opening our home helped, but these visits would never take away her grief. That placing her daughter was Birth Mom's choice. That I did not cause her or coerce her to make this choice. That this choice had nothing to do with me ... that it was a choice Birth Mom made for Moonbeam and for herself. That I cannot make Birth Mom heal. That this part is up to her. That the tough things we went through together were going to make for easier times ahead. That they would result in a greater understanding and respect for each other. That ups and downs are just part of it and that we were always going to hold each other close, no matter how often we saw or heard from each other. That there are three adults in our open adoption and they all have a responsibility to keep the lines of communication open. That all visits, contact and pictures do not have to be initiated by me. That I have a responsibility to keep things open for our daughter and her birth mom, but that I am not the only one who has to uphold this responsibility. That there needs to be balance between all three adults in our triad to make sure this is going to work for our daughter. That I matter. That when I'm hurt and upset, it's ok. That this will be hard on me, but I will come out of it stronger, healthier and happier in the end. And most importantly ... That being a mom would be much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. That I would be forever thankful to Birth Mom and to Moonbeam for making this journey possible.
#19 – Reflection
Tonight while holding Moonbeam I passed by a window and saw a reflection shining at me. For a fleeting moment I thought, "That happy woman with that sparkling baby is so lucky. I hope she realizes it." It took a second before I realized that the happy, lucky woman with the sparkling baby was me.
#20 – Disclosure?
Since adopting our daughter, we have had to decide how open to be with the general population about our adoption story ... that is, how much to disclose when faced with questions by friendly/curious people that we meet through the interactions of daily life (i.e. I'm referring to strangers). What my husband and I decided early on, and have continued to stick to, is that the details of Moonbeam's adoption are personal to Moonbeam and our family and that information is to be shared only with people close to us or on a need to know basis (e.g. her pediatrician, health care providers, child care providers, etc.). This has often proven to be easier said than done. Very regularly, we are faced with questions such as "Where does she get those eyes?" or "Does she look more like Mom or Dad?" and we've become pros at being vague and dismissive... we slough the questions off and innocently admit that we don't know where she gets her eyes (true) or that we don't know if she looks more like Mom or Dad (true). As Moonbeam gets older, she may choose to share with strangers that she gets her eyes from her birth mom or that she doesn't know if she looks like her birth father... but until then, I don't feel comfortable making it known to strangers without Moonbeam's consent that we adopted her. As I type those words I wonder if this is the right approach... If I'm in some way imposing "adoption shame" on Moonbeam and coercing her to be silent about her history. On the other hand, we are open with our family, friends and others who we are in regular contact (e.g. coworkers). We often share with Moonbeam and others in our life that she looks like her birth mom. When we visit Birth Mom, I openly talk about their common features - they are both beautiful and share so many similar features. I'm not shy to talk about this to our extended family if it comes up - especially when they tell me she looks like me or my husband (which is weird in itself to deal with ... everyone knows that we adopted Moonbeam and I can only assume they understand that this means we don't share genes ...). My husband and I were confronted with this discussion the other day when someone asked us where Moonbeam gets her beautiful eyes from. I'm faced with this question a lot and I brushed it off with "I don't really know ..." and my husband answered "From her mom." Both were kind of true ... we don't really know and it's possible that she inherited this feature from Birth Mom. The lady leaned in to examine my eyes and said "Yes, she does have your eyes." My husband and I smiled, thanked her and moved the conversation along in a different direction. Afterwards I told my husband that I felt a bit like a fraud, but we agreed that the person was not "in the circle" and didn't need to know the intimate details of our family make up. I understand that in so many ways we are lucky because Moonbeam could pass as our biological child, which eliminates a lot of questions and judgment by the general population. We were open to adopting a child of a different ethnicity and now I am starting to understand how much different this whole experience would be if we couldn't just hide behind the shield of looking the same. This leads me to question if we are pretending that the situation is something other than what it really is... And whether we should be more open with strangers about how we came to be a family. We are not ashamed of our adoption story or our journey to parent and never want Moonbeam to feel ashamed about how she came to be our child. I’m not really sure where to draw the line at disclosure.
