back on the bus
I don’t even know how to write what I want to say.
This past weekend was rather intense. Actually there was a lot of tension leading up to this visit with Baby J’s bio-father, so it goes back farther than that. I am exhausted, relieved and still a bit anxious at the same time.
Sunday afternoon, T got back on a bus to continue his travels after his brief visit with us. He was in town overnight and the hours we spent with him (three on Saturday and nearly four on Sunday) were simply intense. I feel drained of energy and yet I also feel lighter with relief that at least we made it through this one.
First I should say that, lest anyone think that I normally feel this way about visits with our daughter’s birth parents, this was absolutely nothing like our visits with K. We look forward to our time with K with great anticipation. K is such a positive force of love and light and we regard her as family. In fact, we enjoy spending time with K more than some of our own biological family members. But that’s another story entirely.
We weren’t exactly sure, even by Saturday morning, if T was really going to make it. It wasn’t until he called from the road that I actually thought this visit might happen. Late Saturday afternoon, we picked him up, checked him into his hotel and went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for an early dinner. Afterwards, we hung out in the lobby for a bit before heading home for Baby J’s bedtime.
It was a long three hours.
Within ten minutes he was already making some inappropriate comments. Maybe he was nervous. Maybe he felt uncomfortable. Maybe he didn’t realize how inappropriate it was. Clearly he had no sense of the invisible boundary that should be there. In any case, I couldn’t find my words. I think M and I both were so put off that we just chose not to engage him at all and instead diverted the conversation and he eventually got the point. Awkward.
On the way home, we talked about it and decided that if anything remotely like that came up again the next day, we knew exactly what we would say. And that would be that.
His head seemed to be in a better place on Sunday morning. We grabbed some coffee and took a scenic ride so Baby J could get her morning nap. I thought we’d show him some famous redwoods but we didn’t have much time nor did we want to hike with the baby in the rain. We had a nice lunch and spent nearly four hours together. This time the conversation was a little easier, at least.
Still, it was exhausting to feel on guard the whole time, as we’re dealing with someone who has a history here. His losses go way back, far beyond Baby J. He has never had support or assistance to work through a lifetime of issues. He has a tendency to just “check out” for extended periods of time. He is unpredictable.
At one point, T explained that sometimes he says things he doesn’t really mean, suggesting that we might have to accept this as just something he does, or disregard what he says. M and I both jumped on that, essentially telling him that he’s going to have to get that under control because he can not be that way around our child. Our job is to protect her, we said, and he needs to take responsibility for his behavior around our daughter. It’s all about Baby J now, we told him. Yes, we’ve said that he is important to have in our life for her sake, but she is the priority, plain and simple.
Near the end of our time together, T noted how “healing” it is to be near Baby J. While I agree that her presence is a healing force — not unlike her birth mom K — I find this statement somewhat disturbing. Maybe that sounds a little harsh. But it is not our daughter’s role to heal him. Hell, it’s not her job to heal me either. As I’ve said before, I knew I had to heal myself before I could be this baby’s mama. It would be unfair to unload that burden on any child. Again, this isn’t about him but about her.
Part of the main problem here is I’m afraid that T will never see that this is not about him. It has never been about him and it will always be about about our daughter.
At the end of our visit, T said he’d like to see Baby J again soon. While we are open to future visits, we will have to continue to establish and maintain boundaries with him, which may include limiting the number of visits we are willing to have right now. This from the family that embraces full openness in our adoption.
I knew adoption would entail its own set of issues. I knew that navigating through complex relationships in open adoption could be challenging. Yet we signed on for this, knowing these challenges came with the territory. In contrast, our relationships with K and her family have been so positive, beneficial and affirming for everyone. When we’ve encountered tough moments, we’ve worked through them with openness, candor and trust.
In all honesty, sometimes I find myself wondering whether this would be easier if T were not in the picture, or if our adoption were not so open with regard to him. But I know why we are doing this, and as hard as it may be, I never lose sight of that. We want to keep that door open so that our child may walk through it some day, if she so chooses. What if one day she learned that we had the chance for her to meet him and we didn’t let it happen? No, we’re doing this because if we didn’t, we believe it would be harder for our daughter later.
But that doesn’t make it any easier now.