Challenges in adoptive parenting

I am grateful that Boo’s birthmother asked about sending a gift.  I wasn’t sure if the gift was from her or her other son.  And that’s my soft spot.  Boo would love to have a sibling, I think.  (He reminds me of what I remember of her, that she didn’t like to be alone.) I just sensed a desire for more contact, however veiled.  Notwithstanding what that would be, it really opened up conversation between my husband and I about open adoption.  I also called up a fellow adoptive parent who is in a open adoption and asked for her input.  I think it made it easier for me to understand my feelings.  I knew I could not fully control things and I think that was bit of an issue for me.  It reminded me of opening up my life to infertility doctors and social workers.  It was really tough having to prove your worthiness, but now I have to open up in a way that risks my son’s heart and that frightens me.  And it’s not that he’s asking any questions, it came from his birthmother.  It’s been years of emails and flowers and photobooks but nothing else.  And now something has changed.  I know this is true in my gut.

My husband is very protective over our son, he’s just that kind of person in general. You’re either in his circle or you’re not.   If I ask him to go out to a gathering, he wants to know who is going to be there.  Me? I couldn’t care less.   If I get invited by a friend, I just go.   Even when we were doing our homestudy he was quite open about his feelings about not being open to possible “wingnuts”.  (Yeah, that did not go over well with the social worker.)  Yet he does want the best for his son and so I proposed we go to an Adoption and Trauma seminar being held by the adoption agency we used in the past.  I thought it would help us learn more and spur conversation.

Now I have to say we didn’t have the best feelings about our agency.  Not that they didn’t act ethically or do anything wrong, but I feel they could have done much more in terms of adoptive parent education.  They were great about hosting birthmother panels for prospective adoptive parents (which were mandatory by the way) but there was very little information from actual adoptive parents in how to navigate the emotional landmines we faced along the way.  Everyone assumes that just being you’re the one “who gets the kid in the end” so you’re happy, but navigating adoptive parenting can be complex because you are now a “triad” with someone you barely know.    I am grateful that I did get together with other adoptive parents just to talk (we made our own group) and it is because of those connections that I have someone to talk to who understands the complexities of adoptive parenting.

So the seminar was being led by a therapist who was an adoptee herself.  She talked about a number of things about trauma and loss, the brain’s neuroplasticity and how trauma affects the brain,  what she went through with her adoptive mother in particular (not ideal) and how she dealt with her trauma.  I’d have to say that what she said also applied to other scenarios of trauma, not just through adoption.  A lot of the symptoms would also be relevant for children of divorce or alcoholics or domestic violence.  Yes, the Primal Wound was also mentioned.  None of it is easy to listen to.   Someone wanted to know if that trauma was the reason their child was undergoing struggles with school and/or educational delays.  That got my attention, but of course, any child can have a learning disability whether they’re biologically related to you or not.  At least she acknowledged that she couldn’t answer or affirm that suspicion.  I actually knew two parents there, one of which is my naturopath by the way.  I’d love to talk to them about it at some point.

I did write an email back to Boo’s birthmother to fill in her in on the changes that have been going on in her son’s life.  Perhaps I wrote too much, but really, I was just being honest.  I let her know what we’re all growing together in this experience and that we had to consider how our actions would impact his life.  There’s more to it than that, but I’d have to password protect. Good news is that I’m glad this is all happening now while he is still young.  7 year olds can digest things in an easier way than grownups can.  They just want the facts, no fears, no doubts, no overthinking involved.

I can’t control what he will feel or won’t feel, I can’t protect him from feeling of sadness, I know that.  But we are the ones who are in charge of parenting him through life’s difficulties and surprises.  And it’s up to us to do with as much grace as possible.  Lord knows we’ll get the blame if we fuck up.  Ah, welcome to parenthood, eh?

 

A woman my age is damn busy

Oh, gack it’s been a while.  That’s an understatement.  I’ve also switched to using a tablet for all things non business( instead of my trusty full to the brim laptop ) so I don’t write very much.  I can’t touch type on my phone or my tablet.  But this morning, hubby is away for a couple of days for a work and the kid is on summer holiday and is currently asleep (pretty sure it will be for 30 more seconds because I have started this) and so now I feel compelled to write.

