January is a time for looking back, and looking ahead, isn't it?—for reflecting on the year that is past and wishing and hoping and planning for the year that is to come. This first prompt of 2013 reflects just this feeling—
Are you approaching openness differently in 2013? What experiences from the past year influenced you most?
Oh, this is such a complicated prompt. (They always are, even when they seem simple, n'est-ce pas?)
We are approaching openness differently this year—not openness with D, particularly (although we do hope there will be some positive changes on that front now that we are living closer to where she lives), but rather with Julia.
We are in the midst of a quantum shift with Julia, not just about adoption but about everything. She is so observant, so curious, keeping us always on our toes with all of her questions. We have talked about adoption with her—with both of them—since they came home, practicing when they were infants and couldn't understand what we were saying in the hopes that by the time it became important to talk about it, we would have figured out how to talk about it well.
Children have a way, though, of throwing a wrench into things when you think you have it all figured out.
Lately, Julia has wanted to talk a lot about Mama D. I really don't think she still quite understands who Mama D is, or rather, that every child doesn't have a Mama D of his or her own; since she has been old enough to understand the world around her, she has never known a woman who was pregnant one day and then had a new baby the next. She hasn't asked where babies come from or any of that. We have talked about how she grew inside Mama D and that Mama D asked her Papa and me to be her parents, but she has never asked why.
I'm not sure whether I'm doing the best thing, not offering more information than she asks for right now. I don't want to overwhelm her with details she might not be ready to process, intellectually or emotionally. So we talk about adoption, but I don't answer the questions she hasn't asked yet.
She is starting to ask questions, and now I am more concerned about getting it "right." (I know, I know—it's not a one-time conversation you have to get "right"; but at the same time, I don't want to get it all wrong, either. This child can dig things I said two years ago out of her memory bank, and I don't want to get something that isn't quite what I meant to say stuck in there on this topic.)
Right now she mostly wants to know why we can't visit Mama D, and I don't have a good age-appropriate answer for that. We want to—we all want to—but it isn't something that has happened yet, and I don't know when it will be possible. But to a four-year-old, "I don't know when we'll be able to" isn't an acceptable answer. And it leaves me at a loss sometimes.
The past year has been difficult, in terms of our open adoption. We are living again in the region where they were born, in hospitals just an hour away from our house, and we hoped that face-to-face contact with D would be easier. It hasn't; she has been almost completely inaccessible for much of the year, for a variety of reasons I won't discuss here because the are firmly in the category of Not My Story To Tell. It is upsetting that it comes at a time when Julia is becoming more interested in D and when a developing personal relationship between them, I think, would be a good thing for them both.
It stinks, frankly. But there isn't anything I can do about it, and so I am left again in this strange in-between place, where I am holding open a door that may or may not be walked through any time soon, and hoping that this delay in their relationship won't keep them from being close later on.
So we are approaching openness differently now, in this ever-evolving relationship between us, and the children, and their first-family, and adoption itself. Right now, I couldn't begin to guess exactly how we will approach it, or what our open adoption will look like in a year's time (or even a month's time).
I have always believed that it is the journey, and not the destination, that is important. I am having to remind myself of this often, these days, as regards our adoption. I know it to be true; I trust that the journey will be worthwhile, that it will take us where we need to go.
Other responses to this installment of the Open Adoption Roundtable can be found here.