Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Trigger

In my post below, I say that the conversation started somewhat out of the blue. When DH heard what BJ had to say, he responded that she could always talk to him about how she feels on anything. He also said to the not talking about it part that he didn't ever talk about it because he doesn't think about it. She is his daughter. That is all he thinks, not qualified by adoption.

If I took that position (while of course I don't see her as less my daughter than one born to me) it would be dangerous. But I wonder if it isn't sort of reassuring coming from a Dad. I am doing everything I can to make sure she incorporates and includes her whole ...whole.. whole... history, ancestory, future...and what is not here now -- without making it sound like our family is a bad thing. All of this without damaging her sense of security and permanance in this little threesome of a family.

Anyway, God Bless him, as he tried to keep it casual and not say it wasn't OK, his final question before we all went to bed was... How did this come up?

So sleeping last night that was on my mind. Everyone's feelings. Did I put words in BJ's mouth? I am a saying too much?, Too little?

And then it hit me. I did say something earlier in the day that probably contributed. I don't regret it, and I think BJ's feelings were there underneath all along.

If you have read here long, you probably guess that I am pretty straightforward with my daughter, not talking to her about tough subjects in a baby way. I may walk the line of age appropriate and always keep that in mind, but generally I make that decision on where to stop talking, not on changing how I say it.

I am like that with other life things too. In terms of body functions, I get pretty clinical and answer generally only what is asked or as long as it still gets questions.

Yesterday morning I was in the restroom. BJ walked in. I had just started my period and got up to get some sanitary items. She asked again what a period was and why there was blood. I explained it isn't blood like when you cut yourself, but the lining of the uterus where a baby grows. That each month it cleans itself out and since it comes from inside of our body it is like blood. She asked if it was all the time. I told her it was once a month starting when you are almost a teenager. She said - really - everybody? I said all girls, yes. Then I said - some kids start as young as nine, I started mine when I was 11, but L started hers when she was 14.

(yes, I know how lucky I am to have that detailed of a medical history - L worked in medical profession so was probably very clued in to how important medical history is - it is the most complete of any of the pieces of info on her or the family that I have)

So, I said, you will probably start later than some of your friends. Why?, BJ asked. Because when you start menstruating is very tied to genetics - the physical relation to your mother. You are likely to be similar to her in when you start.

Then DH walked in the bathroom (we were all waking up in the morning, we don't generally hang out or have major family discussions in the bathroom - actually those really do tend to happen in the car).

We stopped talking. Mostly because it was about menstruation, not because we were talking about L. He doesn't have a problem with my openness, but he is squeamish about some of that stuff.

So, in context -- that intimate of a connection would lead one to think about missing and not having ever seen someone who is so connected to you that your own body does what theirs does.

I am thankful for the medical history. I really want a photo. BJ really wants to see her. While I feel this compelling need to give her time to respond to my first outreach, I doubt we will make it all the way to next spring (giving her a year to respond) before contacting White Oak for another attempt.

DH was OK with the first note. Now that he knows that BJ wants to see her (did BJ actually tell him that, now that I think about it she only told him she misses L - but she did tell me) - it will be interesting to see how he feels about it. It is so much more formal.

And boy - my extended family will never understand this at this age. I am pretty sure that they would follow my lead of accepting and embracing L as BJ is older, but right now I am pretty sure they will think I am nuts.

All I really care about in regards to a visit is that she is clean (no drugs). But for letters and photos, I want that regardless of the situation. But face in the reality. Letters and photos is not what BJ wants. She wants to see her. She doesn't want to see her today (fear?) but she wants to see her in what is an almost seven year olds near time and concrete time frame (third, fourth or fifth grade). BJ starts second grade in the fall. I also wonder if she sees third-fifth grade as a big kid, able to handle fear? Or is she astute enough to know that third/fourth /fifth gradei s nine years to eleven years old, and somehow needs to see her as her body changes?

