Tag Archives: Adoption and Bio Families

Ten Things on Wednesday: 5/12/2021

  1. Mother’s Day was nice and quiet. My sister took me and Hope to brunch on Saturday. I set up my new treadmill. Hope could barely contain her excitement and ended up giving me her gift on Saturday. I was really shocked at what she got me–this wonderfully sleek backpack for traveling. I had seen it on Instagram and commented that it was cool and would be great on my travels. I immediately talked myself out of buying it. Well, Hope bought it for me. It was incredibly thoughtful.
  2. But it was the short letter she wrote me. In the last couple of years, Hope has taken to writing me letters as a part of the gift. They are the best part of the gift. It was a wonderful salve to my soul after this last year. I’ve worked hard to be a good mom during one of the most traumatic events we’ve gone through together. She thinks I did ok and loves me. For real, I’m good.
  3. Oh yeah, the treadmill is nice. Super thin, quiet and it makes me happy. I’m back to taking about 5-10 minutes of each work hour to hop on the treadmill. This weekend, I’m rearranging the desk again so that it’s easier to slide it under my desk when I want to stand. I liked it so much that I did talk myself into getting a new Fitbit; the battery life on my old one was fading daily. It was time. Now I got all this sexy fitness technology.
  4. I’m modestly trying to scale back some of my eating. I’m swapping things out things, a protein shake here, a breakfast sandwich there, 2 cookies instead of a big slice of cake. Hey, the cookies are…special. Made them myself with some freshly infused butter. Fun times.
  5. I’m starting to count down the days until my trip to the beach to see family. I miss my niece and nephews loads; it’s been hard connecting with my niece. She’ll be two in a couple of weeks and I’ve only seen her in person twice in her whole little life. She recognizes me on video, but I’m anxious to see will she recognize me in person.
  6. Even though I’m ready to take that trip, I apparently am not ready to take a real vacation. I thought I had very well decided to move forward with booking a trip for me and Hope to the Caribbean. I want to go to the DR, and I’m also interested in starting to look properties. I want a small cottage on the beach as a part-time retirement home. I gave it a lot of thought and concluded that I was ready. Somehow though, I have not reached out to my travel agent. I lost a ton of money tied up in booked vacations last year, so I’m over planning things myself moving forward. I need someone else to fight those battles. Anyway, several weeks have passed and this week I had to face the fact that while it’s easy to say it’s not intentional–I get excited about booking trips, discussing options, looking at AirBnBs; booking airport transfers. For me not to have any effort to get started planning is making me do some reflecting.
  7. I’m realizing I’m not ready for outside to open yet. As much as I miss people, home really has become this uber safe place. Outside is still gross and germy and I’m not sure how much of that I’m willing to absorb yet. I’ve told my boss I have zero interest in traveling until 2022. I just feel like I’m not willing to take that risk for work. I might be willing to take the risk for my own enjoyment, but not for work yet. I intend to wear a mask indefinitely. I still have a healthy stash of hand sanitizer. I don’t think I”m planning because I’m just not ready, even if I really want to be.
  8. Hope got a job at Target. I anticipate that she will start in a week or two. I know that this will be a really good thing for her, and for me.
  9. Low key, I’m starting to looking at a 2nd car. I”m not in a rush; I’ve told Hope some of the things I need to see out of her before I am ready to make a purchase. One of those things is a down payment and insurance saved up. We’ll see!
  10. I spent a chunk of time thinking about Hope’s biological mom on Mother’s Day. It’s not new, but this year I just wished she had been here for Hope. I think the last year, Hope would have really benefited from that connection. I actually think of her often and how proud she should be of her daughter. I hope one day they will find one another on their own terms.

We’re Ok

Last week, when Hope exhibited some COVID-19 symptoms I had a complex moment of panic. Naturally I worried and ran through all of the possibilities that a parent goes through, fretted about how she caught it from me and praying that she would be ok.

I also thought about Hope’s family.

Her birth family.

And then I really spun out.

Should I tell them she might be sick? Should I tell them I was sick? What if she got really sick? Of course I would tell them; they should know.

Would they blame me? Gosh, they should blame me. I should’ve tried harder at really quarantining within the house. I should’ve stayed in my room and rode it out.

OMG, what if Hope endured all she did only for her mother by adoption to give her a deadly virus?

I took her temperature again and went back to my room to gather myself because I was falling apart.

I’d already struggled with being sick myself, causing Hope, my family and friends who knew a lot of worry. I felt stupid for catching it and terrified that I might die and leave Hope.

