Friday, February 17, 2012

Just the two of us

Nineteen years ago, I was living in an apartment in Logan with some crazy roommates.  I was five months pregnant.  I had just recently traveled home to Blanding for a brief visit.  A brief visit I can still remember so vividly.  I was in the kitchen in my parents' house, and I was sitting on the floor next to the coat closet, the coat closet with those rickety dark brown shuttered folding doors.  I remember wishing somehow I could just fold into those doors myself.  I was so small and so ashamed.  I was surrounded by family, standing around me, confused, concerned looks on their faces.

That was when I told them I was going to have a baby.  They were not angry.  I knew they would not be.  But the hurt and disappointment was tangible.   My family was broken.  I broke it.  I knew it to my core.  And then I told them my plans.  My adoption plans.  That is when my sister Kd became hysterical.  And I knew my mother wanted to hold me close and fix whatever needed fixing, but I was distant, disappearing into those closet doors.

I don't remember where my father was.  I am sure he was there, but I cannot clearly recall his reaction.  Like me, he probably just wanted to disappear, to escape this whole bizarre tragedy.

But he loved me and supported me.  My whole family promised they would help me no matter what.  But they had to let me go and deal with the consequences of my decision as I had chosen to, as the Spirit was guiding me to.  That must have been hard for them.

As I worked with LDS Social Services, attending group meetings with other birth mothers, and counseling sessions with my counselor, I felt a profound peace in my decision.  As I proceeded with my day-to-day life, there were struggles, but I knew I was doing the right thing.  I came to find out that I would have the opportunity to meet the family I had chosen for my daughter--I didn't even officially know she was a girl then, but I believed she was.  The first ultrasound technician I went to was pretty rude; I think she assumed since I was giving the baby up, I didn't care whether it was a boy or girl.  She didn't offer to check, and I didn't know to ask.  

Another girl in the office was expecting around the same time as me, but she did not want to meet her baby's family, or have anything to do with the baby for that matter.  I didn't really know her story; she did not participate much in the group meetings.  I knew she was living with a foster family while she was pregnant, and she had moved from Hurricane.  She was younger than me, and she seemed very bitter about her circumstances, but she never opened up enough for me to know anything more.

Anyway, because she was choosing not to utilize the "Face-to-Face" option, I would be the first birthmother from the Logan agency to get to meet her child's adoptive family.  That was exciting, and it was overwhelming.  Policies were rapidly changing with the agency.  They were allowing more communication than had been offered in the past, but they were also limiting the amount of gift giving, because that aspect of communication was difficult for them logistically to manage.  As these policies were changing on an ongoing basis, I was notified of the agency's current communication policy:  I would be able to receive pictures for the first six months.  We could correspond through letters with no identifying information allowed for one year.  After that, correspondence could continue as long as both parties were willing, but letters would not be forwarded without being requested.

It was kind of awkward wording.  I see that now.  But I interpreted the policy to mean that we would not be limited to one year of communication.  I believed that as long as we were both open to it (and why wouldn't we be?!) we could continue to communicate indefinitely.

But of course, after meeting her family, writing to them regularly for a year, and then occasionally the following year, correspondence waned over time.  We had not communicated for a few years, but I wanted them to know about being sealed to my sweet husband, giving birth to my first son and expecting a second.  I wanted them to know I was doing well.  I wanted to know what their little girl was up to, and how they, my dear friends were doing, as well.  I did not expect to be treated so rudely by the person I telephoned at LDS Social Services, when I called to say I had a letter I wanted to send.  I did not understand, but I did not want to fight either.  I was lucky that I had someone here willing to fight for me, and I was able to send that letter.  Several months later, I received a reply.  That was the last time I heard from them for 13 years!

A little bit less than a year ago, my husband emailed me with a hint that he had some news for me.  Then, when he was home from his trip, he took me for a walk and told me he had been communicating with the director of the Logan LDS Family Services, and they had found my birth daughter's family.  After all this time, I could communicate with them again!

It was thrilling and terrifying.

This is hard to explain, but another birth mom friend of mine shared an essay her brother wrote describing the phenomenon she was experiencing (the same way I was feeling):

"After years of searching and practically giving up she recently found the family's information with the help of friends.  All of the sudden she could see pictures of her son as well as the person he is becoming. . . . That is great and exciting news for her.  However, because the adoption did not begin open, Tamra now faces fear, worry, and a difficult decision.  She is still building the courage to contact the family.  It could be exactly what [her birth son] needs at this time.  He can have questions answered and have love reassured.  'But I don't know,' Tamra said, 'I'm a stranger to him and it might very well be disruptive.'  Now, if he doesn't respond positively, she has something to lose.  'Now I am incredibly vulnerable and EVERYTHING is a mystery.'  She feels that if the adoption had been open from the start, there would be nothing to fear."

I wrote the letter, after a long struggle to figure out the right things to say.  As the year went on, right up until close to the end of the year, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions, up and down, sideways, up-side down--by the way, I HATE roller coasters; I am not a fan of sick thrills--as I came to discover there was not an opportunity for contact after all.  I will not rehash all that.  I have gone over it enough here on my blog.  You know it.  It was a disaster.  I was a mess.  It was an unfortunate time in my life, and I am just glad that uncertainty and pain is over.

On the Wednesday of our week with Abbey, I got to spend several hours alone with Abbey, shopping at the University Mall, just talking and hanging out.  Abbey's mom took my girls with her for the day, and Britt and the boys went with her dad to Cabela's.

Wait a minute, did I say ALONE with Abbey?  Actually, my dad was passing through on his way to Salt Lake, and he met us in the food court so he could see Abbey.

The rest of my extended family is so jealous.

Abbey helped me find some cute new clothes, and we even found matching shirts and necklaces.  I would have liked to have found a portrait place where we could have gotten pictures in our matching outfits, but by then, Britt was calling me, wondering when we were going to come back.

We took pictures at her house instead. 

My girls loved getting to spend some time with their "big sister".  They keep asking me when they can Skype with Abbey again.  

I am glad there never was any secrecy in our family about the fact that I placed a daughter for adoption years ago, before Britt and I started our family.  I am grateful my children have always known about her, even though they did not fully understand when they were younger.  I am happy this could be a positive thing for all of us, not something I had to hide from those I cared about.  While I wish there had not been the barrier of those years of lost communication between us, I cannot change that.  I would, however, suggest that if you are considering adoption, you open yourself to the possibility of accepting open adoption.  Now that we are together again, it is, as Abbey's father put it, an extension of family.  We love expanding that love we have.  I am so grateful for Abbey's family and the love they have for me.

Oh, and did you notice?  I am wearing boots and she is taller than me.  It is my dream that all of my kids will one day be taller than me. : )

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