I am digressing now, but a few weeks ago BJ started talking about her "flat" nose and how she hates it. We of course tell her she is beautiful, that her nose has a heart on it (the nostril shape) and we love it. I don't know if a kid said something. BJs eyes are a little far apart and the far eyes and lack of a bridge for her nose is slightly similar to fetal alcohol effects. But like the few minor issues that BJ faces, she is blessed that they are so minor that one can never say for sure if it is caused by the drugs in her system at birth, or if it just is within the lower range of normal. She is a beautiful child (inside and out). I think if I had photo of L, and if her nose is flat (which would mean it isn't FAE, which BJ has no concept of) then maybe she wouldn't be dealing with such self image issues so young. We don't know where it came from, except she did say I want a nose like yours, to me. So I know she is doing the comparing thing. But she is so frequent and adamant about her nose in particular, I think she must have gotten teased about it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

"I miss my birthmother" **

BJ asked me again, somewhat out of the blue,
after I said to her - "I love you so much, you are the joy of my life, I don't know what I would do without you." about what would happen if I die. This has been going on for about six months. Since about the time she stopped asking me if L was dead.

Me: "Honey, are you thinking that I might die and not be with you because L is not with you?"
BJ: "Yes".

We had quite a conversation, and thinking back just a couple hours ago, I don't remember it word for word and how we moved in between the assurances that I wasn't going to die and her feelings about adoption. But here are a few of the parts that stand out for me as integral.

It was the first time BJ actually sat down and shared some emotion. She crawled into my lap and just cried and cried. "I miss my birthmother, I never got to see her." I held her and rocked her.

"BJ, I promise you that I will help you find her someday."
"Mom, when I am in third or fourth or fifth grade, I want to visit her."

"Honey, I don't know if she is well now, or not. I sent her a note and gave her our email. I don't know if she got it or if she is really just so sad at not having been able to take care of a baby that she misses you too much. Have you ever been so sad about something you just couldn't think about it?" "I don't know if she is too sad to be friends with me, since I get to be your mom."

BJ: "why would she have to be YOUR friend?"
Me: "well, she would have to talk with me to set up so we could visit her."
BJ: Oh

At one point she stumbled over the word birthmother and said I don't know. I said "well, some people don't use birthmother, and I don't know what L would want. We can just call her L, or some people say first mother. What do you want?" BJ said "birthmother". This is the first time we have discussed this, so I am not sure why she attached to that word. She may change her mind she asked me later in the conversation what birthmother meant and we talked about the mother that gave birth to you and we sort of veered into why I never had a baby in my tummy.

I said "I am very happy that you are my daughter, and I love all of you. That means part of our family has some sad things in it and some happy things. The sad part is that you couldn't be with L, that she couldn't take care of a baby and she wanted a mom and dad to keep you safe."

"Is that OK with you - to be both happy and sad about it"
BJ: Yes.

"So, right now you have this family and someday you will meet L. And you know, if she got better and doesn't have all those bad drugs anymore that made her do things that weren't safe, if she is better someday and gets married and has kids, you know those kids would be your brothers and sisters just like if Daddy and I had more kids. (trying to lay groundwork here for the big news, see post below) - so you will have two families."

BJ: Two mothers. A birthmother and a regular mother.

Somewhere in there BJ said of L (with distress) - she did bad drugs, she is probably dead already. I told her that she is not dead and I sent her the letter. This too is a balancing act for me. I want to give BJ some info so that she doesn't get that common adoptee misthinking that something was wrong with her and that is why she was taken from L s custody and subsequently placed for adoption. But I only know the medical reports, the tox screen reports and the court reports about the drug abuse. I don't know the back story of the addiction and why L didn't have the support of her family. I also don't want the drugs to be the most salient thing BJ knows about L and then that lead BJ to experiment as a teen as some painful way to try and connect and be like her. I want BJ to know more than just that she is/was sick. Separate from adoption, we like most parents I guess, tell her that drugs are very bad and she should never smoke, drink, do drugs etc. We role play peer pressure and how to stand up for what you believe. It may seem strong with a six year old, but when people I know were hooked by the time they were 9 years old.... Anyway -we are so strong against drugs, I don't want that to get messed up with messages about L. So I told her outright tonight. Listen to me, just because L was really sick with the bad drugs, so sick she couldnt stop or take care of herself or a baby, that doesn't mean she is a bad person. She loves you very much and didn't want you to be hurt.