Here’s life in bullet points.

  • I quit Weight watchers in June.  Honestly, I just couldn’t stand the slow weight loss.  It’s not their fault, of course, I just got tired of eating frozen Weight Watchers food and counting points.  I have neither the planning skills or the patience to make up an interesting menu for myself while trying to cook for husband and a picky eater.   I lost 5 lbs after months of counting points and starving only to see the scale creep back up.  Now of course, I’m back to the weight that got me going there in the first place.
  • Around Mother’s Day I heard from Boo’s bio mom and she wanted to get our address (that she had but misplaced) so she could send a gift.  Of course, this necessitated a long conversation with my husband who wanted to know what the gift was and all the while I’m thinking it’s not about the gift it’s about wanting more contact and what does that mean when we’ve never actually had much contact.  I actually got husband to go to a seminar about Adoption and Trauma.  I felt it was really important that we be on the same page about how we navigate forward with our son.  I also talked to a friend about what her open adoption looks like.
  • Then not long after, we had a psycho-educational assessment done with Boo for his educational delays.  We waited months for this (through the school system as we would not have to pay for it then) and shockingly we got it before the school year was out.  That saved us a couple thousand if not more had we had paid privately.  He has a learning disability, mild dyslexia with low scores in the visual spatial area and fine motor skills.  Great scores for vocabulary.  Though he has come a long way with his reading, there was scant time to work with him at home with math and writing.  He will be going to a new school for 3 months this coming fall for intensive learning before rejoining his classmates at his present school.
  • Oh, yeah, did I mention Boo asked us what the “N” word was?
  • I’ve been auditioning like crazy, got 2 days on a gig (one night away out of town – yay!) and on a short list for a project I really want to do.
  • oh, yeah, and I’m also the coordinator for my Buddhist group, a vice chair on a diversity and inclusion committee at the actor’s union and possibly more….

I have a lot more to say on the above but got to get moving….

 

 

 

Microblog Mondays – Life Story book

You know what?  I don’t think I told you that I actually finished Boo’s life story and had it printed and delivered it to him.  I took me a while to get the last perfect picture but I finally did it.  That only took 7 years.

I included his one and only sonogram, the picture of his birthmother and us, the day he was born, etc.  I did not include a picture of his biological father, even though I have one somewhere that his birthmother sent me.  We never met and he did not come to the hospital when he was born.  I guess if he had, I might not have my son here with me.   Sigh, I only wish I had taken more pictures at the time.  He loved it!  He didn’t ask as many questions as I thought he would.  But we had a really good chat about everything.

I do remember how strange it felt to have this teeny tiny infant in my care and even though I was smiling in every shot, I also felt quite sad, too.  That bittersweet feeling become an obstacle for me (never mind my age or the issue of finances) in entertaining the idea of another adoption.   It was hard to let go of this idea that I would magically become this unconditionally happy woman despite the loss it meant for my son and his birthmother.  I held it together like a rock in the face of this woman sacrifice and tears.  Why does everyone keep telling me I should be happy now?  I had an idea of what I would feel and what transpired was most decidely different.  I read a blog post from a woman who did not have the ideal birth experience that she had prepared for.  She felt robbed somehow of the blessed experience for events that were beyond her control.  Maybe I had felt something like that.  Like, hey look I have a baby but….. why do I feel so traumatized?  Expectations versus reality.  I learned a great deal about equanimity.

I remember the wash of unconditional love I felt for him as I held him, the awe of it all, how humbled I was at being given the opportunity to mother, how badly I wanted to remove his loss.  I wanted to be perfect, not make any mistakes.  I would not be afforded another opportunity in this lifetime.  I was terrified of failing him.  And yet sometimes I did.  And then I get off the floor and did better.   I now know it’s just part of the job, the hard part of being an adoptive mother, knowing you won’t be the answer to his question of where he came from.  He will one day look to you for answers that you hope you can answer.  To be the bridge he crosses.  You just hope he comes back.

I had built up this book to be such a momentous big deal, but Boo just seemed to be happy to marvel over how tiny he was once.  His big foot next to my wine glass.  His dog nuzzled next to his sleeping body.  He liked his life story and was eager to share with only those closest to him.  He didn’t see our doubts, our fears, our hopes.  He only saw how much he was loved.  Which I suppose, was the whole point.