I’ve had a lot of really big feelings this last month.

When Hope showed some symptoms, I called my primary care doctor’s office and demanded that we be tested. I needed to know whether Hope had it. At that point, my doctor was convinced I had it, and with that we all kind of assumed Hope would have it as well. But I was three weeks into being sick; how come Hope’s symptoms fell out of the ‘two week’ window?

Well, we finally were tested late last week.



My doctor called after we got the news from the clinic to discuss it. He’s still convinced that I had it and that Hope probably did as well. He thinks she was largely asymptomatic, and when the symptoms did emerge it was the virus’ last lap.

Essentially, if we had been tested the first or second week of my own illness, our results might’ve been different.

In any case, the hard core lockdown is over and we are back to regular “stay at home.”

Hope through this remained largely unfazed. She asked if she could still do some of the weekly errands. She also wanted to be sure that we would keep our recently developed habit of having chai tea lattes in the morning.

Having tea together is our new bonding time. She will drink coffee, but isn’t the biggest fan so earlier this month on a whim I made her a chai latte. She fell in love. Some days I don’t even see her unless we are having tea because she’s hold up in her room and I’m tied to my laptop.

I did tell Hope’s family this week. We are family, and I wanted them to know how she’s doing…how we are doing. I also wanted to be sure they were ok and to encourage them to stay put if possible. This virus is no joke. Hope had very little closure when she lost one of her parents and these days you can barely have a funeral–I can’t bear to think of Hope having to go through something like that again due to COVID-19.

So, that’s it. We’re ok. I’m still recovering, but feeling more like myself each day! Thanks for your kind words and support over the last few posts. I really appreciate it!

More Thoughts on Holidays and Adoption

While laying on my parents’ couch earlier today, I was listening to Hope tell me some random story about something or other. I was only half listening, scrolling through my Instagram feed.

I suddenly stopped and interrupted her.

“Do you want to call your grandmother today?”

Hope was mid-sentence and her voice just trailed off. She just looked at me. I wasn’t looking at her, but I could feel her staring at me. I finally looked over at her.

“There isn’t a right answer, you know that right? Whatever you feel or decide is cool. I just…felt like I should ask. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”

About two minutes of silence passed; one of my sisters was sitting in a chair in the room with us. As those seconds continued to pass, it kind of felt like we were all holding her breath.

“Ok,” I said, and resumed scrolling through Instagram.

Hope never responded; instead she picked up where she left off with the story she was previously telling me.

I mailed Hope’s grandmother a framed copy of her senior ROTC portrait and a letter. I wrote that I know she would rather hear directly from Hope, but that for whatever reason it was left to me to provide updates.

As the months stretch into what will soon be two years since Hope had direct contact, I find myself wondering how things will play out for Hope and her biological family. In moments like today, I feel like I can genuinely feel Hope’s and her family’s pain in this rift. I think about how I talk to a member of my immediate family nearly daily, and how gleeful my parents seem on those occasions when I am able to drive down to visit them. I think about how it must feel to not have those feelings, or those expectations or any of that. It is honestly hard for me to conceptualize, and I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am since the absence of all of that is experienced by many people throughout their lives and especially during the holiday season.

While I do not badger Hope about connection, I do try to bring it up during times that seem appropriate or advantageous. I make myself available to all parties to facilitate contact. I work out the logistics for possible phone calls, letters, social media interactions, whatever. One of the college’s Hope has applied to is about 50 miles away from her biological family; I’m planning a campus visit for us next month. My offer to set up a visit while we’re close by was again me with chilly silence. I’ve learned to just leave those responses there. Ultimately, I do not believe I can or should force Hope to have contact that she doesn’t want. I do not want her to engage in things she feels are unhealthy for her. Her feelings and well-being are paramount.

And yet, my heart strings wish desperately there was something I could do to help them bridge this gap.

I’m glad that I have provided Hope a beautiful extended family. I chuckled to see her and her cousins holed up in a funky teenager room (why do they smell so bad???), shooting the breeze, playing video games, talking trash and making plans to hang out together tomorrow. I smiled inwardly as I grimaced outwardly when I had to tell her “let’s go” for the 6th time because she really didn’t want to come with me to check into the beach hotel. I’m glad she has this family.

But she does have more family; she just doesn’t know if she wants them, if they fit, if she can have a good, healthy relationship with them. And there’s lots of legit reasons to ask so many questions why. I respect my daughter’s inclination for sell-preservation. But it still hurts to watch from the sidelines. But as Hope slides into her 18 year, that’s my position on all of this—the sidelines.

