Too often in our approach to the newborn we deal with him as if he is exactly that – "brand new". We neglect the fact that neonate is really the culmination of an amazing experience that has lasted forty weeks. ... By looking at the neonate as if he had "sprung full-blown from the brain of Zeus" we are missing the opportunities that the newborn's history as a fetus can provide.
– T. B. Brazelton
This is something I feel quite passionately about. It's the element of adoption that I think gets lost so many times (at least in infant adoption). A lot happens during those 40 weeks before our kids come to us. A lot that shapes who they are and how they feel about life.
Cherub 2 came to our family via adoption at birth. We know very little about his story as his first family didn't indicate that they wanted an open adoption. We didn't push for open adoption either. Knowing as little as we did about adoption, we just did what the social workers and lawyers told us to do.
What we were able to piece together about his birth story is this...
TT's birth parents were a young couple - ages 19 & 20. We have reason to believe that his mother kept the pregnancy a secret from her immediate family. (I believe this element of her pregnancy helped shaped a lot of TT's personality. I believe it is one reason he has such high anxiety.) During the summer before TT was born, a somewhat anonymous phone call was made to the social worker that ended up handling our adoption. The pregnant mother asked our social worker all kinds of questions about the Safe Haven laws of our state. Well after the fact, our social worker said she was pretty sure the caller was TT's first mom.
When TT's first mom went into labor she attempted to labor at home. Then, when the pain became too intense, she and TT's dad drove across the state lines to a hospital close to us. There she delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Both parents indicated that they wanted adoption for their son.
A social worker came to the hospital and explained the options. They had every legal right to take advantage of the Safe Haven law. However, this would mean that the baby would have to be made a Child In Need of Assistance. With a label like this, the adoption process would be long and drawn out. It would even hold the possibility of complications as they would have to go through a much more difficult process of terminating parental rights. The other option TT's first parents was given was to formally relinquish TT to the State and terminate his rights through a traditional adoption process.
We were told that TT's first family wanted to do what was best (and fastest) for their baby. We got the phone call about TT the next day. We were told that it was a foster to adopt situation. We rushed to the hospital to meet him and he came home with us as soon as they would release him (48 hours old). His parents signed termination paperwork there in the hospital. It was still a long drawn out process (I wasn't too thrilled with the efficiency of our lawyer) but TT joined our family legally just two days before his first birthday.
I started trying to "learn" about adoption when TT was about 2 years old. Up to that point, all I knew was that I wasn't going to lie about the adoption. It was going to be discussed. The first book I just happened to grab was Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. The book talked about how, even as an infant, these children experience extreme loss. I remember thinking some of the book seemed a little "out there". But I read it from cover to cover and kept it close. I knew it was a book I would want to read several more times.
As I watched my incredibly beautiful son grow, I saw elements of his personality unfold. Almost once a year I go back to read that book. I need to remind myself that despite his smiles and giggles, he has suffered the most primal wound possible. He lost his first family. (Speaking of, Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier is another good book about adoption loss.) The more I watch my son grow, the less "out there" I think the books are. My kid is happy. My kid is attached. But my kid has a wound that will never make sense.
His first family loved him so much they let him go.
They had their reasons. And I can't imagine my life without Cherub 2. I just can't. I'm grateful that his first family chose life and that we get to be a part of it. But can YOU wrap your brain around someone loving you so much they left you?! It makes sense that many, many adopted kids have attachment issues. Abandonment fears.
Fast forward to us doing foster care.
TT has had the most difficult time with us doing foster care out of our three kids. As each child enters our home he wrestles with his own demons.
One night, at supper, out of the blue, he mumbled, "Oh, I've got a big feeling. But. Oh. I'll talk about it later."
I gave him the OK to talk about it right then and there.
He mustered up the courage and then said, "How can they...at the visits...just act like nothing happened?"
TT has gone with me several times when I have to drop Pumpkin off at CPS for her family visits. He can't make sense of the process. I explained that I'm sure Pumpkin's mom is very sad for the things she did. But it doesn't do her any good to be sad all the time. Eventually people have to accept things the way they are.
Imagine the rest of his thoughts though...
Does my mom feel sad about leaving me? Does my mom miss me?
We discuss these feelings with him when he wants. But I don't have the answers.
Wednesday evening this week we welcomed two beautiful cherubs into our home for respite care. The two year old little boy (Peanut) was quite upset when his foster family left. He cried and cried and cried. He kept asking for "ya ya". I asked his sister who Ya Ya was and she said it was his mom.
TT couldn't leave Peanut's side. The amount of compassion coming from TT was astounding. He felt so bad for the little guy. Then his own eyes welled up.
I went out on a limb. I don't want to make TT feel bad for reasons that aren't authentic to him. But everything I've read in "the books" tells me that I have to create opportunities for TT to discuss his adoption. He has to know that I'm OK with it.
I asked TT if he remembered missing his mom when he was a baby.
He's seven years old. I'm sure he doesn't "really" remember the intimate details of his birth. But that wound...he feels that wound.
He melted all over me and said yes. He remembers missing his mom.
I hugged him. I let him know that it's OK. I made sure he knew he could talk about anything he wanted to. This time around a quick cry was all he needed/wanted. Then he bottled it all back up so he could help tend to Peanut. He was still so worried about Peanut. Sometimes I wish he'd talk about it in greater detail. Allow himself to fully feel those emotions that hurt him so deeply. I'm not a fan of how he bottles it back up so quickly. But I can't force anything.
I've got no profound way to end this post. It was just a story I thought needed to be shared. We'll keep giving TT opportunities to discuss his adoption. And with us fostering, I'm sure there will be plenty.