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?


~ by luna on August 7, 2009.

13 Responses to “testing the limits”

  1. Not supporting the adoption isn’t a deal breaker for me. The only things that are are threatening violence or directly undermining/dismissing the validity of our family in front of my children.

    Things that were said between birth parents or other family members, no matter how heinous they were and how angry they may make me, are between them and shouldn’t keep my kids from the chance to connect with part of their first families

    I think I’ll leave it at that. 🙂 You’re welcome to email me.

  2. I think it depends upon the situation. For “K” “birth mom” sounds correct. But since the biological father doesn’t really have much a connection or involvement as of yet “biological” seems a better fit.

    In my case (anonymous Donor Eggs) I will refer to the donor as the genetic mother…or maybe simply the donor. Or maybe I will let the kids make up a name so they can have a connection even if it is mostly imaginary. I want them to feel as connected as possible even though it’s anonymous. I do imagine my children and their genetic mother will meet someday. And I would welcome such a connection.

  3. Good luck today!

    We have a closed adoption, not by my choice. I too feel uncomfortable with the term first mother because although his birth mom carried him and gave birth to him, in order to protect herself I’m sure, she never held him, never named him, hasn’t participated in any way of the duties and lovelies of being a mother, so she’s been ‘birth mom’ to us. It’s not said to demote her in anyway, nor to demean what she did for us, it’s just a matter of what’s comfortable for all of us.

  4. I’m sorry I don’t have answers to your questions. I just wanted to say I loved the “open door” term, and think it’s appropriate here. And that you are amazing. It’s their move now to pass through it, stare at it, or close it.

    Wishing you all the best.

  5. Birth mother and biological father sounds right. I dislike first mother/father. I’m amazed by your journey so far and wish you all the best for the meeting with the birth father’s mother. I hope you get off to a good start. That said, I’m relieved that you have a good relationship with K. Somehow this matters less to me.

  6. While this whole thing is just so amazing to me how you’re handling this, how strong you’re being, my favorite part is that K doesn’t want to be “first” as it makes you “second” – you really have a connection and openness there that’s just awe-inspiring.

  7. thanks everyone for your comments!

    I wanted to clarify something based on what heather said. our issue has to do primarily with a lack of trust which is critical for a healthy open relationship. I am also concerned about respect for our family unit, or as heather said, the effect of undermining our family unit. as of now, it remains to be seen whether this relationship will extend beyond photos and updates.

  8. I hope the gathering went well and that you are all able to build a relationship that is beneficial for everyone.

  9. Mostly we just refer to them by their first name between my husband and I, to others we say birth-momther/father it’s the term our agency used. I plan to ask N.’s birth family how they would like to be adressed by him specifically but since his only word to far is “no” it has not yet been an issue, ha ha . . . great topic, seriously though.

    I hope your meeting went well.

  10. Wow. Just, Wow! That is the most amazing quilt I have ever seen and the story behind it is beautiful in the truest sense.


  11. Sorry, this comment landed under the wrong post, oops.

  12. […] met T’s mom over the summer, when Baby J was just 10 weeks old. We’ve had to establish boundaries there which I believe will always be […]

  13. […] months before we ever met her birth father (though we tried to meet him earlier). There was a lot of anticipation and some concern leading up to that initial meeting. We wanted it to go well, as we thought this might be our only […]

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