This is my first year participating in Production, Not Reproduction’s Adoption Blogger Interview Project. There are over 100 participants(adoptive parents, birthparents, and adoptees), so after you are done reading my interview here, you can head over here to check out the rest: 2012 Participants.
How does it work? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a post about the project on the blog mentioned above, Production, Not Reproduction. I asked if I could be one of the interviewers and interviewees (is that a word?), and I was matched with Kelly at her blog, Surprised by Hope. She blogs about their journey to adopt and the wonderful relationship and open adoption they have with their daughter, S’s, firstmom/birthmom, Momma A. They are currently waiting to adopt a second time. It was really great reading her blog from start to finish – she writes in a very straight-from-the-heart way. She talks about the hurdles and low moments and shares the highlights and amazing moments as well. Here’s our interview:
1- On your blog, you share a lot about your journey to become parents and how you are in the process of waiting to adopt again right now. Can you share a little bit about the adoption of your daughter and particularly your decision to have an open adoption?
We actually started out for a waiting child in Taiwan because we were apprehensive about open adoption. When that didn't go as planned, we were asked if we'd be interested in a special needs baby boy in the States. It was then that we really started researching more real life stories of open adoption. We had read about the differences in closed and open adoption. But I had started meeting adult adoptees more frequently and the recurring theme in their stories the desire to see what their birth families looked like, who they were as people, and to know some part of their birth family's story. And it really touched my heart and I started understanding that desire and wanting to fulfill that desire for our future child, to know all of their story. Honestly the moment we met Momma A we knew open adoption was right for our family. We met her once before S arrived and I roomed in with her at the hospital(her request). Those 3 days were very special for us.
As you mentioned above we are now waiting for our second child and we will be adopting through the foster care system. Because of how the children come into care most of the time we may or may not have any openness with their biological families. This has been a daily struggle for us because we love our openness with S's first family. It's interesting looking back at how far we've come.
2-At one point on your blog you wrote about feeling torn at times about what to share or how much to share. I often feel like that as well. Can you explain why you feel torn and how do you decide what is okay to write about?
I do feel very torn about what to share and where the boundaries should be. I've had several discussions with other adoptive moms about whether I share too much or if we are sharing an okay amount with the world. This is of course our family blog, and it's a place to write our story for S and our future children. Life is full of happy and sad times. Lately I've slowed in my writing, not because there's nothing to write, but because a lot of our story this past year has been heartbreaking and I want our blog to be uplifting and encouraging.
In regards to S's story some parts of it are hers alone, and I feel that there are some things she should get to choose, when she's old enough to understand, what she will share with others. That is one reason I do not disclose her birth mother's name or her family members names or their photos. I usually ask myself as I'm working on a blog what would I want others to know if I where in S's shoes.
3-Several of your posts touch on how you are a transracial family. You write about how you try to incorporate aspects of S's first family's culture and heritage into your life. Can you explain how you do that? What have you shared with your daughter from your heritage? (For example, do you have special traditions?)
We have tried to incorporate her first family's heritage and culture as much as we can. I'm trying to think of the best way to describe that without divulging too much of her personal story and giving away some of Momma A's personal information too. So, one way was to teach S from infancy the language that her extended first family speaks at home. While I am by no means fluent, I thought her what I knew and she picked up everything I knew by the time she was 14-15 months old. Of course S refuses to speak it now that she's in preschool! When I try to speak it she tells me, in English(with a Southern drawl, heaven help me), "Mommy, I don't want to say your ABC's!!!" *Sigh* At least I know that it will help her in the future learn other languages, or that's what I am telling myself for all the time and money we invested to brush up my language skills! Also I learned recipes for some of her first families meals and S LOVED them! So I try to add them into our rotation of meals.
But by far the thing I do that I believe ties into her African American culture is her hair. I have spent a lot of time researching online and practicing with more products than I can count to make her hair be something she is proud of. It is blatantly obvious that I'm Vanilla and she's Chocolate(her words), and I want her to be proud of her chocolate skin and spiral curls. It really has been a very special bonding time for us as well. She LOVES her hair, and she loves to ask for her favorite hairdos, particularly beads. And it's the times we are out in public and an African American Momma or Grandma come up and ask where I take her to get her hair done and S tells them that Mommy does her hair with a big grin on her face that I know she loves her hair and we are doing a good job in that area.
