Category Archives: what openness looks like

The Reality of a Long Distance Relationship

In February of this year, Long Board and I began to rent a home “together.” It would be another four months before he considered the house his primary residence, but we were moving in that direction. From July 2009 to July 2011, we spent our weekends strategically negotiating between our cities. Living only 90 miles apart, this was doable. Not always easy, but most always doable.

With one long distance relationship over, I find myself in an even longer distance relationship. That’s of course my relationship with Dee and Cupcake. No mere handful of miles, this relationship spans a continent. Visits are not something to be planned lightly. Avid travelers, Long Board and I have quite the list of places that we’d like to go. To be honest, neither of us have Cupcake’s current state (either of the two where she might reside – I don’t really know for sure) in our top ten. Or top twenty. Top anything?

But that’s neither here nor there. Cupcake is there, which pushes the state up the list in my book.

However life is standing there, hands on hips, firmly in my way. There are only so many vacation days I get. (And with a job in events where there’s always another one around the corner, only so many that I can take at once!)  There is only so much money that we have – and with plans on the horizon to buy a house and build our family, savings is a priority.

Long distance relationships are enough of a challenge when both parties are active and enthusiastic…when one is lukewarm, I wonder what that means.

I’ve heard from Dee once since the move. No more, no less than usual. But a part of me thinks, out of sight, out of mind? What’s a realistic expectation regarding visits? I know it’s been hard enough to schedule a three hour get together, so what does a cross country trip take with regards to planning?

Will I have the anxiety I had the first time I left Long Board for an extended time? I knew we were to be apart at least 5 weeks and I lost it. The fear, worry, anxiety overwhelmed me. Yes, Dee and I have always had much more than five weeks between visits, and yes, I always know that as I’m leaving, but there’s a sliver of hope in me that says, In a moment of true need, it could be less time. I have every faith in the world that if I reached out and expressed my desire for a visit within a couple of months, we could discuss it – perhaps work something out. But now? We’re talking airfare, security checkpoints, baggage fees and expenses that I don’t have. I lose the peace of mind. The possibility that used to exist.

The strangest part of this is that I’m okay….sort of. I’ve made some sort of peace with it. I’m not the upset girl I was back in March when I felt blindsided. I’m looking on bright sides and being optimistic (and realistic at the same time). But I know that our relationship can’t be what I once thought it might become, for the sheer fact of distance (if not all the other potential factors). That’s okay. It really is.

I suppose I’m just figuring out how much I want that to be my “fault.”

Where do I draw the line in that sand about what responsibility I can take in this? How much do I budget/plan/adjust my plans for the future because of this change in our relationship? What can I put towards this LDR and what kind of risk am I ready to assume if the effort isn’t reciprocated?

It’s been nearly six months since our last visit….the six month itch it seems to be…the point where I start wondering about future visits.

I suppose I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row before I open it up to the rest of the flock 😉

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under all things adoption, deep thoughts with TG, what openness looks like

Open Adoption Roundtable #28!! Open Adoption: My Alternative Lifestyle

First of all, can I just say – TWENTY-EIGHT!?!?! I’m so happy that the Open Adoption Roundtable has stuck around and grown and become such an awesome resource! I’ve missed a few here and there (okay, a big-ish chunck around the low 20’s) but I so enjoy having them as a platform. I looked back at some of the oldies from my first blog and my pathetic number of contributions since I made the move. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go back and respond to some of the ones I missed….Also, I’m really hoping we do another interview one soon! I’d love to connect with another awesome blogger out there! 🙂

Anyway, back to the main event for the day.

Write Mind Open Heart posed the question she had received from her friend Joanne, which was then posted on Heather’s blog (Production Not Reproduction) and here we are!

So, without further adieu, here are the questions posed and my answers!

1.       Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?

Yep, pretty much!

I could elaborate on this, but I almost don’t think I need to. The answer is just YES.

2.       Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?

The open adoption that we have between me, Dee, and Cupcake is certainly a little unusual because I placed via California’s “Safe” Haven laws. In the beginning, all contact was through the case worker. I would receive phone calls from her letting me know if Dee had emailed her. Rather than forwarding me any emails/pictures, I would drive an hour and a half to her office to pick up grainy print-outs in order to “protect Dee’s anonymity.” (Of course, these communications could have been forwarded with Dee’s information removed with just a hint of effort on the part of the social worker, but me driving just made much more sense….where’s that darned sarcasm font when you need it???)