#21 – Good
It's been a while since I was feeling that things were genuinely in a good space with our open adoption. Today I feel I can genuinely say that good is making its way back. I look back at the ups and downs of how things have gone over the past year and I wonder if there are things that I should regret. I don't doubt that I've made mistakes. I don't doubt that I've said hurtful things, despite not meaning to. I don't doubt that my own insecurities have clouded my judgment at times. Over the course of the past year, my husband, Birth Mom and I have all done our best, this I am sure. We've done our best for ourselves, for each other, but most of all we've done our best for little Moonbeam. Oh little Moonbeam, who we all love so very much. I have learned that I have limits and that this is ok. I have learned that I am the only piece of this puzzle that I can control. I have learned (am learning) that guilt is not indicative of having done something wrong ... I have learned (am learning) that guilt is not an objective or healthy way to process the dynamics of our relationship. I feel Birth Mom growing stronger and I am so thankful for this. I see her gaining confidence in our triad and asking for things that are important for her. I feel myself relaxing. I feel myself starting to trust again. I feel my husband gaining understanding and comfort that we're all going to be ok. I feel Moonbeam radiating happiness, love and joy. I feel that because the three adults in our adoption are able to come together with openness, strength and understanding, Moonbeam is going to shine and radiate a light that is beyond beautiful. We've had some tough times in our open adoption and it's hard not to wonder if there were things that should have been done, said and handled differently. If I'm being honest, yes, there are times where we (I) have made some mistakes. But, I feel that these mistakes were necessary - they were what needed to happen to establish personal ground rules and healthy boundaries. They weren't easy to walk through as they were happening, but at the end of the day, they were good. Without mistakes, we would have learned nothing. I feel like the lines of communication are opening up again - that we've gained some tools to process the shock of what's happened to all of us (birth, adoption, parenting, not parenting, gaining immediate new family, loss, getting to know each other, grief, guilt, happiness, pride, you name it!). We are learning our roles in our daughter's life and are gaining comfort that none of us are going anywhere, that we're committed to each other, to this little girl we all love so very much. So ya, I'm feeling good. I think we all are. I am excited about where our relationship is headed. I'm not naive to think that it's smooth sailing forever ahead ... but I do know that our bond is strengthening and that we are gaining trust that we really do have each others' backs. The key? Talking and opening up. Opening even when the door feels stuck - pushing with all our might and looking to see what is behind the door, even when it feels safer to keep it locked shut. I'm learning that safe doesn't mean better. Opening up can be scary, but it's the only way to sweep out the dust and let the fresh air and sunshine in.
#22 – Overcoming Insecurity
I am waging a war on insecurity. This is a tough one all around. So far, one of the toughest parts of this battle has been admitting that I am insecure over oh-so-many-things. It's embarrassing, I feel vulnerable, I even feel ashamed. I don't want to be an insecure adoptive mom - I want to be strong, secure, confident in my position in all of this. Last weekend we had a visit with Birth Mom and it was textbook great. Moonbeam was thrilled by all the attention and there is no question that she adores her birth mom. Birth Mom was great - happy and engaged and interested in Moonbeam and in our family life. My husband was great, taking pictures of all of us, making us snacks, sharing funny little stories about Moonbeam's shining personality. There was only one problem. And that problem was me. Specifically, that problem was my own insecurity. My husband says I played it off totally legit, but inside I was kind of panicking. With every kiss, smile or hug that Moonbeam shared with Birth Mom, I felt left out. I felt myself shrinking in importance, I felt myself disengaging from what was happening. I felt isolated. When Birth Mom left and Moonbeam waved bye bye while resting her head on my shoulder, I sighed so many sighs of relief. And then I slipped away from Moonbeam and my husband so that I could quietly sob away my insecurities. I'm embarrassed that this is how I felt/feel and that I'm struggling with this part of adoption. I am afraid of losing my daughter, of not being good enough for her or for Birth Mom. I am afraid of being rejected by Moonbeam. This all seems crazy to a part of me that is very rational. But it all makes perfect sense to a part of me that is frightened, afraid to let go, afraid to give in, afraid to trust. I am unquestionably Moonbeam's mom. Honestly, I know this. Moonbeam knows this, Birth Mom knows this, the whole world knows this. The only one who seems to second guess this from time to time is me. I have never wanted to take away that title from Birth Mom, I've always wanted to share it, although I never really knew how. But here's the thing - it's not a question of Birth Mom retaining, gaining or losing her title as mom - this has nothing to do with me. But I NEED to own this title come hell or high water, because there's certainly no turning back now, I am a million percent this little girl's mom. I'm going to own it. I'm going to stand tall and rock this mom thing. I have no trouble rocking it when Birth Mom's not there, but as soon as she's around, I shrink into a version of myself that lacks confidence and seems weak. An insecure version of myself that frankly I don't like being a part of. And I'm starting to realize that by being strong, this doesn't mean that I am a bully to Birth Mom. It means I'm in charge of myself and my family. It means I'm giving Moonbeam 100% of me 100% of the time, even when Birth Mom is around. Having Birth Mom around does not make me any less of a mom.So I'm working on this. I'm working on it by reaching out to Birth Mom and learning to trust her. Learn to trust that as much as I have her back, she has mine too. It's hard. It's hard because I'm afraid that Moonbeam will hurt some day and I'm afraid I will too. I will never forget the moment that Birth Mom and I held Moonbeam between us and held each other while we cried, the moment right before Birth Mom left the hospital and officially made me a mom. I am a mother because this strong, beautiful woman made it so. I have to trust that she is not trying to take away the very thing that she made entirely possible. So for our next visit, I will invite her to my home and we will hug our daughter together and celebrate our very unique relationship and our very unique motherhood. We have gained so much because of each other's commitment to our little girl and to each other.
.....to be continued in Part 3 of 4.