A happy occurrence this week: I heard from A's birthmom.
After Short Stuff was born, we had fairly regular contact with her birthmom, J. We spoke on the phone and had visits every month or so. Our last visit occurred when A was fifteen months old. Toward the end of 2006, the contact stopped. I called a couple of times and left messages, but after a while I came to realize that I was probably making a nuisance of myself. A few years ago, I sent her a letter telling her that I understood that she no longer wanted contact, but if she decided to resume contact in the future, we would certainly be open to that.
For the past few years, I've mostly just wondered. Wondered how she was doing. Wondered if she was happy (I knew that she'd married a nice guy and had a son - she now has two sons). And, perhaps more selfishly . . . wondered if I'd done something wrong. You see, there is no handbook for navigating the relationship between an adoptive parent and a birthparent. It's hard to know what to say and do. In the beginning, P and I were a little unsure of how much contact we'd want in the future. We knew that J needed to mourn and work through her post-birth emotions, and if having a lot of contact was the best way to help her through that, we were more than game. We felt that we'd always be open to contact, but were unsure about having contact at the same frequency we'd had in the beginning. Later, when there was no contact, I felt like I'd shot myself in the foot - I never meant to imply that we wanted NO contact. That was never the case. Besides, we genuinely liked J (and still do, of course). She's smart, funny, friendly - she's all kinds of likable.
When contact ended, I immediately began to conduct a mental review of all of our interactions. Had I been too insensitive? Had I said something stupid? Did she regret choosing us to parent the baby? I didn't know, but I just couldn't shake the feeling of having disappointed her in some way (and when someone entrusts you with a piece of themselves, quite literally in this case, you don't want to let them down). I visited adoption message boards and studied the posts from birthmoms, trying to gain some insight. Some seemed to feel that they had been misled, duped in some way by the entire process. Some were at peace and felt happy knowing that the child they had birthed was being raised in an environment that they, at least at that time, could not provide. Some wanted contact, some did not. A few felt that the adoptive parents were ungrateful, which left me with mixed emotions.
The challenge for an adoptive parent is that there simply aren't words to convey the range and depth of emotions that come with parenthood through adoption. I mean, what do you say? "Thanks for the baby! Talk at ya later!" Or, on the other end of the spectrum: "Here, I bought you a house. With walk-in closets." I opted to send a sincere letter after the birth, attempting to express myself in some small way. Without J, I would not be a mom. I'm sure of it. Whether we have contact or not, she is never far from my thoughts and remains in my heart.
Anyway, back to this week. For a while now, I've been tempted to email J through Facebook and ask her a simple question. I didn't know if she'd be willing to answer or not, but it didn't seem to matter anyway because I kept losing the nerve every time I sat down at the computer. A few days, as I was digging through some files, I happened upon a card that J sent us after A's baptism. She had included a really nice note to thank us for inviting her. Suddenly, I felt like I would just take the chance. My question was this: I wanted to know if she was on the petite side growing up. You see, my daughter frets over the fact that she is so petite. I thought maybe if I could tell her (if not now, at some point in the future) that her birthmom was petite, too, but she turned out to be a normal height (5'4"). Maybe she would find that reassuring in some way. I sent off the email rather quickly and didn't really expect a response. I got one the next day.
J told me that the reason she'd stopped contact with us was because it was simply too painful. To see the child to whom she had given birth and then to have to say good-bye over and over . . . it was just too hard. She assured me that it was nothing that I'd said or done (now I feel a little silly and self-absorbed to have guessed that the issue was with me, but I'm most relieved nonetheless). She remains confident that she picked the right parents for A. J also noted that she reads my blog periodically. I felt a bit embarrassed at that revelation, in as much as I do bust out some salty language from time to time.
Oh, and she did confirm that she was always kinda short.
My step was certainly a bit lighter after I read that email. J, if you're reading this, thank you for giving me the opportunity to know moments like this:
Moments like this:
It's all good.