This is the eighteenth post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.
To Meet Or Not To Meet?
Written by Melissa Flanagan for Portrait of an Adoption
To meet or not to meet?
That is the question. My heretical play on Hamlet’s words here seems almost as dire and overwhelming (to me, anyway) as his did when he was trying to decide whether or not to continue living. Am I being dramatic? Yes. But, I have to say, right about now, I am pretty freaked out.
Back story: Four years ago, I was lucky enough (after a terribly painful disrupted adoption) to adopt the most precious 4-year-old boy on the planet. Since then, my ex-husband and I got divorced, and my son and I have moved from New Mexico to the great state of Texas, from where he was adopted and his birth family lives.
Not so long ago -- a few months to be exact, I was in angst over Asher’s birthmother (with whom, prior to his birth, I had a wonderful relationship) not contacting our attorney for information and photos. I had taken the task of sending pictures and letters very seriously, and when, over and over, I heard she hadn’t contacted him for them, I took it personally and was afraid of what it would mean for Asher as he grew and asked questions.
Shortly after that, I sought her out and found her on Facebook. We reconnected and I realized she very much wanted to know about him and how he was doing. We then became Facebook friends and have been in periodic contact ever since.
This contact -- this cyber relationship, if you will -- put me at peace. It allowed her to see Asher grow and know how happy and loved he is through this powerful Internet medium. I was grateful I could share things about him and let her know how he doing. She could see pictures and we could even message back and forth about how our respective lives were going.
Then … one unexpected afternoon … I get a message. From her. In all caps. She is moving to here. To Dallas. And she wants to see us.
I am in shock. I immediately close my computer, irrationally fearing that some magical one-way lens that only she knows about will show the fear on my face. Yep, I close my computer and I am guilt-ridden. Because my first thought is, “No way.” Seems strange, right? That I would embark on this Facebook friendship with her and fear a real life interaction so much.
Truth is, Facebook is safe. Truth is, I can control the information flow and what exactly is shared. Truth is, I feel terribly selfish.
But, the reality is that this is a huge step. Meeting in person after all these years? Wow. With that said, I know what a wonderful person she is. She is trying. She has six kids to support and she is doing the best she can, but things are difficult for her and she and I approach the world differently. Is this bad? No. But, it is intimidating. Especially now that Asher is 4 -- 4 and curious and starting to ask questions.
Recently, I have been fielding a number of questions from him: “Mommy, why is your tummy broken?” and “If I kiss your tummy and make it all better, can you give me a baby sister?” And, (this one threw me for a LOOP), “Where did my birthmother go?” It was the first time he said the words “birthmother” out loud.
Then, a day later, he meets one of my friends and asks, “Are you my birthmother?” I was floored. After all the countless times I have spoken that word to him, you’d think hearing him say it would be no biggie, but it was. For all my openness and celebration of how he came to be my son, hearing him say the word out loud was my first real, conscious acknowledgement that this story really is his … it isn’t mine at all. This is his story, and I am just a part of it.
My insecurity and fear are more real to me now than ever. I am afraid. That’s what it boils down to. I am scared. Here’s the thing, though: she gave this precious boy life and decided, for all her many reasons, that she wanted me to be his mommy. This fact doesn’t lessen her importance, in fact, it magnifies it. She did something AMAZING. Something I know I could NEVER do. And now … I am at a crossroads.
Next: 'After much worry and fear, we decided to meet.'
I know I can’t let my fear dictate my decision. I have to think hard and do what is best for Asher. But I really do have a string of worries. What if I do this and then things fall apart and she disappoints him? What if, when he is older, he is mad at me because he didn’t get to make the decision to meet her for himself?
What if I open Pandora’s Box and she wants to see him every week -- how would I even handle that? What if … he ends up loving her more? (This one is the most crazy, but I am going to tell you right now, it something that crosses many adoptive mother’s minds. It is hard to admit, but this fear is real for many of us. I am not saying it is sane or rational, but it is real.)
In truth, I can “what if” all day, and I still won’t have my answer. I guess I just have to make a decision. I don’t yet know what I am going to do, but I keep reminding myself of what I told her when we got back in touch, “This isn’t about me and it isn’t about you. This is about Asher. We have to do what is best for him always. Even if it is at our own expense.”
I will keep telling myself this and hope that I do the right thing for my son.
SEVERAL MONTHS LATER
After much worry and fear, we decided to meet. Asher’s birthmother is wonderful and kind and loving. Whatever obstacles come our way as we build a relationship, I am positive we can handle them. I am doing this despite myself … despite my fear … because I want to honor my son’s origins.
I want him to know where he comes from. I am Asher’s mother, but I am not his only mother. As I work through my own insecurities about all this, I will keep my sight on what’s important: Asher’s well-being. Everything else, at least in this context, comes second.
AND THEN IT GETS COMPLICATED
As a mother, you try to think of everything. And as an adoptive mother trying to make sure your child is in touch with his roots, is well-adjusted, and understands the circumstances surrounding his adoption, you try to think of everything x 1000 … but sometimes you miss things. Like, what happens when you plan to facilitate a relationship with your family and your child’s birthmother and she doesn’t show? Then what?
What happens when you go to the mall and wait and wait for her to come … and she doesn’t come. How do you explain that to a 4-year-old? How do you hold his hand while leaving the mall and keep it together while answering the questions, “Mommy, why didn’t she come?” It is hard, I can tell you that. For all the back and forth and struggle in deciding to try to build a relationship, there is one thing I failed to really spend time considering … what if she doesn’t show?
Well, she didn’t, and Asher didn’t understand. He is only 4, so this is all bit over his head, but he knows she is important, and he knows she wasn’t there. It is hard now. I am not sure where to go or what to do. She has pulled away and I am left wondering if I made the right decision and if, because she says she wants to, we should even try again.
These are the roads an adoptive parent navigates. They are windy and wonderful and scary and difficult, and while I still don’t have the answers, I will keep holding my son tight, telling him I love him, and working every, single day to do what is best for him.
Now happily remarried, Melissa Flanagan is an English teacher, and aspiring writer and photographer living with her husband and son in the Dallas area. She currently teaches at a project-based learning high school where she loves inspiring kids to love learning. When she grows up, she wants to be like her 4-year-old son, Asher.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.