~ Sigh ~ A Cry for Help

So, we’re at after-church lunch yesterday with my mom, dad, grandma, sister and her kids (and of course the Woob).  We’re sitting at the Bob Evans at a long line of tables where its impossible for people at one end to hear what’s going on with the folks down at the other end. I’m trying to make some in-roads with family a little at a time regarding openness in adoption–more about that at another time–and I take my moments when I can get them.  I’ve spoken to my grandma a few times about Woob’s mom and family and how I really want him to know her.  Nothing too deep, but just throwing it out there.  In those conversations, she seems to “get it.”  So I took that moment at the restaurant to pull out a few of the pictures N. sent of herself and share with her.  Woob really does look so much like her (they are both beautiful).  So we were looking and commenting, and my 9 year old nephew starts to look, too. 

B: “Who’s that?”

Me:  “The Woobie’s mama.”

B:  “So if she’s is real mom, does that make you his step-mom?”

Me:  “No, we’re both his real moms.”

B:  (silent for a moment, processing that thought) “I’m confused.”


So from that short conversation, one I hadn’t really planned for, and didn’t know how to proceed with (I basically froze), I’m pretty frustrated and disgusted with myself.  If I can’t find the words to explain it to an uninvolved 9 year old, how in the WORLD am I gonna explain it to my baby boy from now on?  How am I going to make those in-roads with my family to help them understand?  Because that’s the exact thing they all believe about openness in adoption:  that it’ll cause confusion.  I am determined not to prove them right.

As always, I will be looking to you guys out there who have gone before me for help in this process. 



Filed under adoption, birthparents

7 responses to “~ Sigh ~ A Cry for Help

  1. With children who aren’t living the life, clarification is often needed. While it’s amazing that you call woob’s (birth) mom just simply “mom,” it would be confusing to a child who has no clue what open adoption (or quite possibly, adoption in general) entails. “I’m confused,” could have been followed with, “It’s not too confusing when you think about it. N gave birth to Woob and made the decision to place the baby in our home to raise. While I’m Woob’s everyday mama, you can’t simply erase who N was and is to the Woob. I can answer more questions if you have some.” Children are resilient and accepting but they also need explanation beyond what we’d expect adults to simply accept without question.


  2. Oh, Em. It is so hard, isn’t it? When we have the time to think about it, the time to write about it in our own way, things make more sense. When all of a sudden it’s right in front of us, when we’re about to order pancakes with loved ones we really want to “get” the importance of our openness in adoption stance, well, it’s easy — human, really, to be blindsided.

    I know it’s easier for me to say because I’m all the way over here and you’re all the way over there at a table in Bob Evans, but this could really be a good thing, right? I mean — it’s a test run, if you will. For me, I’d try to remember the exact moments of not knowing what to say to my nephew and pick up the conversation again, alone. Just answer it best you can, right there, to yourself. Every time you do, it gets easier.
    My six-year-old nephew, whose mom (my sister) has explained adoption to him numerous times since Maeve came into our lives, seems to understand and then — suddenly, he has a question. It’s classic, I think — they can only understand so much, and later, as they get older, they replay the explanation they’ve been hearing and are able to grasp more — so the questions come back. A month or so ago, he and I were in Target with Maeve and my sister, and out of the blue he asked me about Maeve’s “real mom.” I froze. I wasn’t prepared for that. In my mind, I guess I always pictured such conversations (whether with him or Maeve) nestled together on the couch or while tucking them in to bed — not in an aisle of Target. So I breathed deeply and as simply as I could told him that 1) I am her mom and (in response to his specific question), she will grow up living with me, Aunt Gigi, but that 2) she also had another real mom who loved her too. That she just couldn’t take care of Maeve and she carefully picked Uncle Tom and Aunt Gigi to also be her parents. And, boy, I said to him, isn’t Maeve so lucky to have so many people who love her? It gave him more to chew on. I let it sit a moment or two, and then when I had his attention again I told him how I had photos of Maeve’s other mommy and would he like to see them? I explained they were taken when we visited in a park one day. He did want to see them. And frankly, by the time we got back to my house, his six-year-old energetic self wasn’t thinking about it anymore. And I could have let it go. But instead I asked him if he still wanted to see the photos of Maeve’s other mom. And he did. And he looked and was quiet and took it in. And then I told him that anytime he wants to know more, just ask me.

    In those moments when he asked questions like “Will Maeve have to leave us to go live with her real mom?” I admit, I was blindsided. But in a very quick moment, I looked at it as a challenge — and a dry run, ya know? Because, although it’s very, very important to me that he fully understand and respect the situation, the most important questions I’ll need to answer will be Maeve’s. So I try to be thankful for the little zingers from random folks or unexpected questions from loved ones — it’s all preparing me for the important talks to come.

    Most important here, don’t be disgusted or upset with yourself. You’re in a situation only truly understood by others in it — and it’s all very human and full of errors and should haves and such.