So I will continue to point out or provide opportunities and follow her lead. Somehow, it will work out, right?

Adoption & the Holidays

This was my and Hope’s 5th Thanksgiving holiday together, and each year I learn a little something new about my daughter and about family in general.

My family is close, really close. We joke; we laugh; we eat. We are comfortable. Spouses and significant others adapt and adjust and eventually the seams that connect them to the family fade away. New children are born, and families are blended. We are family.

Hope is family, but adopted at 12 and only having 5 years and a bunch of baggage, her seams of connection are still visible. Add to the fact that she a 17-year-old who is physically attached to her phone and the connection is hard to honestly assess.

Hope is a bit caught in between families: there’s the family of her birth and the family she joined. I often find myself wondering how her first family feels during times like this. Do they think about her? Are they waiting for her call? Are they afraid to call her?

Of course, I also wonder how Hope feels.  Does she think of them? Does she miss them? Would she like to be with them for holidays? What does she remember?

As my family has grown, Hope and I have moved from staying at my parents’ home to staying in a hotel. Hope usually loves staying in hotels, and she’s certainly enjoying staying in one over the holidays. She does love staying in my old room more; she will say that she gets the best sleep of her life there. She’s not lying; I get the best sleep of my life in that room as well. At any rate, at some point in the late evening, we make the journey to retire to our hotel digs.

As we headed downtown, I hesitated to ask my daughter if she wanted to reach out to the other side of our family. I managed to get it out. I kept repeating no pressure, no pressure. I said, there’s no right answer. I just wanted to bring it up.

We rode in silence for a mile. It was awkward and painful. There was so much unsaid because there just aren’t enough words to articulate all the feelings. I wished I could take the painful parts away.

I can’t.

I finally said, Hey, never mind, I shouldn’t have brought it up. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. She said it was ok. It didn’t feel like it was ok.

There was so much left unsaid; I didn’t know what to say.

From a parenting perspective, I often wonder what the right thing to do is. I never want to force Hope to be in relationships she doesn’t want to be in. She is my priority. But I can’t deny feeling obligated to repeatedly raise the issue so that Hope knows I support her being in reunion if that’s what she wants.

I also know that the time is coming, or may already be here, where I just need to step aside and let it be, to just support whatever engagement or none she wants. I’ve been very transparent with her family about how she’s doing and that she’s in charge of the connections. Most have been very accepting, but I hear the pain in their voices. I get it. I so get it.

We’ll send cards and a few gifts over the next couple of weeks. We do enjoy that; there’s some joy that happens when we think of sending gifts to our family.

I think about it a lot about adoption and the emotions that surround it a lot during time of year. It tinges the season with a bit of sadness for all of us, I think.

We Are Family

I grew up in a very traditional nuclear family. So did my parents. So did my grandparents. And so on, and so on. I remember thinking nothing of it.

Today all the folks we consider kinfolk has expanded dramatically. Adoption, marriage, babies, step kids…I often joke that we have duct taped and stapled folks to our family tree.

And that’s a good thing for all of us.

Over spring break we visited Hope’s side of the family. Previous visits were short,this one had us in the area for 3 days. It was worth all the driving and all the angst.

I’ve always known this but I see and know it more than ever now: There is something about being with your people that is incredibly powerful. Nature means folks look like you and sound like you, act like you. Hope’s biological relationship with her kinfolk is undeniable; she looks just like them.

We learned a lot about Hope’s family on this trip. I better understand why kinship adoption wasn’t the best fit and how that truth has nothing to do with love. I wish that things had been different for Hope and for them, but we can only look forward. On this trip I learned what it feels like to also be grafted into a family tree. I imagine that this isn’t quite what Hope felt, but maybe something along a parallel track.

This is the family visit when it all came together.

Well it did for me anyway. I think Hope is still trying to figure it all out. For us adults, we have life skills and emotional intelligence to make this work more easily. I see their love for my daughter; they see my love for their daughter. There doesn’t need to be any drama; we are a family and we’ll do what we have to in order to make it work for Hope because that’s what sensible grown folks do.

Hope still has some work to do in this area. She has quickly become territorial about aspects of the experience and even the chocolate cake her grandmother made because she knows I love cake. Hope isn’t a big fan of cake. It will likely go uneaten because I decided to just let it be her cake, which I know she will not eat (more on the cake in a separate post).

It is a strange thing for all the adults in a room brought together by the love of a child to get it together only to watch the child struggle.

