left unsaid

It’s interesting how many times I write a post and don’t hit publish. Or how many times I publish a post and instantly think, oh I forgot to say that. Or more often, I think about things I deliberately left out, and I wonder whether the post conveys, in essence, the whole truth, or at least enough truth to reflect the reality I choose to share here.

It happens most often when I write about adoption. You’ve heard it many times before, how I am reluctant to write much about our open adoption because it is not only my story to tell — i.e., it is also Kaye’s and our daughter’s, most importantly. There are parts of our story, of Jaye’s story really, that shouldn’t be shared with the world at large. There are parts of Jaye’s story that she should not learn from someone else. These pieces are hers to unfold some day, at the appropriate time and in the right way, however that may be. Some day she will take it all in, bit by bit, and try to make sense of it. My job is to provide those pieces, as best as I can, and help her process these little bits of herself, to help her integrate them, so she may feel whole. My job is to be secure enough in my role as her mama to support her in whatever way she needs.

Easier said than done, I think.

There 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 when she entered the world. (Of course I hope Kaye will share her own version with Jaye, one day.) I tell her origin story which leads to her placement with us, at this point without much explanation. She knows she grew in Kaye’s belly, that Kaye asked us to be her parents before she brought her into the world, that we were all there to welcome her, that we all love her. For now, that seems to be enough. When I tell her that Kaye asked us to be her parents, she doesn’t ask “because why?” as she does with almost every other thing. Oh she will, one day, perhaps soon.

When Jaye sees a rare picture of herself as a baby with her biological father Tee, she asks who it is. I tell her his name, but I don’t yet explain his significance. As I understand it, until they can appreciate basic biology and reproduction, it won’t make sense. I said that Tee wanted to meet her but that we don’t see him often so she might not remember him, but maybe we will see him again some day. Some day we’ll have to find the words to explain who he is, and try to explain why he doesn’t keep in touch.

And how to tell about other facets of her story that could have resulted in a very different outcome? What about the reasons Kaye chose to place rather than parent? What about those who opposed the adoption? Or those who wanted even greater involvement than Kaye believed was appropriate? What about the extended relative who wanted to parent? Or how we had to terminate her biological father’s rights because he didn’t show up. How do you share that information? Do you share it? Personally, I don’t think those parts of her story are mine to tell. I’ve got basic answers, of course, but the reasons for Kaye’s adoption plan, for instance, are best told by Kaye.

So often I’m left accentuating the positive aspects of our adoption and relationships. I choose not to write about some of the more challenging aspects, the grittier more difficult stuff. I wrote a bit about the phenomenon of “shared experience” after Jaye’s first birthday party, when I caught a glimpse into how hard the day was for Kaye. It’s not that I want to portray adoption as shiny and perfect by avoiding the negative. Yet I know that leaving out the tough parts could convey a distorted image. Adoption is so complex. I think it’s impossible as an adoptive parent to portray anything but our own limited experience, and even that is shrouded by the things left unsaid.

~ by luna on March 16, 2012.

16 Responses to “left unsaid”

  1. Exactly. It’s SO hard to convey a whole picture that’s open adoption when you don’t have the whole picture. You may have more parts of some things than Kaye will but pertaining to the decisions that led to Kaye asking you to be Jaye’s parents…well she holds more pieces than you do. I wrote a letter to my daughter explaining why I chose to place her with her parents that’s in the baby book her bdad (who is still very involved) & I created for her. Her parents actually asked us to create a book about us so that Mack (our daughter) has that when she wants it. There is also a birth-relative that wanted to parent Mack….and I said no. That will also get explained to Mack, someday…but it’s probably not her parents that will do the explaining. Oy. So complex.

    • thanks for this, Monika. we wanted Kaye to write such a letter too, but she has not and I didn’t feel right pushing it. I do hope she is available and able to tell part of her story, as it truly is hers to tell. some of that includes birth relatives who wanted to parent. we said we’d abide by whatever she chose, and she emphatically said no. I agree it’s not my place to share those things or her reasons, even what I know from Kaye herself. thanks again!