About eleven months in, Dee and Cupcake and I had our first visit, social worker in tow. Joy. (I was not in love with the social worker at this point). The social worker had actually already left the agency, but wanted to see this through to the introduction. Rather than work with someone completely different, Dee and I just agreed to maintain direct communication from that point forward.

3.       What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons?

I personally felt more disadvantages than advantages. I always felt like Dee and the SW were friends in a way, and that I was this outsider. Because of their relationship (maybe it was due to something else, but it felt tied to this), Dee was given MUCH more information about me than I ever knew about her or Cupcake. She knew what I wore when I brought Cupcake to the hospital, what I wore at visits, even what the SW guessed that I weighed! I felt…violated?

I would guess that Dee found comfort…a friend….someone to know what was “normal” in this process. And, of course, she got a “buffer” separating herself from me should something not go as planned.

Dee probably benefited, but looking back especially, I don’t think that I did.

4.       How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system?

No clue. My daughter was placed through a County Foster/Adoption agency, so I know they had a lot on their plate. I think that it wasn’t SO heavy in involvement because she really only had (chose?) to be involved on one side. I wasn’t counseled or anything. I actually asked about anything that they offered and they gave me a list of three places that might be able to provide something on a sliding fee scale. With no insurance and limited income, I had to pass.

The actual “involvement” that I saw was that she would contact us when emails/letters were sent/received, and forward when appropriate.

5.       Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?

I have no clue if there is a different price for adoptive parents, but I have never heard of anything like that….

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?

There’s the threat of big, bad, mediation. Supposedly you can even go to court and get a judge to mandate that you follow through (but I don’t know what happens if you don’t do it then – a fine? That goes where? No clue….)

I realize that it wouldn’t be fair to the child to say, “Break your promise and you have to give the child back!” BUT I think that the real recourse is kind of a joke. Adoptive parents often seem very afraid of legally binding agreements because of the potential recourse, but I don’t quite get it. The biggest deterred for them, I think, seems to be the fear of having to pay a lawyer’s fees should they be unfairly accused of not following through.

It seems that these contracts are also worded in a way that there is very little point. “Visits shall occur twice yearly unless it is deemed that it is not in the best interest of the child.” But what does that MEAN??? And if it’s the adoptive parents who are the final deciders of what “best interest of the child” means – what’s the point? How does that hold them accountable in the first place?

Having said that – there are some adoptive parents that are VERY committed to their open adoption agreements…to the point where I tend to believe that the folks that agree to agreements are often the folks that wouldn’t need them in the first place!

7.       What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?

Nothing I suppose?

But as a first parent I can say this: I had Dee’s address for nearly four years and I never once drove by. Never once considered it. Knew where she worked, where Cupcake went to day care, even where one of their favorite neighborhood restaurants was. I knew what parks they liked to play at. And I never stopped by, drove by, or visited one of those locations.

Partly – I’ll admit – because I’d look like a loony toon if I was caught!

But also, I didn’t see the point. I’m not going to turn stalker for a glimpse of my child. I’m not going to risk building our relationship on that. Not worth it, no way, no how.

As for just stopping by? The only place I stop by unannounced is my parents house less than a mile from my place because (a) they love it, and (b) that’s where I do my laundry! Anywhere else? My brothers’ house, my sisters’ house, a friend’s house? I’d never just stop by unannounced because it’s not appropriate. Double – nay, triple? – what’s more than quadruple??? – the level of inappropriateness in this situation!

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?

Hm…..not off the top of my head, and I’m sure someone else would have better information that I would, should I just go out a-huntin’.

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?

I feel that there are certainly people that don’t like the idea of open adoption….they cling to the “fact” that it would be terribly confusing for the children. There’s also one of my favorite arguments that it’s just “not fair” to “force” the child to build a relationship with this stranger (you know – the stranger that gave birth to them). Mind you, these same people are more than welcome to introduce their child to all kinds of other strangers. You know, the grandparents the child doesn’t know yet. The aunts and uncles that they haven’t met. But that’s different….they’re family. Arguably, a birth Mother would also be family, but that’s not always the definition used.