My daughter was frustrated by the family desire to talk about her parents; she quietly complained that she didn’t want to talk about them unless they came up in conversation, but they did, a lot. My inner monologue also was running and said, “Well why the hell are we here if not to be around your family who will no doubt talk a lot about your parents???” I knew better than to ask that question out loud.

I relished in getting pictures of my daughter as a little girl with her parents, while she alternated between balking and sobbing at the imagery and demanding copies of everything. Mid-trip we talked about what it felt like to sit up at night and intensely study the pictures looking for resemblance and connection.

While I’m happy to have taken this trip, now that we are home I’m realizing the real emotional cost. It is hurts to know that my daughter doesn’t understand that there is enough love and loyalty to go around. There will be more questions, there will be more trips. I feel grafted into the family, but I’ve still got lots of questions and curiosity from my own biological family about “them.” If history is predictive, there will be big emotions. There will be clingyness. There will be pulling away. There will be anger. There will be just a lot of stuff. It exhausts me thinking about it.

But I would do it again. How could I deny Hope her family? How in good conscious could I do that? My emotional output is minimal compared to the opportunity to reconnect with family. To see her family delight in seeing her again, getting reacquainted, to have the chance to share childhood stories of her lost parent, to see themselves in her…it is a beautiful thing to witness.  This isn’t just for Hope; it’s for all of them.

We’ll visit again and again. I look forward to inviting them to visit, to graduations, to a wedding, to birthday parties and other events.

We are family.

ABM & DAI – The Sequel

ETA: Apparently the link to this piece on the DAI site is no more. I’ve decided to post the original here! Enjoy!

Hope and I are alike but we are also very different.

We are both black. We both have families from the Southeast of the U.S. We both love music but completely different genres. We both are talented but in very different ways. We both wear our hair naturally —  in its kinky, coily state. And that’s about it.

Most folks who come into contact with us assume that I birthed her; after all, we are a same-race adoptive family. Folks assume that because I’m educated, then Hope must love school and do well in school. She hates it. Folks assume that Hope is a young, social justice militant like her mom. She’s not. Folks assume that Hope is and always has been comfortable with being in a middle-class home. She’s not but she’s trying to be.

It’s these differences that spark a bit of conflict in our lives. To sort of quote the late author Bebe Moore Campbell, Hope’s black ain’t like mine. When Hope was placed with me at the age of 12 (she’s now 15), we struggled with many things in the early months. After the difficult adjustment episodes passed, we began to realize that our concept of what it meant to be “black” was vastly different.

I grew up in a stable home with both parents who valued education. My mom stayed home with my siblings and I until we were all in school. We took road trip vacations. My father worked overtime to make it all work. Things were tight but never unstable.

Hope never knew that kind of stability, and she didn’t know many if any, black folks who did. For her, blackness was associated with class — poverty, some homelessness and just getting back economically. She did take a few trips to visit grandparents and extended family in her early years but that was about it. She attached those experiences with being black rather than being poor so her concept of blackness was much narrower than mine. She was happy to be parented by someone who shared her skin color but our experiences were so vastly different that shared color was undermined by class difference. During our first year, she told me it was like I wasn’t even black.

Yeah, she snatched my black card.

Shortly after our adoption was finalized, Hope’s extended birth family found us. We embarked on a relationship with them. Hope began to tell me stories of her early childhood visiting her family and the things they used to do. It was something real and tangible, and it wasn’t just a familiar family lens that Hope viewed these memories through. These were her people and they were a version of black she could relate to.

Only it was different now. Hope had traveled a little. She had a passport. She was seeing a bigger broader world. Hope was solidly middle class and she was learning to lean into her economic privilege.

By the time we went to visit Hope’s family, awkwardness settled in. The rush of emotions was overwhelming — grief, joy, happy memories, sad memories, and anger.  It was a lot to process so the conflict between race and class wasn’t initially clear.

But on the long drive home, it certainly became a point of discussion. Hope shared her observations. Our families were very different but also very similar — supportive, loving and encouraging with mutual core values. But we lived differently. Hope was proud of the things we’re able to do but she questioned if her birth family could do those things too. She questioned her grandmother’s living situation. She wondered what life would have been like if she had experienced a kinship adoption.

She tried to reconcile this race/class thing. It was hard for her; it still is several years later. I kept saying that black folks come from all walks of life; there are still some shared experiences, but yeah, this class thing can make race look and maybe feel different.

Our relationship with Hope’s birth family is awkward. Some of our early “grown folks” conversations about Hope explored fighting the finalized adoption and who would have access. I was sympathetic but I was also clear. I welcomed a relationship, but given Hope’s history with her family of origin, I would bury them in court. I’m somewhat shamed by that threat now. Privilege allowed me to make it. Looking back, I now feel like a snobby jerk.