 

Taking my bow

This is long overdue, but my play closed Saturday night, so instead of running around on Mondays (which was my day off) I can slow down a little and write.

Yes, my play.  Refuge by Mary Vingoe.  I don’t cry very often, but let me tell you I cried in 15 out of 17 performances in my last scene.  I played an Eritrean refugee mother who has lost her son to suicide. Refugees issues are front and centre these days and audiences were really engaged in the topic.    It was well received by audiences and I have to say I had a wonderful time.  It brought the joy of my craft back to me.  Friends saw me recently on an episode of a major network show and I have to tell you I got far more out of doing this play than I did with that role.  I had my issues with the play itself but I still had the time of my life. The crazy actors, their different personalities, the crappy dressing room, the “places” call.   It was like getting back the part of me that I thought was beyond reach.  Like discovering sex can actually be so good that you just want more and more of it.  I just tingled down to my toes.  It was emotionally exhausting no doubt, but when I came home, I would slip into my son’s tented bed and watch him sleep.  That shit never gets old.  Just watching his lips purse in sleep, hearing his deep breathing, kissing his impossibly soft skin.  The play is based on a real Eritrean refugee whose claim was rejected and eventually he committed suicide rather than be returned to his homeland.  I still had my son and feeling his breath on my face was an antidote to the despair and pain I portrayed on stage.

My part wasn’t huge, in fact, I was only in 4 short scenes, but I believe they were impactful.  It was just what I could handle at this time and it was just what I needed.  I’m not sure how people handle all the pressure of a huge, demanding role and also a family life, but I guess that’s just a matter of expanding one’s capacity.  Oddly enough one of the actors commented on how much I had to do as both a mother and an actor.  I have to admit that at times I feel as if my capacity is not big enough, I often felt frayed when I straddled both worlds.  None of them had children or were responsible for taking care of other people.  They had lifestyles that supported them. They just cleared their schedules and did the play.  They had spouses to make them lunches or quiet spaces to retreat to.  If I had an early rehearsal day I grocery shopped or walked the dog (and memorized my lines at the same time) or attended to some errand or another.  I checked in with my Buddhist colleagues for updates, cleaned the house, did laundry, put things away.  I had a couple of auditions (which I resented) but I did them anyway.  I was basically working 6 out of 7 days just over a month (seems longer) but it didn’t really seem like work.  I guess that happens when you really love what you’re doing.   Hubby had to go away for work for a few days and it was spring break.  I arranged a few days in a day camp for the boy.  The inlaws came over during that final week of rehearsals (long days).  That was a blessing to be sure, but of course, that also means I cooked meals ahead of time for them.  Being at rehearsal came to mean an escape;  all my energy could be focused one direction not several.  The minute I was on my way home, it was about juggling and picking up things and meeting others’ expectations and it was jarring at times.

Still, I learned a lot about my capacity to juggle things and handle stress.  All in all, I think I did alright.

I’m sad right now though.  It was great working f/t doing something I loved.  I received a good review for my work, got my picture in the paper and I admit it, it was good for my battered old ego.  It was the first show my mum missed, but she was with me in spirit.  I learned a lot.  Onward and upward.

 

 

 

Microblog Mondays – I’d rather be at work

There are quite a few things I should be doing right now and I have elected to do none of them.  I’m scheduled to work 6 days a week in the theatre but had a day off on the weekend as other scenes were being worked on.  It’s kind of a sweet deal for me, I’m in 4 short scenes and only with one other person who is the lead.  Of course that day off ended up being busier than if I had gone to the theatre.  Next week is hubby has work scheduled so I arranged an interview with a sitter , walked the dog with the family while working on my lines, did notetaking for a friend’s theatre company, cleaned the house (I always worry my house smells like dog to other people), then jetted off downtown to do notes, jetted back to meet sitter in my candle scented, vacuumed house, then took off for a play reading that my acting teacher was in.  Then last night I realize I could squeeze in another gig notetaking but the sitter is not available (hence now I need another backup sitter).

