So, if you caught the last Add Water and Stir podcast, you know that I had a big breakthrough regarding Hope’s family recently. I made a conscious choice to drop the “bio” reference; they’re just “family” now. In dropping something, I hope to add something, though to be honest, I’m not sure what that something is yet.
After we received The Package with some really personal items, I couldn’t, in good conscious, continue to make this familial distinction. These folks are Hope’s family. And now as Hope is my daughter, I’m connected to them as well. As I kicked it around, it made the distinction of “bio” or other terms like “first family” or “birth family” or any of those kinds of terms seem intentionally separatist. So, I decided to just try to drop it.
I’m hoping that the rest of me follows along with this bold choice; is it even really all that bold really? I don’t know. Given my level of anxiety regarding Hope’s family, it certainly feels bold.
I’ve been thinking about my own family a lot lately, and how much I missed certain family members, including and especially my own grandparents. I want her to have access to lots of people who will just love on her; she needs the love. Her family can, hopefully, gently, cautiously, help give her the love she needs.
So, all this maturity ish that I’m working on led me to reach out to the family member who actually respected my wishes and laid low until I was ready to talk. She also happened to be one of the two family members Hope said she would like to have contact with in good time.
We talked this weekend, or rather, she did most of the talking this weekend.
It was an overwhelming rush of chatter. There were squeals, apologies for losing her, gratitude for adopting her, lengthy explanations about her view of what happened, promises to continue to lay low, wondering about how Hope will make contact, wondering whether Hope will make contact.
It was a lot. I tried to start sentences and would just get overwhelmed with words tumbling through the phone. I finally just kept quiet until it seemed like all the words fell to a trickle. In retrospect, I imagine she’s been waiting for this call, hoping for this call, had so much to say and potentially so little time to say it. She had to get it all in.
There were moments when my eyes welled as I learned tidbits of information that explained things or at least gave me some context. There were unfiltered moments that piqued my anxiety to hear about family discussions to try to fight me for Hope, discussions questioning why I was protective, why I wouldn’t just fling open the doors of our new life to them. There were moments when I felt so angry because she just kept using the polite euphemism, “well, you know she’s been through so much” to characterize Hope’s trauma. There were still other moments when I wonder whether she knows just how long the most traumatic episodes were or whether she was just in denial.
There were times when I wished I wasn’t Southern, but was glad that I am because I understood some of the traditional phrasings that said, “I know things were really effed up, but you know we don’t talk about that sort of thing.” The cultural touchstone pissed me off because I realize how much it mutes concrete discussions about effed up stuff. And Hope ain’t Southern; I wondered how pissed she would be because of this minimization of her lived experience. I was righteously pissed on her behalf.
And then I felt sad because I can only imagine what it must be to wonder what happened to your cousin/neice/daughter/sister/granddaughter when they were in the foster care system. My heart broke.
And even though I set up the call, I really wasn’t as sure what I wanted to say. I felt unsure and scared. I didn’t want the phone call to create a bunch of expectations of me or of Hope. So, when I finally spoke my normally loud voice was soft; I stammered because of nerves, I stumbled because I wasn’t always sure what words I wanted to us to get my point across.
This does not happen!! I make my living by largely talking. Not having words to articulate things…I don’t have the experience often. I was scared ish-less.
I had a couple of points to make: I wanted to see if Hope could have a healthy relationship with her family; I wanted to be clear about boundaries in any relationship and beyond boundaries, there were some complete and utter non-negotiables that we needed to consider moving forward with more contact.
I got a lot of “yeah, yeah, yeah’s” and “right, right, of course’s.” I want to believe her;I do.
But I’m not sure. I’m terrified that we’ll call and boundaries will get obliterated and lots of damage will be done. I’m scared, but I believe that I’m doing the right thing.
Sigh. Honestly, I’m exhausted by the call even a day later. I’m still trying to unpack it and tease through the complicated feelings so that I can be ok when I tell Hope that that door is now open.
Not sure what will happen next, but we’ll be moving forward. We wrestle with things that happened, but we still press forward. This is just another pit stop on our journey.