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?


6 thoughts on “Challenges in adoptive parenting

  1. How awesome to have the opportunity to hear from an adoptee on the effects of trauma and get a perspective from her point of view. This all sounds so very hard, and I’m so glad you have friends who also understand the complexities of adoptive parenting. I loved what you said about your Boo’s heart, that it’s not just you on the line here but him, and his feelings, and how scary that all is. You seem to be navigating this so well so far, thank you for sharing the realities of adoption, and what happens when one kind of contact morphs into the possibility of another. I’ll be thinking of you all.

  2. Oh wow, a lot to chew on here. Sounds like the seminar was intense but worthwhile, and I am glad you have other adoptive parents you can talk these things over with. Hang in there! ❤

  3. “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.” —- This puts to words a feeling I’ve had that I could never express, mostly because it felt like betrayal to even try. But, yes being any part of the triad comes with difficulties, each unique to the position one holds in the triad. I am in open adoptions with all three of my kids. My oldest moved in with me at 14 and was adopted at 16. He has always had contact with his mom, siblings, and maternal aunts and uncles. We have hosted his siblings in our homes numerous times and spend the big holidays with his uncle and aunt. With the little ones the openness has mostly been with one older sister and their maternal grandmother. But, we recently met some of their other older siblings (my little ones are 6 and 3 and the youngest of a sibling group of 9) at a picnic arranged by their grandmother, so there is the possibility of more openness as they get a little older. It isn’t easy, trying to get to know the family members, evaluate who is a healthy contact and might not be, balancing the need for connection to both biological and adoptive families. I feel like I mostly just blunder my way through it and hope for the best. I guess that doesn’t help offer any clarity for you, but I think the only advise I can give is to trust your gut instinct and go with that. And you’re right “Lord knows we’ll get the blame if we fuck up.” Best of luck!

  4. wow. lots of stuff going on! adoptive parenting always has a different dimension to it, i think. it m sounds like you’re both coming at it from a child centric viewpoint and i think that’s the best we can do as parents.

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