Or: Navigating the unchartered waters of adoption, the relationships that ensue, and the lack of definition within newfound family as I create a family of my own.
One thing that has been made repeatedly apparent to me as an adoptee who has been reunited with birth families is the lack of guidance or precedent available. What exactly is the relationship you have with your birthmom? Or birthdad? Is there such a thing as being too close, too open? When are you being too aloof and distant? How do you integrate whole new sets of family into a life you’ve been living for years? How do you integrate whole new sets of family into the sets you already have? Guess what! No one can answer these questions for you. And most days, even you can’t. Unfortunately, in the past ten years since meeting my birthparents, I am often only made aware of where the boundaries are when I cross them, or don’t come near enough. Basically, when I’ve somehow upset someone, or someone has upset me, in trying to figure this tangle all out.
For the most part, I have been much closer with my birthmom. As a child, envisioning being reunited, I always pictured meeting her. I guess part of that was encouraged by the fact that I knew there was interest in her meeting me too, thus, no fear of rejection. And maybe part of it was playing into the fairly biased stereotype that single women who put their children up for adoption due so in part because of the father being a deadbeat who doesn’t want to be part of the picture. Whatever the reasons, I would daydream about meeting her often – what she would look like, how she would react to seeing me for the first time, would we hug, laugh, cry, etc etc. Once we met we kept in close contact, and she has been extremely generous in sharing her life and her story with me. (At times, I feel too much so, but that is a whole other post….) We’ve gotten together countless times over the years, making day trips to visit one another, traveling to a common point for a girls’ weekend, even going overseas together, sharing an amazing trip to a land new to us both. Our interests run in a very similar vein, which has made it easy to bond over common interests such as theatre, books, and a continual quest for peace within one’s self. I often introduce her to others as my godmother, because we both find that to be a fitting description of the role she plays in my life.
This past spring, though, there was a bit of a meltdown, which led to a questioning of her role in my life. A questioning on her part, I might add, not mine. And this is just one of the many (MANY) sticky areas that comes with adoption, which is unique and different for every single person. I felt that our relationship was pretty stable. We talked on the phone with some regularity, emailed, wrote, and visited whenever our lives would permit. I am, admittedly, one of those people who gets easily distracted by the life in front of them, sometimes neglecting the lives of those they love that are physically farther away, for no other reason than I don’t see them on a regular basis and fall out of habit of keeping in contact. Lame, I know. Well, this had happened some with Birthmom. And when I dropped the news on her – over the phone, I might add – that she was going to a grandma….. well, things got quiet. And awkward. And ended up with her emailing me the next day, confessing feelings of confusion as to where she fits in my life, and the life of this child. Is she part of my family? Is she her own family, that I sort of belong to? Do we just flit in and out of each other’s lives? It was a tough email to read and process. And once again, questions with no answers.
The best I could and have come up with since that time is that yes, I absolutely see her as family. But how that is defined is completely fluid and ever-changing. And is something that we both need to reevaluate with some regularity to ensure that both our needs are being met. How we (my husband and I) are going to introduce our child to her is yet to be determined. What will she want to be called? What role does she see herself playing in this little monkey’s life? I don’t know, and I don’t think she does either. But we have both come to terms with letting such decisions breathe, keeping it open and loose, and letting what feels right inform us as we go. (I know, so hippie-dippie. But really, with so much of this, it’s about feeling things out….) Only time will really tell if this is a workable solution. And if not, we’ll regroup, try to think of what comes next, and proceed with caution as we continue to redefine this relationship. This amazing, wonderful, confusing, emotional, hard, sweet relationship.
A Man’s World
My relationship with my birthdad has been much more…. scarce. (As such, this section will be much shorter, and filled with many more unanswered questions.) He’s shown some interest, as have I, but we have both been hesitant over the years, tentative in our outreach. We’ve gotten together around holidays every year or so, and always enjoy our time together, but somehow that does not lead to more frequent contact. I know that he feels unsure of how to proceed, and I do too. And I’m ok with this casual relationship we’ve developed. For the most part. Most of the time. But in the times when I wish we had more, I’m uncertain of how to make that happen, of what that next step is. It’s so much harder with men. So much harder to read. Emotions don’t play into it nearly as much, and neither do outpourings of the heart, which leaves me a little lost and unsure. Not that I need outpourings, mind you, I really don’t. But without some sort of hint or indication that he wants more also, it’s hard to determine where we stand or if we wish to stand closer, and so we continue on, keeping each other at arm’s length.
He knows I’m pregnant, and has expressed heartfelt congratulations. And sometimes I think to myself “You’re going to be a granddad”, but I know that’s not really true. He’s not, cause I don’t think he sees himself as even a dad, or birthdad. Did he father a child? Yes. Does he care for said child very much? Yes. Has he ever reached out in a way that would indicate paternal instinct? No, not really. But then again, I don’t know him that well, so this whole post might be entirely unfair. It’ll be interesting to see how he interacts with the monkey. I am trying very hard to be better about keeping in touch with people, now that it’s not just me, but my family, and he is one of the people I am most hopeful about furthering our bond. As for what his role is? I could only guess at how he might answer that. I think he could only guess at an answer. And that’s ok. For the most part. Most of the time.
*No, I cannot help myself when it comes to a bad pun. Consider yourself warned.