Momma A and S's siblings have also shared with her a lot of their traditions in their family and so she hears things from them too. We hope to go to their home town in the next few years when she's old enough to remember and really experience some of the family traditions!
4-Can you talk about your openness agreement with S's first mom and if it has changed or evolved? Is there anything you would like to change if you could? It was really interesting to me to read about S's interaction with her birth-siblings. How great is that that she has a relationship with them as well?
Our openness agreement was just for S's first year. If you read on our blog the agency that did our adoption was not our choice and so I was not impressed with their handling of it. Thankfully, Momma A, DH and I all get along really well and so we took the agreement from the first year and adapted it after her first birthday. We did change the agreement after her first birthday and we all were in agreement that the number of updates was overwhelming to me, especially as I thought of trying to come up with something to write to Momma A monthly until S's 18th birthday. So we went to quarterly updates and we visit as often as time allows. (For general info., we had more visits than we first agreed too the first year, and I always sent more pictures than the agreement stated.) They have moved out of state so it was 2.5 years between our last visit. We do call and text regularly and include pictures and videos as well. Yes, if you've read on our blog S does have siblings and we all love that they will get to know each other and have a relationship. S LOVES them and talks about them often and she loves to send them pictures on my phone and they LOVE to send them back to her :)
5-You wrote very candidly about the losses you have dealt with - your miscarriages as well as the failed adoptions. All of it had to be so difficult to experience and to grieve. Can you talk about the kinds of things that helped get you through some of that? Do you have any tips for friends or family members of people who have experienced similar loss?
I have to say this was the hardest question for me to answer of all of them. Grieving a failed adoption placement has been the most difficult of our losses to grieve. The things that helped the most were definitely getting out of town. We needed family time without others around us, we needed the privacy to grieve in our own way, in our own time, without the feeling of having to "put on a smile." We changed many things, we took down the nursery, we packed away all the baby's things, we bought our first house, and we switched S's preschool. We had to change our surroundings so that I didn't see the constant reminders of what should have been. I get that not everyone can do all of these things. So I think the best advice if any that I can give is to grieve however you need to, in your own time, and in your own (healthy) way.
6- How often do you talk about adoption with your daughter? How do you explain what adoption means (talks, books, movies, etc.) and how much does she understand?
I think this is the question I get the most from people. :) We talk about adoption often. It's hard to put a number on it. S got a book about adoption at her baby shower from an adult adoptee that we read often "How I Was Adopted" it's her favorite book. But I know that even as an infant I would rock her and tell her about the day we met Momma A, and the day she was born, etc. I started that young because I wanted to be comfortable talking about her adoption before she was old enough to get it!
As she has gotten older, she asks us all kinds of questions. We also keep family photos around the house of her with us and her first family. We have tried to include them in as much as we can, like any other family members we have.
7-We had the experience a few months ago of speaking about our open adoption at our agency. If you could talk to couples that were unsure of whether or not open adoption was right for them, what would you want to say to them?
I would say that open adoption has been an amazing experience for us. We adore S's first mom and family. We love knowing that S will grow up knowing her whole story. She will have the love of all of her family. We miss having them live nearby and hope that they are able to move back closer to us someday. I dream of Momma A sitting next to us at S's first dance/music recital. I imagine her sitting there next to us as she walks across the stage at her high school and college graduations, and who knows maybe even her doctorate ;) And I can't even think about S's wedding without Momma A there too, and yes I totally cry every single time I think about these life events for my little girl!
I know that it may not work for every situation but we are living proof that it can work. I would also encourage prospective adoptive parents to go in with an open mind and see where it takes you. You never know the many blessings that can follow!
Thanks for reading. You can head on over to Kelly’s blog, Surprised by Hope, and read her interview with me there!