I have noticed that since gaining f/t (albeit temporary) employment that most of the household chores and appointment making still fall to me.   Hubby actually had the nerve to get short tempered  and griped to me about not doing more of his homework with our son.  Oh, yes, he did.   So I told him that he had better find a way to get some more sleep and not lose his temper so easily and I walked away, refusing to get engaged with the bullshit.  I had had a perfectly marvelous week and wasn’t about to let him get me down.    This after one week of being at home with our son (though the kid is in school) and not having work scheduled.  And not sleeping well. Frankly, he hasn’t slept well in several months.    I  dreamt that I left him and found a great new apartment.  Sigh. I honestly knew that my husband would not do well with self employment in an industry that constantly changes schedules and you have to work when you get it and you’re constantly waiting for cheques to arrive.  I get it.  I’ve done it most of my life.   You  don’t get a cheque every 2 weeks, it’s not 9-5pm, you don’t get two weeks off with pay and  you can’t piss people off or you end up losing contracts.  He hasn’t had a vacation in 3 years, he’s constantly stressed about money and for good reason, but honestly I get tired of his inability to deal with the stress.  Of course the next day he apologized to our son and spoiled him all day.  He makes dinner and is nice to me.  So I suppose that was an apology.

So this is what women who work outside of the home f/t go through.

 

Microblog Mondays – Starving artist

Not sure why it took 6 weeks to lose almost 5 lbs and 1 week to gain a pound.  Oh, yeah, I know the program works if you work the program and yes I’ve been cheating here and there so I deserve the gain.  Sigh.  I’m starving.  I can only work out one day a week as my rehearsals are all day and by the time I get home (after stopping for groceries, etc), I’m done.   I had a Haagen Dazs bar one night when a friend came over – and you know what, I wasn’t hungry anymore.  Full fat actually satiates.

Good news is that I’ve started rehearsals for a play which will be premiering mid March.  So happy!!!!  And it’s a real actual theatre job for which I get paid!!!    It will require major juggling between me and hubby’s chaotic schedule and I still haven’t got a sitter yet. Also, the dog had dental surgery, she’s fine now, she’s just eating soft kibble and wet dog food.    And my mother’s estate is almost settled.

 

Hungry

I’ve been pretty busy lately.  Joined Weight Watchers again.  Somewhat reluctantly because I knew I would have to start counting points and counting how many raw almonds I could eat.  Frankly, though, wishing things were different is not as useful as actually having a plan and following through with it.  So I do it while hubby is away for work, so I can get going without having to worry about what he wants for dinner.  Going back to spin class helped and I took up snowshoeing.  After 20 years in this province, I finally picked up a winter sport.  It’s something I can take the dog along (though she hates the sight of people moving on skiis and snowboards) and if I hustle I can get to the mountain and back before school is out.   I am slowlllly losing weight. So good for me.  When I ran out of points, I went to bed.  Seriously.  I don’t eat in bed normally, so I figured if I just retired to the bedroom, I’d be safe.  And then I started to stash some candy in my bedside table.   At first I could count out how many caramels I could eat safely and then I started to get pissed off/stressed/bored/lonely and ate more.  Ah, the sugar monkey on my back has returned.  Then I went sledding with my son which was a lot of fun but by nightfall, my back started to hurt.  A lot.  I still went to spin the next morning but walking the dog later was agony.  Back to the chiro and no more spin for the rest of the week.  Spinitis.  Discs in the lower back rubbing together created pain and inflammation.  After two adjustments, I am much better.  My energy has returned.   My girlfriend and I are going to dinner with the kids tonight. I gotta change my weigh in dates from Tuesday to Friday so I can at least drink on the weekend and get back on point (no pun intended) during the week.  I am not good at planning meals and I really dislike buying frozen food but there is such relief when I know that turkey/mashed potatoes tray is only 5 points.  I’ve got to get better at it.  And this is why I hate dieting, it’s a fucking full time job  trying to distract yourself from hunger, cravings and trying to trick yourself into calling carrots and cauliflower and frozen grapes, snacks. I make one thing for the kid,  eat small portion of whatever I make for hubby and me.  I came home looking for turkey leftovers for lunch one day only to discover hubby hadn’t left any from the night before and went into a blind rage cause now I only had leftover mashed cauliflower and mashed potatoes and …..now I know why J.enny Craig is so popular.

All this suffering for a .9 lb loss in a week.  Say a prayer for me, please.