    I also have difficulties explaining it to certain family members. I try — and it’s not always easy, especially when you desperately want them to be on board — to tell myself that they love me, they love Maeve, and I’m going to just state it as-is and trust they will go with it and, hopefully, as time passes and the lack of confusion bears out, they will see and understand. Early on I had a eureka moment — I discovered that when I was wishy-washy or gave tidbits rather than just stating what my heart felt, then my message was actually lost because people (even loved ones) who don’t quite understand the openness idea, will read what they want (innocently enough) into what we say or don’t say. When I was not completely upfront about what I believe to be absolutely best for Maeve, then they could use those little “cracks” or “loopholes” in my words to interpret. So now, in a very loving but firm way, and never meant to scare someone or sound “radical” for the sake of being radical, I state it as fact. Because it is fact. It’s my fact. I simply let them know that I believe it’s best for Maeve. I try to boil it down to this: That ALL children who are adopted WILL have questions, period. That’s a given. (And most of these people would agree with this.) So, I say, why not give them answers? Answers inevitably are better than questions. And when I state it, it’s just as fact, period. They don’t have to have a moment of revelation and hear harps and hug me. But, if I know they at least hear me, then I’m happy. I have to be. For some it’s a step at a time. But I let the step be on their part — not mine by doling out info. I just give them the total deal and let them work it out in their minds. And from there, I have to have faith in their love for Maeve and me — no one’s going to turn their backs on us. So as long as I’ve been true to Maeve and her birth mom and myself, etc. — then ultimately, they can’t fault me. As time passes and openness finds success, those who now express doubts about openness and even tell me there will be problems in the future because her birth mom will interfere when she doesn’t agree with our parenting will have to process their own viewpoints and make sense of that inequity. And I try to also share — even a tidbit — a gentle moment or few words or look on her face with them. It’s like I need to remind them that Maeve’s birth mom is a human being with a heart and soul and feelings and loss like anyone else. I want them to try to see that and, if they love Maeve enough, maybe they can see past being afraid and instead want the best for her other mother too. Because they love Maeve that much.

    Sometimes, in my weakest moments, I remember the voices of skepticism and (nicely) use them as motivation to remain committed for the long haul — in a sense, to prove them wrong. It’s not about them, of course, it’s about Maeve. But I try to use the naysayers to our advantage, not disadvantage.

    Just keep on keeping on, Em. Every time you do share your feelings on this with family, you’ve moved forward, progress is made.

    Yikes. This the loooongest comment ever. Sorry. But I just went with what was in my gut, so I don’t want to cut anything out. 🙂 Maybe some of this should make its way over to musings:mamahood&more as an actual coherent post? Hmmmmm … — gretchen, aka mamagigi

  3. Wow, guys, thanks for so much to think about. And, yes, Gretchen, you’re right…It all makes great sense and its easy to think about and conceptualize here on my nice safe laptop. And yes, I plan to “practice” a lot, both with others and with Woob while he’s still a litle toot. It is a daunting task. I’ll keep you all up to date as things go on.

    Thanks again!

  4. Pingback: Passing adoption's pop quiz « musings:mamahood&more

  5. My son was seven when we brought Madison home so we had his questions, (which were pretty easy to answer because he was privy to many of our discussions and so already knew a lot) but also his friends questions. Then Jessica (Madison’s first mom) has a little sister who’s a year younger than my son and the first time she visited she was really confused, too. All in all, we’ve gotten a lot of practice and boy do I remember the time Noah’s friend said, “But why didn’t her real mother WANT her???” Yikes. My stomach flew into my mouth and I just stood there for a minute before I recovered. But it gets easier with practice, it really does. My problem is not OVER-explaining (not just with adoption, with EVERYTHING!). Short and sweet and staying open to more questions — that’s what I’m working on!

  6. The thing to remember when kids ask us those questions that throw us off our rocker, is that to them it’s just a question. Kids are always trying to make sense of the world, and the great thing is – that they’re just looking for facts, they’re NOT making judgements. The reason we, as adults, get thrown by these questions is because we have a tendency to let our mind race with the judgements and negativity. Kids don’t. They just want to know. I’m a birthmother, and I’ve also had to explain to the children I have now why their big brother lives with another family. But I’m also lucky enough to have almost 20 experience in child care and that taught me that kids will only ask for what they need in a subject and they only want to understand it – not judge it. So, when my 6 yr old daughter says, “Who’s that?” I say “Your brother Joe.” And nothing more until she asks more. Slowly, the questions come and she pieces it together. I’m author of the book, “Because I Loved You” and the cover is a photo of Joe and I. This past Christmas he was visiting us and my daughter ran to her room and grabbed her copy of the book, brought it down and propped it up on the coffee table in front of Joe – looking back and forth between him and the book! After a few minutes she pulled on my sleeve and whispered, “that boy there is Joe!” I said yes, he was. She climbed up on the couch next to him with a big satisfied grin and began chatting with him about how she likes to color. Later when I put her to bed she said, “you know that thing you told me about Joe?” I didn’t know what she meant. “You know,” she said, “the thing about him being my brother.” “Yes,” I said. “Well, it’s okay with me,” she said and laid down with a smile on her face. The point of my long story (sorry, it’s the second one you’ve gotten!) is that we shouldn’t try and guess what it is kids understand or think about our answers, just answer their question and they’ll fiqure it out. When your nephew said he was confused, all you need to do is to ask him, “do you have another question about it, I’d be happy to answer it.” Don’t ever think you need to plan ahead for answers – just keep them simple and truthful, that’s all anyone really needs.

  7. Good post! I am also watching the comments and taking notes.

    We will probably just call her by her name and sometimes use the term birthmom. My friend placed her child in highschool and still has a very open adoption with the adoptive parents. They call her Lu and so does her son. But they also will talk about her being his birthmom. Anyway, Lu gets colorings and cards from him and they are always addressed “to Lu, love M”. She is completely happy with that set up.

    There are some great children’s books out there that help explain adoption to kids as well…

    Good luck!


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