Transracial families aren’t the only ones who may have to struggle with issues of race. Because class issues can overlap race and racial identity so much, those of us in same-race adoptions may also struggle with healthy racial identity development when our children move from one social class to another.

Hope is at an age where she’s trying to create her own identity. She also chooses to align herself and her friendships with all non-black peers. Certainly, there may be a lot of reasons for that, but the class conflict and how that shapes the way Hope sees herself plays a big role in her relationships, including and especially those with her birth family.

Class and privilege shape as much of Hope and my relationship with her birth family as any of the biological connections. We are all a work in progress. As an adoptive parent, I realize how important it is for Hope to have a relationship with her birth family. It’s important for me too. It’s my goal to make it all accessible for this big family of mine. This means teaching my daughter to learn to be aware of her privilege, how to prevent it from negatively affecting her relationships, and finally, how to use her economic privilege for good. It’s another set of lessons and values on a mess of healing, course corrections and personal and family growth, but important, so like with all the other stuff, we’ll do it.


I am so excited to share the second part of my series with The Donaldson Adoption Institute! In this post I discuss how same race adoptive families of color can also struggle with racial identity issues.  Sometimes class and race issues are socially tightly knit together.

For our children coming from hard places, becoming a part of a new family is a paradigm shift.  They may be struggling with big emotions like grief and fear; they are learning to be a part of a family that is likely a lot more functional that what they understand…there are new people, new schools, new everything. Often times there are also more resources.

My daughter Hope had a very different understanding of what it meant to be black before meeting me. It’s been a challenge for her to reconcile that black folk are not a monolith. Whether she or I want to admit it or not, the truth is that Hope is a solidly middle-class kid now. Most of the time she seems comfortable with that, but in this Dondalson post I talk about when it’s not quick so easy for her.

Again, I’m delighted that the organization thought my voice was important and valuable. I’m totally jazzed that the good folks there have decided to feature my story as in honor of Black History Month.

Here is the link to the second of my two-part series over on the Donaldson Adoption Institute blog.  Be sure to stop by their Facebook page and hit them up on Twitter too!



Thoughts on Mothers’ Day

Hmmm. I thought I would feel different this mother’s day. Last year was my first Mother’s Day with Hope and we were traveling. I was so happy to get a nap last year. This year has been quiet. When Hope arrived home from school on Friday I announced that we weren’t doing anything that I didn’t want to do this weekend.

Umm, yeah, it’s Mother’s Day.

I’ve been a slug since then. I’ve been exhausted the last few weeks, and we didn’t have anything planned. I’ve watched lots of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. I bought myself some gourmet popcorn that I don’t intend to share. I took hour long walks and napped on the couch with Yappy.

Today, the actual holiday, I walked 3 miles, cuddled with Yappy, changed my bedding and did 2 loads of laundry. I think I might go out to shop for a couple of new workout tops since it’s time to put away the long sleeved stuff. I may get a slurpee—that blackberry ginger ale flavor is the business. I intend to cook bratwurst for dinner this evening. I like brats with lots of mustard.

Hope has largely been held up in her room, watching YouTube videos and the Disney channel since she hasn’t had TV for a few days.

It’s been quiet, and I’ve been thinking.

I’m glad to be a mom and all that, but I wonder what Hope’s birth mother is feeling and thinking today. I imagine she misses this beautiful young woman that I’m raising. I imagine that she wonders what she looks like now. I bet she wonders how she’s doing in school; she’s doing really quite well.

I bet she wonders where Hope is and whether she’ll ever see her again.

I want her to know that even though Hope struggles with her feelings about her; I don’t judge her. I don’t pretend to understand the series of events that led to Hope becoming my daughter, but I also don’t dwell on them more than I have to, no more than is necessary to help Hope heal. I regret that she couldn’t be what Hope needed her to be or that she couldn’t protect her from a bunch of foolery, but I can’t judge her.

And I can’t judge her or say anything bad about her because I hold out hope that one day, when she is healthy and happy that she will resurface in Hope’s life. I can’t hate her because I hope that Hope will one day not be so angry and that she will learn to forgive. I know I have to model that for her.

In a perfect world, years from now, we might even be friends as we watch Hope continue her life journey.

I don’t know if that’s realistic, but I hope to live in a way that at least allows for that option one day.