We decided that next spring if we haven't heard back from L, we will contact white oak to help us contact L and tell her that BJ wants to see her and ask her for a picture and give L a picture of BJ.

I was surprised BJ wanted to wait until "almost third grade" after she had just weeped in my arms about not seeing her.

After she said this, I told her that L might have thought that she would see BJ when she was 18 because that is how most people do it. I told her I wouldn't make her wait until then, but I can't control if we actually see her. (I didn't go into the whole CPS and removal and might not want to stuff..) It is always a guess with just how far to go here, not wanting to promise what I can't deliver. Not wanting to set her up for that fear that our situation could end up like some adoptees I read, like Mia with her E.

Somehow we moved from me telling her that she is connected to L's family by her blood and her body and connected to this family by law and our hearts. And she said something I can't remember and I was talking about how it is all part of her and I love all of her and it is her story. It must of been my use of the word story.

She said - "I don't want to tell anybody!!!" with anguish. I told her she doesn't have to, she can tell whoever she wants whenever she wants and she said she didn't want anyone to know. She asked me if I told people. I told her I don't talk about our adoption story much, because it is hers to decide who, but that some of my friends knew and I named the mother of her best friend in the state in which we used to live. She freaked on me a bit - saying does S know?! (her friend) I said no. She said "good!" I don't want anyone to know.

I feel a little weird about that. I understand her not wanting to tell every kid at school when she is just figuring it out. But it surprises me that her closest friends knowing is such a big deal.

As we got out of the parked car (why do these things always happen in the car?) she said - I want to tell Daddy. I said, you can talk to Daddy about anything you want, but Daddy knows about L too honey.

She called him at work and told him she was going to wait up for him to get home because she had something she wanted to tell him. She told him she missed her birthmother and that she doesn't want anyone to know she is adopted.

That sounds like some internal conflict for sure.
Any adult adoptees who read, I especially appreciate your thoughts on all of this. If you care to share how you integrated all this into your sense of self.

I think I am doing this right. I know I am doing the best I can. I strongly believe that if nothing else was accomplished tonight, or among any wrong steps - at least now I know for sure, that BJ knows she can share her pain with me, and that I don't lessen or feel a threat to the joy of our family by acknowledging the loss of L in her life. I am very grateful for those tears, if that makes sense. But boy, tonight sure feels like the stumbling along in the parenting journey.

I guess we will only know, when BJ is grown up and she can tell us what was helpful and what was not.

**disclaimer - I use the word birthmother here not to hurt or offend. In fact on others blogs and in my own private thoughts I do find myself using it less and less. But it is what I have used when talking to BJ throughout her life, having not known until recently that is was offensive after placement (a good friend /amom -I met online some years ago used to repeat constantly to adoptive and prospective adoptive parents that an expectant mother is not a birthmother unless she actually places a child for adoption, considering adoption while pregnant or even "matching" does not make her a birthmother - so I clued into that part of it). I think we laid some groundwork for finding new terms. But because it is indeed the word we used in discussion, and because first and foremost this is a record of a journey and a "sorting out" for me and BJ, I didn't feel it was honest to change the word on the blog.

Also, re-reading this it sounds as if I was saying that BJ will only have both families later. I don't think, and hope that is not what I conveyed to her. Both families are real now, and I want her to know that. I just don't know at what point she will actually be able to meet and know L and her family and it is more realistic to me that only later will she fully participate in both families.