on the day she was born, and thereafter

It’s been a busy week in the Luna household. Three birthday celebrations for our now two-year old girl, two visits with birth family, and emotions high and low.

Where to begin?

I’ve been telling Jaye her birth story in some more detail. I’ve been telling it in some form since the day she was born, but a few months ago I started using this book to illustrate a bit more. It’s not at all about adoption, but rather about a child’s connection to the universe — to the stars and sea, sun and moon, forests and beaches, nature and wonder, animals and humans alike.

On the last page, a newborn baby is held by a woman and surrounded by a circle of loved ones who welcome the beloved child to the world. The very first time I read it to Jaye when she was a tiny baby — adding her name and using “we” instead of “they” — I cried, of course. Later, I added that the golden-haired woman in the middle was Kaye, and the people in the circle included Mama and Dada and Grandma Bea, who were all there that beautiful morning. I told her we were all so happy, that we had all waited so long to meet her. I told her that on the day she was born, Kaye was so strong. I told her that Mama and Dada were there and cried happy tears. I told her how much we all love her.

The next time I read it, Jaye remembered.

When we got to the last page, she said “[Kaye] so strong! Mama and Dada happy tears!” Wow, I thought. It’s only repetition, but she remembered, even if she didn’t understand quite yet. I mean, sure, she knows on a cellular level who Kaye is, who Grandma Bea is, I think. But Jaye doesn’t yet understand what that means, and she probably won’t for some time. Still. It was the first time we were interacting in my explanation about how we became her parents, instead of just telling her how lucky we are that Kaye asked us.

“That’s right, honey,” I said as we looked at the book together. “[Kaye] was so strong when she brought you in to the world. And Mama and Dada were so happy to become your Mama and Dada.” Sometimes she’ll add something like, “all there!” And I’ll say, “Yes, sweetie, we were all there. And we all love you so much.”

And that’s the whole point, really, to let her know how much we all love her, that we’re all family. Not just her Mama and Dada — who have the pleasure and the privilege of sharing this story with her now — but Kaye and her family too. I want her to know they are her family, they are our family. I want her to know how much everyone loved her from the beginning, from before there was even Mama and Dada.

And while there is much more complexity — and the day will certainly come when it gets much, much harder — for now, it is simple. Except when it’s not.

Last weekend we celebrated Jaye’s second birthday with Kaye, her mom and little brother (Grandma Bea and teen Uncle Cee). Kaye really wanted to be here on Jaye’s actual birthday but could not, so we settled for the Sunday before. Kaye was excited to see Jaye. Not surprisingly there was a rush of emotion when she did. Just like last year, I can’t possibly attribute anything to Kaye other than what I’ve been told. But clearly it was a difficult afternoon. Her mom kept saying “it’s not you guys,” but we said there was no need for reassurances, it wasn’t about us. Clearly it was hard. While I can never know how hard — and I can’t even really share what I do know — I can say it is difficult for Kaye to see how time passes between each visit every few months. While Kaye marvels at our daughter’s incredible development, how much Jaye has grown is also a reminder of what Kaye has missed. Kaye still believes she is not ready to parent. It is not a matter of regret, as I understand it, but the reality of missing. She is also looking toward her future, perhaps wondering how to get there, what it may hold.

We also scheduled a party for the weekend after, when Jaye’s cousins and friends could join us. We invited Kaye and her family and made it clear we wanted them to join us, even though we would have our own celebration with them too. Her mom and brother said yes but Kaye couldn’t make it. But then they didn’t show. Or call. So it left me wondering if we had done or said something to offend, or if something else came up, or if everyone was okay. Really I had no idea what to think. I was grateful that Jaye was distracted by nine other kids and didn’t think to ask about them. But after no response to an email, I called Grandma Bea and asked what happened.

I can’t really get into it, because again this story is only mine to share in part. But there are some generalities that apply. Let’s just say that open adoption can be complicated, for so many reasons.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you extend an invitation, you have to keep re-extending it. You have to remind people countless times how open the door really is, because the inclination may be to assume that it’s only open the littlest bit, even when you’ve said and done everything to assure otherwise. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say or do, either, because everyone has their own issues and filters through which they view it all. And we all have issues, every one of us, which affect how we perceive, interpret and respond to everything.

Open adoption is complicated because relationships are complicated. Life is complicated.

So. We keep on working at it. I am trying to address issues as they arise in the hope of making it easier the next time something comes up. But I don’t always know what the issues are, and sometimes there is absolutely nothing I can do to address them. I am trying to find ways to resolve issues without hurting feelings or betraying trust. Sometimes communication is better than others, more open and honest, and sometimes it shuts down altogether. You do what you can, but it’s also a two-way street, and each side has responsibility even though it may sometimes seem otherwise.

We’re just trying to create a safe, open and supportive environment for our daughter. What we’re saying isn’t lip service, it’s a genuine desire for real connection. It’s a real aspect of opening our family and our lives. And quite honestly it can be exasperating sometimes, exhausting even. It’s hard work. It’s complex and dynamic. I can only hope that as our daughter grows and begins to appreciate some of the complexities, we will have figured it out a bit more by then.

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~ by luna on June 6, 2011.

19 Responses to “on the day she was born, and thereafter”

  1. As usual, I am in awe of you, in so many ways.

    I have a hard enough time handling a relatively small set of relatives; bringing in another whole family, plus the complicated feelings that come along with the way they came into your lives, is just amazing.