So, to Hope’s birth mother, I hope that wherever you are you know that Hope is safe and sound and that her second mom wishes you a happy mother’s day.

From Closed to Open

I owe a debt of gratitude to countless adult adoptees who have schooled me on this adoption thing in the last year. I’ve learned to respect my daughter’s intersecting and layered identities as an individual, as my daughter, as an adoptee, as someone who has a first family and a life that preceded me. I’m glad that I started reading their blogs, their tweets, their articles, watching their movies (Closure…if you haven’t seen it you should, just Netflix it). I’m glad that I didn’t knee jerk label them as angry, bitter, isolated bad experiences or anti-adoption. I’m glad I just shut my pie hole and listened.

I’m not sure when I really got hip to #flipthescript; certainly it was before the hashtag, but I’m not sure when I really started reading about the adoptee viewpoint.

That, some good therapy with Absurdly Hot Therapist, and lots of prayers to relieve me of anger and fear and to grant me patience and grace have helped me figure out how to pry my and Hope’s adoption open, at least a bit.

Credit: Open Clip Art

Credit: Open Clip Art

To a lot of outsiders, it may seem inconceivable to be inclusive of a first family in an adoption like ours. It’s complicated and I’d prefer not to share the entire story of Hope’s life to protect her privacy, but these were people that Hope knew as a child, visited during the summers, had fond and sometimes complicated memories about. These are people, her family, trigger strong reactions from her. And make no mistake they are her family.

I remember being totally freaked out when they found us on Facebook. Oy! It was hard. But, as I have written before, I had initiated a search for Hope’s family. I was curious. So it stands to reason that they would look for Hope. It was inevitable.

It was so very hard figuring out what to do. I struggled to construct some boundaries, some rules of engagement for the family. I struggled to figure out who in the family was “safe,” who did Hope really remember. I wrestled with what it must be like to be somewhat of a prodigal daughter, but one who didn’t hit the lotto when she was out there somewhere. I wondered whether Hope’s anger about being “lost” would fade; she was so angry about why no one fought for her or why they didn’t even call.

I struggled with how I was supposed to feel about it all. I still do, to be perfectly honest. There are so many things on an adoption journey that make you think, “I didn’t sign up for this ish.” I was deliberate in pursuing children who were in foster care but were legally free. I didn’t want to foster and give a child back (Kudos to you folks who are built for that calling; I am not), and I thought that legally free would mean I wouldn’t have to deal with the messiness of birth families. I mistakenly assumed I would have a closed adoption by default. I was absurdly naïve to miss the fact that Hope had a whole family out there somewhere and what if they found us? I didn’t start really thinking about it until Hope had been placed with me for a couple of months.

It’s nearly a year later. I’ve sent pictures and cards. Christmas gifts were exchanged. I finally spoke to an aunt and recently, after nearly 5 years, Hope spoke with her grandmother. In the moments I was monitoring the call; I ended up stepping away because the grief of missing my own grands was overwhelming. I can’t imagine what it was like for both of them. We hope to visit this summer, but I have a lot of negotiating to do to make sure my daughter is safe. Boundaries people, boundaries.

Recently I was sharing about how Hope and I are negotiating this family thing. My companion went in, ranting a bit about how they didn’t agree with my decision to open this adoption at all. Um, ok, didn’t ask, but ok.

I sat and listened to how this non-adoptee/non-adoptive parent discussed how they would feel in this situation (irrelevant, but ok), and what their friend who’s adoptive parent did (denied the child any information or contact until he was 18 and then he didn’t want it) and how I really should consult with professionals before doing what I’m doing.

Yeah, ok.   Thanks. You know, why don’t you have a seat…in fact, you can have all of the seats.

Opening adoptions that you thought were closed, even had hoped they were closed, is a really emotional thing. I can’t imagine having family, then one day just not having family and getting a new one. This isn’t what I thought it would be. But yeah, I’ve consulted with a lot of folks on how to handle this. Ultimately, I’m relying on my gut and my daughter’s readiness to connect. I’m not forcing it, but I deliberately keep the lines of communication and access open. I’ve got rules in place and everyone seems to be playing nice. Really, I want my daughter to be happy, to be well adjusted to this crazy life and able to love and be loved by as many people as can healthily love her back. And right now, that means a larger extended family.

Based on what I’ve read from adoptees, I think my approach is a good one. This doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it seems like a solid plan for now. My daughter is a kid, but she’s not a little kid. I respect her and understand her need for familial connection that’s biologically rooted. I get it. This isn’t about me, this is about her. It’s about figuring out who she is; Hope’s coming of age. I’m here to help her do that. Sometimes, that process is more complicated than we thought.

