Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to Handle Space in Adoption with Patience and Dignity

After agreeing to a closed adoption with our son's birthmother, we brought our little boy home, thrilled to be parents. I fully concede, I was very ignorant about many realities within the adoption community. I certainly didn't expect how much I would truly love a stranger who placed her child in my arms. Nor did I expect how often I would think about her, pray for her, wonder how she was doing, if she missed our son, how she was coping with her loss, and if she'd eventually want more contact. I prayed she would eventually; I pray that every single day of my life. That was almost seven years ago. Since then, we've learned much about adoption, parenting, and life. When we chose to adopt again, we both immediately knew we wanted a much, much more open adoption with frequent visits, phone calls, texts, emails, and a close family-type relationship with as many biological family members as possible. Our daughter was placed in our arms and we were thrilled to be welcomed into a beautiful, wonderful family.

Due to the three months we were matched with our daughter's family before she was born, we grew to love them very much. After placement, our relationship definitely changed. Emotions were raw, guilt, grief, and loss were being coped with by many of us, and it took a while for us to find our new normal. With time, we found our open adoption "sweet spot," the balance of communication and visits that was healthy and beneficial for both our family and our adoption family. Our focus in our relationship is healthy relations, which means, there have been times that some spaces has been needed for members of our adoption family to deal with trials, life changes, and strong emotions...that includes us, an adoptive family. When we moved from Idaho to Utah due to a company lay-off, unemployment, and new employment, naturally, our family needed a little space to get settled. There have also been times when LESS space and more love was called for and desperately needed. We continually communicate to know how and when times are healthy again. And because we are family; we love each other, care for each other, we support each other, and are concerned for each other. Knowing how to handle communication and space in an open adoption can be worrisome, especially when it is due to another loved one struggling. My first instinct is to swoop in, Mama Bear up (really, my maiden name is Bair), start fixing the person and situation, and leave only when everybody is healthy. Can't imagine that I'm a mother and a Registered Nurse, can you? However, that instinct can be polar opposite of truly helpful in some situations. So, I've needed to learn some ways to handle these times of separation, decreased visits and communication, and "break" with grace, love, and dignity.

1. Pray for them, constantly, frequently, and fervently. As a person of strong beliefs and faith, I believe this is the single most powerful action I can do for a member of my family, adoption or non-adoption family, when they are facing any sort of struggle or trial.

2. Respect boundaries. If you're not sure where the limits and boundaries are, ASK! If they ask for space, then give that space. There is no harm in asking for specific limits to know what would be helpful and healing and what could potentially cause more pain, harm, or grief. As we were grieving not having a relationship with my son's birthmother, a wise friend once counseled us this: "Our way of showing love TO HER is by respecting her wishes."

3. Be patient. As an RN, I love using wounds in analogies. Fresh wounds are raw, painful, can bleed, and are very sensitive. They are also prone to infection and a vast number of other complications if not treated properly before the healing process can continue. Wounds that heal poorly due to complications will always cause more pain further down the road, so allow for proper healing to take place. Understand that with time, the raw, fresh, bleeding, sensitive wound will stop bleeding, will scab over, the body will slowly begin to heal that wound from the inside out. That takes an undefined amount of time....each person heals differently. When the healing process is completed for this wound, the scar is nice and pink, and the pain, while often still present, is tolerable during daily living, normal activities can resume. Occasionally an activity might pull on that nice pink scar and cause acute pain again for a short while and some more healing might need to take place. But I'm awfully fond of scars. We call them badges of honor and courage in our home. Those scars come from deep pain that takes time to recover. So, just as if your struggling family member is recovering from a medical wound, allow them that time to heal however is best for them, and do it patiently.

4. Make sure the lines of communication are left open for them to use. That might entail leaving a message with an agency or lawyer with contact information, that might mean checking up with a friend in common to see how they are doing. That might even mean, if boundaries allow, sending a note to let them know you're thinking of them, love them, pray for them, and are here when they are ready for contact again.