  2. I have found this harder now that we have a domestic adoption. Its Semi open but I still became close to both of his birth parents, mainly A. I want to call her but then again I don’t know how she is feeling at that moment, will it make it harder, easier? I just don’t know. Ther are times when you want thing and times when you don’t. Waiting for her to call will probalby lead to alot of waiting. I mailed her pictures and a letter 1 month ago and am gathering pictures again.
    I feel like even if I do talk to her, do I keep it mellow, can I gush about how wonderful he is, I feel like thats what you do when yo love something/someone but again I don’t want to make it herder, I am more concerned with how she is doing.

    At least for international we weren’t able to find Maya’s birthmom, and I didn’t meet her whicvh makes me sad but then again as bad as it sounds easier at the same time. Of course Maya being a girl has interest in in her birthmom, so hopefully we can find her someday and Maya at this age wouldl ike to meet her.

  3. I can only begin to imagine how complicated and dynamic all the relationships can be. (Someday I will know firsthand). I learn so much from you, luna, and can only hope to be half as good at this as you are. I know it plays out easier here without sharing all the details, but you seem to roll with the punches and get right back up to figure out a way to make the next time better…and all of it because you want the best for baby Jaye.

  4. There were so many times as I read this post that I ran my cursor over the words, as if I was absorbing them more. But this one stood out: “Open adoption is complicated because relationships are complicated. Life is complicated.” Happy birthday to Jaye!

  5. All families have issues and conflicts. Hurt feelings, misunderstandings, personalities that rub the wrong way. Jaye’s family is of course no different. But your situation is unique in that you quite simply aren’t required to put forth the effort if you should choose not to. They are not your family. But you do, and you have every intention to continue doing it, so I hope that you take a few minutes and acknowlege the wonderful thing you are doing not just for Jaye, but for them. Especially when things don’t work out and feelings are hurt, you are doing so much more then what you have to, that is such a beautiful thing.

  6. This makes me smile:

    When we got to the last page, she said “[Kaye] so strong! Mama and Dada happy tears!”

    We can only do what we can do. The rest is up to others. You are doing all you can with both Jaye and with Kaye’s family. The rest just…develops. And we roll with it.

    I think you have it figured out more than you give yourself credit for.

    Anyway, I can’t believe she’s TWO!

  7. just starting the open adoption process. thanks for this

  8. I can’t believe she’s two either!! So sorry if there have been problems wtih Kaye’s family. As Babysmiling said, I am continually in awe of the grace with which you handle this very complex relationship.

  9. It is hard sometimes to keep your doors and heart open when there is no to little response but don’t give up … they are still learning where they fit into your family … our daughter’s birth moms have used the words intrude and I always correct them that it is not an intrusion for them to call or when they visit, etc. I find too that their extended families feel that way at times too … they don’t want to intrude into our lives … but in reality that is what we want them to do!

    Our daughters are almost 5 and 3 and I have seen through conversations and get togethers that they are all realizing that YES we do want them as our family and YES they can “intrude” on us … but there are still times I think they retreat not knowing if they’ve come to far in or not …

    I’ve come to learn that this a lifetime event and like you said and like any relationships they can feel and get complicated at times … and I’ve said to our family in all its entirety Family is here no matter what!

  10. A very moving post.

    I guess one of the hard things in open adoption is that there is so little to go on in the way of social convention. You have to find your own way.

    (Here from Mel’s).

  11. We haven’t crossed the adoption bridge yet (though we are getting closer and closer!) Still I identify so much with this. My (foster) kids’ family requires invitation after invitation. They don’t seem to believe that they are wanted or are even tolerated unless court ordered. We’re still jumping the hurdles of making sure they have visits with just the kiddos. I hope that someday they will be willing to be included in events that include my and my partner’s family too. I get it.

  12. Thanks for the comment on my blog! Also, I love your blog! ;) I’ve never met anyone with my theme before. It feels very strange to be here but see different content.

    What a beautiful book to tell such a beautiful story. Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have you for a mother. Thank you for sharing her story and her book with us.

  13. Complicated really is an understatement isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine the other side. I’m trying to separate my feelings from the feelings of others so we can all do our part but in the end it’s up to each person to do whatever feels best. It may seem like they think that they don’t want to intrude but in reality maybe the birthmom needs a little space – who knows? But I appreciate that you continue to keep the door open, that’s the biggest thing you can do for your daughter IMO.

  14. […] Jaye’s second birthday and I felt so grateful. Every night I’d tell her so as I shared a bit of her story, and it’s true. There is something about being entrusted with the care of a precious child […]

  15. […] has heard her birth story many times. She has seen the few photos we have, repeatedly. But it’s still an abstraction. […]

  16. […] are parts of Jaye’s story that I wonder how I’ll tell. By comparison, her birth story is easy. It’s beautiful and because we were there I can tell her about the love in that room […]

  17. […] person’s story end and the other begin? Some parts of a story are easy to tell: [Telling], her birth story is easy. It’s beautiful and because we were there I can tell her about the love in that room when […]

  18. […] Jaye was born. We couldn’t stop this time, so instead while in the car I began telling Jaye her birth story, which ends with us on the same road headed home together. She asked me to repeat it over and over, […]

  19. […] together. But they don’t see the difficult parts, the anguish and loss. They don’t know how complicated adoption can be. They don’t see what Kaye goes through herself; hell, we don’t even see a large part of […]

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