So Hope and I are slowly moving from a closed to open adoption, and all that comes with it. It’s complicated, but it’s good.

Searching for Self

The search for information about Hope’s family started a year ago for me. I starting digging for numerous reasons, I suppose, but mostly I was curious about how this kid ended up in my home instead of with her parents  or with some extended family.  I just couldn’t understand how somebody in her family couldn’t make a kinship adoption work.

Honestly, it is still a mystery to me on some levels, even if I now know–intellectually at least–why.

I poked around with the help of a friend on Hope’s father’s side of the family.  I had more information about him; I knew where he was from; I also had a better sense of who he was because Hope talks about him a lot.

All I have about Hope’s mother is her full name, nationality and a scattering of information in the adoption disclosure records.  Hope and her mother were separated when Hope was very young; there aren’t many memories to go on.

Hope has been wanting to get an account on Ancestry-dot-com. I’ve declined repeatedly.  Lots of reasons for that.  I know that as thirsty for information as Hope can be, that showing her the records I have managed to acquire over the last year, in what I hope is a safe, controlled environment still triggered some emotional tailspins.  And while that’s true, it’s is hard to say no to a kid who just wants to know who she is. Add to that the developmental teen years when identity development is so front and center, well…

This weekend Hope and I visited some family; at some point in my trip one of my sisters was cruising around looking for family on Ancestry.  It was a fascinating process, tedious too, uncovering some family history, maybe a secret or two and just seeing how far back we could go. I noted my own sister’s curiosity about our family.  Earlier in the day I had taken Hope to meet a family member who still lives in the same county, on the same property near where my mother was raised.  I spent a lot of my childhood there playing the fields, picking grapes and berries, listening to box fans whirl while propped in windows during the summer. These experiences in these places with my family are very much a core to who I am.

And just like that, unexpectedly, the tail end of Spring Break was all about family.

So, when Hope publicly asked me to sign up for Ancestry last night, in front of my family, I couldn’t say no; even though I am still not positive we are stable enough to handle what we might find.

So, on the way home, Hope and I talked. Talking about Hope’s mom is tough.  The feelings are raw; the viewpoint is unforgiving, the experiences and feelings are locked in a protective glass case.

I opened the case last night, cautiously. I shared what I knew; dropped a bombshell that I did know about Hope’s lineage. Then I spent a good 30 minutes talking to hope about grace and forgiveness sometimes being for our own benefit, and that I’m sure her parents would have been able to make different choices if different options were available; or if they thought/knew different options were available.  I tried to explain that systems are not always set up to help us in the ways we need to be helped.

Hope wondered what life for her would’ve have been like if her parents had the help and support they needed.  I remember how I felt rejected when the first time she said something like this; I don’t anymore.  I just feel sad because I wonder what life would’ve been like too, for all of us.

When we got home I showed Hope some more papers from her disclosure records that helped me know what I do know about her parents.  There are some things she wants to frame.

It was a bit shocking to me that she wanted to frame a copy of a copy of a document. But I get it. I just wish that we didn’t have to wait until she is 18 to get authentic copies of things she’s entitled too.  It infuriates me that I can’t request them on her behalf–after all, I am legally her mother now. I also know that these documents are important to Hope’s healing and development.

We also talked about what it might feel like to stumble upon some big information on Ancestry.  Was Hope ready?  Was she ok with that?  What would it feel like? Now she’s not so sure she’s ready to search for stuff.  It’s not that I don’t want her to search at all; it’s the uncontrolled environment that scares me.

Even more so, it’s the reaction to information and what it means for my coping with her coping that scares me.

Sounds pretty selfish, but honestly, other than in my own therapy and a couple of close friends, I don’t talk about what the emotional upheaval is like in my “real” life other than to say it’s hard and I’m still standing.

We go through some emotional stuff around these parts.  It’s sooooo much better than it used to be.  We’ve gotten better at processing it, but it is never easy. It takes a toll.

And I’d be lying if I said I wish I could avoid it, even though I know I can’t.

This family journey search will likely be one of the most important, most challenging, most enlightening, most shocking, most scary, most awesome journeys Hope and I will travel together.

I’m scared I won’t get it right.  I’m scared that whatever grace is needed from me will run out.  And yeah, to some degree, I’m scared that I might get rejected.

So, like many things I’m going to work on this behind the scenes for a while and see what I can find so that I’m prepped and ready to help Hope find herself–because that’s what this is really about, right?

