testing the limits
Earlier I wrote a post titled “yesterday and tomorrow.” This one could aptly be titled “today.”
This afternoon, we will meet the mother of Baby J’s biological father (aka her “birth” grandmother) for the first time. She and her husband are driving up with their youngest child to meet us for a barbecue at our adoption counselor’s home.
We have had limited contact with Baby J’s biological father* — a few phone conversations and a thwarted visit that never happened, though not for lack of effort. In contrast to the fully open adoption we have with K, with him we have what Lori would call an “open door” adoption. We have opened it wide and he should feel free to walk through at any time.
We’ve been somewhat in touch with his mother via email and phone since K was about 7 months pregnant, but we don’t have a close relationship with her. As a result of our earliest interactions, we have not yet built the trust necessary for a solid open and honest relationship.
I’m interested in whether and how adoptive parents have cultivated and maintained relationships with certain birth family members who may not have been completely supportive of the adoption plan at first [ETA and clarify: or where there were serious trust issues]. Without getting into too much detail here — since that part of the story is not really mine to tell — today’s visit may be a good indication of whether and how we might be able to maintain a real connection with the biological father’s family.
Of course it would be nice if contact is positive for everyone. Yet as mama bear, I feel very protective of our baby girl, and rightfully so. It is our job to ensure baby bear’s health, safety and well being. It is our job to guide Baby J so she may develop into a confident, independent, fully integrated individual, and to ensure that she has as much access to information about her heritage as possible.
We hold her story in trust until she is ready to carry it herself, and we must try to keep those bridges open for if and when she is ready to cross them.
For whatever reasons, Baby J’s biological father has been unable to participate in her short life so far. His mother and her family may or may not be able to maintain a connection with us after today. There is no way to know what the future holds.
Given the fully open relationship we have with K, it is interesting to test the limits of our openness here. Surely we will have to create, define and maintain some healthy boundaries until we can build a foundation upon which we can all stand. To be clear, it is not about what is convenient, or what we might want for us. It’s about what’s right for Baby J. As her parents, it’s our job now to determine what is in her best interest.
* I am consciously using the term “biological” father as opposed to “birth” or “first” father here, because that is the term that best describes his role. I should note I’ve never been entirely comfortable using the term “birth” or “first” parent, yet other terms seem too limited (e.g., “biological”) or clunky (e.g., “family of origin”). Nonetheless, I use the term “biological” father to describe him.
For anyone interested, K prefers the term”birth” mother and believes that “first” mother improperly denotes that I am “second,” which makes her uncomfortable. Also, FYI, when I was recently discussing Baby J’s adoption with an intelligent, curious seven year old, she intuitively used the term “birth mother” and said she thought she just made it up. (Kids!)
What term do you like to use, and why? What do your children use, if anything?