5. Love and support them without pushing. Right after my husband was laid-off, we had a visit with our Livvie family. Of course, they knew what had happened. Right before they left, a card was slipped into my hands as I was enfolded in a large hug and then they slipped out. It was a simple card stating that they love us, knew that we'd been stressed and worried, and included a few pictures of all of us together. There was also a small gift card and an offer to give us a night out while they (or anybody) watched the children. It was thoughtful, unassuming, and exactly what we needed; showed love, support, and didn't feel pushy. To be fully honest, as an adoptive parent, promising stability and then being laid-off, I was terrified we had let them down, their thoughtful support was unimaginably relieving and healing. Right now, our daughter's birthmother is struggling and her entire family has asked for space. We don't know why, which is okay. We don't need to know specific details to love them. To let them know we're thinking of them even though it isn't healthy to have visits right now, we sent a small care package with photos, a hand drawn picture from our daughter, a note from us, and some goodies.

Sometimes, when our loved ones are struggling, it is so hard to just calm the tar down, put Mama bear back in her cage, think rationally, and act with dignity. Through experience, I've come to realize that when we allow ourselves to calm down, step back, look at the whole situation, and then search for the most healing approach, we are able to know what would be most helpful and what would be harmful to the situation and to the entire relationship with our children's biological families. Then, the greater question becomes: What can I do to promote healthy healing in the best way possible for them?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Grader!



Name: Andrew Justice

First Day of First Grade: August 19, 2014

Teacher: Miss Hahn

Favorite Color: Blue, Yellow, and Red

Favorite TV Show: Mickey Mouse Cartoons

Favorite Movie: Frozen and Epic

Favorite Breakfast: Cereal or Pancakes

Favorite Lunch: Ramen

Favorite Dinner: Spaghetti or Basagna

Favorite Book: Frozen (4th grade reader)

Favorite Letters: A. N. D. Y. (Mommy laughed hard)

Favorite Number: 100! It is the coolest of all the numbers!

Favorite People: Olivia, Daddy, Mommy, Grammy, Grampy, Baba, Bibi, and my cousins. I love everyone!

What do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor and a Daddy!

What else do you want to remember about today, Andy? I'm going to ALL DAY school! I'm excited for more than one recess and excited to show all my friends that I lost FOUR teeth over summer break. I'm excited to meet my new teacher and friends too. I get to start piano lessons next month and my first soccer game is THIS Saturday!

Last year's photo and questions.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tooth Fairies

Last August, Andy started kindergarten. Not even 2 months into school, one of his friends lost their first tooth and it quickly became a kindergarten trend for the cool kids. Lose a tooth, join the club! Peer pressure at its finest. Andy's two, top incisors were a little loose and wiggly, so for almost 2 entire weeks, and various times when a classmate would lose a tooth, he'd pray each night to lose a tooth. Then, his cousins began to lose teeth and he was just beside himself hoping to lose his teeth! He wiggled them. He ate crunchy foods. And nothing happened! As a parent, it was kind of hilarious to watch his obsession with losing teeth.

About 2 weeks ago, I noticed a bottom tooth had a little more wiggle than his top incisors. His focus immediately shifted to the bottom incisor, UNTIL it began to hurt when he ate. For 2 full days, his tooth was so lose he could have sneezed and it would have hit the wall across the room. I finally talked him into letting me feel how loose it was. Then, I finally talked him into letting me try to pull it out. It took two tries (first one, slippery tooth, second with a washrag) and it came right out! He was ecstatic; not even concerned about the mild blood! First tooth lost June 18th, 2014!
We promptly texted family and began prepping for a visit from the tooth fairy. He kept piling on more and more questions and requests for the tooth fairy, so I finally told him to just write a  note. With sheer exasperation, he looked at me and exclaimed, "MOM! I can't write a letter! I am just too excited! LOOK AT ME!." Point taken. Point to the kid.
This little boy has a heart of gold. He wanted to leave some tapioca pudding for the tooth fairy, just in case he was tired and hungry (his rationale: Teeth are so BIG for a little fairy to pack around all night. So are quarters. He probably gets hungry!). He also wanted to make sure the tooth fairy gave Olivia a kiss so she wouldn't feel left out. Heart. of. Gold.

The tooth fairy did, in deed, come and left some smoochy sparkles on Olivia's cheek, a WHOLE dollar in quarters (in a cute little envelope), a T.F. written letter, and ate his/her tapioca. According to Andy, he can't WAIT to lose ALL his teeth!

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