Sunday Fun Day

I hope a time comes when Sundays really become fun days for me and Hope. She’s fine, but I think I get a preemptive start on the angst of getting back into the routine of the week day. I’m finding the routine, exhausting and rigid as it maybe, gives me something to look forward to and to gripe about for that matter. Saturdays I usually have activities for us to do which get us out of the house to do something engaging and fun. Sundays we have church and stuff that has to get done to make sure the week goes smoothly, aka Mom chores. I find myself getting cranky and sometimes oddly resentful that she continues to lounge about with no inkling of initiative to help. I’m guessing that has more to do with being 13 and less to do with being adopted.

Today I hit the Red Box, picked up a movie for her and am taking my weekly time out in my room, catching up on professional work and reflecting on the week. So, here’s what’s on my mind this week.


Hope’s family…well, really I don’t know what to say. Hope’s family sent me a few things this week. They sent a few pictures of her and her dad when she was young, several pictures of her dad and grandmother and his funeral program. Once I had them in hand, I decided not to wait to tell Hope all that has happened in the background these last few weeks. She was shocked as I imagined. Her feelings about her family are complicated. We talked a bit about it then, but decided to really focus our therapy session on all the family stuff.

Turns out she was only about 10% happy they found us and about 90% pissed about why now, after everything she’s been through in the last five years. Oh my sweet girl was angry, but instead of lashing out she just broke down and cried and cried. She talked a lot, and she even talked about how much stronger she is now to use her words to articulate what she was feeling. She’s been holding so much in about her birth parents and it all came spilling out, so much anger and so much hurt. She is so happy to have the mementos of her dad; they are key to her healing. We both know that now. But whether she will really reach back to her father’s family? Well, she doesn’t seem to be terribly interested in doing that. I imagine this might change at some point, but for now seems like the immediate family crisis is over.

I was oh too happy to graciously let them know that it would likely be awhile before they heard from us. I’ll send them a virtual Christmas card if nothing has changed by then.

Hearing about foster care from a former foster kid is hard. Through blogging, I’ve been blessed to meet such wonderful folks who foster children. I’ve also kept in touch and bonded with Hope’s final foster family. But Hope’s experiences with foster care sound like an incredibly choppy sea. The foster family she was placed with after she came into custody left an indelible mark with her. Given her trauma, I have no idea whether she would have ever found them acceptable, but her view of how she was treated, how insensitive they were to her overwhelming grief, how she was treated compared to other foster children in the home…she’s still angry and still bitter. She calls the members of the family by name and remembers every perceived slight.

It doesn’t matter whether her memories are true or not, they are true for her. I try to be empathetic. She remembers this family and others like it more than she remembers the folks who were very kind towards her. She talks about those folks too, but her focus on the negative always brings her back to people who were, in her mind, less than kind and compassionate.

It’s hard. So much of her grief is also wrapped up in her foster care experiences, too. All of it is so entwined. I am trying to help her focus on the positive people who have been there throughout the process, but it really seems hard for her to turn things around to focus on those folks.

Therapy works. It really does, of course it feels like 1 good session for every 4-6 or even 8 crappy sessions. When you do get to that one session though, you realize that perhaps the other sessions were productive in subtle ways. I’m glad that I encouraged Hope to put a pin in all the family stuff until we could talk about it with Absurdly Hot Therapist. She was ready and clearly had thought about things in a way that made her really ready to talk.

Things poured out of her. We ended up going long because things were still just gushing out of her. Lots of emotional stuff. She was deliberate about word choice—for the first time she referred to her birth mother as her “birth mother.” She made a point of pointing to me and saying *this* is my mom. At one point me, Hope and AHT were all crying.

On the way to the car afterwards, she said, I’ve been waiting to let out that stuff for years.

Amen to that, Hope.

We then went and bought a small chocolate cake, because well, when you finally get some ish off your chest, you should celebrate and that means cake (with a side of fried chicken).

Prioritizing self-care is essential. I tried on suiting slacks this week and had an awful reality check. Ick.

Must. Prioritize. Self-care.

So, I joined a new 24 hour gym this week and am making a commitment to workout 30 hours during the next 30 days. That’s an hour a day. I’ve booked a long term relationship with the magic sitter for alternating Fridays and Saturdays until mid-October. My sitter service is working on finding someone for a weeknight as well so I can work late, take in a happy hour or just sit in my car for a couple of hours.


This week I leave for my first lengthy business trip since Hope arrived. I’ve had a couple of overnights, but never 5 days away. I’m really nervous and excited. I’m hoping it all works out well.


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