So yes, some are very opposed to open adoption.

But there are also amazing groups of people that advocate for open adoptions and I’ve learned so much from those women.

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

I think that there is no hard and fast answer to this question….if a child grows up just knowing their biological parents and not knowing any different, then they don’t have to make that decision. Like SO many other decisions in life, their parents made it for them. This is not unique in that scenario.

If children are not in open relationships with biological parents, I think it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. If a five year old is often asking questions, maybe it would be appropriate then. If it’s a young teen that wants contact, perhaps it’s time to find the best way to navigate that. Perhaps they want to wait until they’re an adult. That’s fine too. Reading the cues of the adoptee would be paramount in my opinion.

If my adult placed daughter wants to break off ties with me, I’d be devastated, but I’d respect her wishes. But if as a four year old she said she didn’t want to have a visit, I might think “tough cookies!” There are LOTS of things four year olds don’t necessarily want to do: go to school, come inside, take a nap, etc., but if it’s not going to harm them (and a visit with me isn’t harming, I promise!) then I think that it would be like visiting any other relative. (Now if the child clearly was actually having a long term negative reaction, I’d never force them into visiting.)

11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?

I’ve reached out here and there, but my most valuable information and relationships have come from blogs, forums and making the connections on my own. There wasn’t a support group available to me, so I had to create my own the best I could. And it’s been a great support system for me so far, and I appreciate everyone who has been a part of it.

You can check out the rest of the responses either via the Open Adoption Roundtable  or at Write Mind Open Heart. Enjoy!

Also – any other questions from someone not in an open adoption? Now taking requests! 🙂

3 Comments

Filed under all things adoption, deep thoughts with TG, me and Dee, open adoption roundtable, what openness looks like

Houston, We’ve Had Confusion

1n 1995, the move Apollo 13 brought the saying, “Houston, we have a problem” into our everyday lexicon. The only problem? The film created a now famous misquote.

It’s one that’s used over and over and over again in a million different scenarios. Car trouble. Work trouble. Relationship trouble. Where’d-that-darned-cat-go?-trouble!

But I prefer the original: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” In the original, the problem has already occurred, and now it’s time to fix it. To move forward. It’s semantics that probably don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, except that those words entered my head on the visit with Cupcake last February.

However, unlike with Apollo 13, I am so proud to report that our problem is one that was worked through.

During one of their discussions about adoption, the visit, and how I carried Cupcake in my tummy before Dee became her Mommy, Cupcake had some questions as four year olds often do. One of those questions was about me being Cupcake’s Mommy too. Specifically, she asked, “When is TG going to come be my Mommy that I live with?

At this point in the story, my ears perked. My antenna turned up. I froze not knowing what the next part of the story would be.

Was this Dee’s way of saying that contact is too confusing for Cupcake?

Are we going to be pumping the breaks?

Do visits with me stress Cupcake out in some way?

Is Cupcake afraid of this vision of the future?

My mind raced to a million different places before Dee could get the next words out.

I refocused and Dee continued by telling me how she explained to Cupcake that we’re both her Mom in different ways. I’m one Mommy, who carried her in my tummy and is very special because of that – so we visit with me and keep in touch and remember that we are very, very special friends. (Yes, I take issue with the “friends” bit a little, but today that seems nitpicky in light of this conversation!) Dee went on to explain how she is her everyday Mommy who she will always live with.

And that was that!

What most interested me in the telling of this story is that Cupcake didn’t ask this with fear or concern or anything. More with curiosity.

Furthermore, Dee didn’t react with fear or concern. She just explained the answer.

This wasn’t a giant red flag that open adoption is a catalyst for confusion and that we must shut it down immediately. This didn’t become some larger than life issue that plagued our visit or our communication. This wasn’t a cautionary tale that I needed to be wary of.

Basically, Dee didn’t let this be more than what it was: An honest question, from a curious child.

And for that, I give her a great deal of credit.

And so today I can sit here, happy that we didn’t get caught in a situation where we have confusion – something that’s ongoing, problematic, systemic. But rather that we’ve had confusion. Episodic. Momentary. Will it happen again? Probably. But I’m confident that once again we’ll deal with it and continue to move forward.

15 Comments

Filed under all things adoption, me and Dee, things that make you go wow, what openness looks like