  2. The only thing is that you/me – we may actually have to answer those questions because we can’t guarantee that our kids relationship with their birthparents will necessarily be at that level of closeness or discussion. We just do not know what the future holds. I’d love it if Theo could talk it over with his birthparents when he’s old enough to understand but what if they are busy living their lives in a new city and they aren’t available. I don’t want to throw it onto my son or his birthparents shoulders to have to answer all questions. Ideally, it would unfold that way but I feel like I need to be prepared to answer his questions in a meaningful way in the moment. Not sure I’m even making sense!

    • thanks, Harriet! you are so right, and I worry about this a lot, that Kaye won’t be around or available to answer things as they arise. as I said, I have some basic answers — I think that’s our responsibility — but Kaye’s perspective and participation will be so critical in this conversation. I just have to hope that she remains accessible. thanks again for inspiring the post!

  3. Fabulous post. I don’t even have words right now to describe my reaction (maybe lack of sleep on my part) but this is just so well said.

  4. I always read about your open adoption with such fascination — I am so in awe of how conscientious you have been about your daughter’s experience/future, etc. Not to mention how much love she has been surrounded by on so many sides, since the very beginning. It could not be more different from my own experience as an “old-school” adoptee, and that makes me a little sad sometimes. Is it to late for you to adopt me, too 🙂

    • thank you. it makes me sad too, knowing how many adoptees and birth parents grew up not knowing each other. it’s no wonder many are so anti-adoption. while adoption will always have issues and result in some loss, real openness can truly be a wonderful thing for everyone.

      thanks for your comment. it means so much. xo

  5. The Precious’ birth mum was supposed to write a letter – at one point before we came home, she read it to me, but then she never sent it, I reminded her more than a few times, but I always got some vague answer. I never pushed the idea. So I send her a photobook every year and wait for the emails; wondering what the future holds.

  6. I definitely think some parts of the story are other people’s to tell, except you’re in this grey situation where you’ll need to be able to tell a version of it if those people don’t tell their version of it. Mostly because at the heart of this is that the adults have the information and the child needs to know it when she wants to know it. Such a grey area.

    I leave a lot of posts unpublished too. Pretty much equal amounts of published vs. unpublished.

  7. It is hard, with Maya its so much easier because she can see that Guatemala is very poor and her birthmom really couldn’t afford to feed her etc. With Benjamin the same is true except that we live here int he USA where welfare is everywhere so I guess they really could have taken some what care of him but not given him the life they wanted him to have. Every boy/man I know has no interest in their birth parents, so maybe Benjmain will be less interested then Maya or maybe he will be more interested because of Maya. We will just have to wait and see.

  8. And those things that are left unsaid by by the brithparents, in themselves speak volumes. Our open adoption has been PAINFUL, at times raw and dark. Yet, we and our daughter Sophia would choose it again and again. I grieve that I cannot completely shield her from the pain of abandoment. Her birth mother is about to give birth to baby #4, recently she asked the following question “How could you walk out of that hospital room with out me”? D answered, “It was hard, very hard but I found two wonderful parents for you”. Sophia responded “This is not about my mom and dad, this is a question about you. How could you leave me behind, did I mean nothing to you?” A proufound stillness engulfed us all for several minutes. We were speechless and very moved with her questions…….I responded with tears, D responded with anger and resentment.

    Sophia is 14 and asking important questions….it is her right. The reality is that our daughter has grown into a wonderful young woman with deep insights and feelings. Sadly her birthmother is stuck at age 18 emotionally. Our road has been rocky with ther birth family. I pray my daughter will weave all this into her unique story and overcome the darker side of adoption. D’s Baby #4 will arrive any day now. D kept baby #1, #3 and plans to keep #4, we adopted Sophia who is D’s second child. Three years ago we adopted baby #1 at 13 years of age, she is now thriving and the two sisters have formed an incredible bond. Baby #3 lives with her father and we have established a wonderful rapport with them, this year the three girls posed for Christmas photos together. Please pray for baby #4 which she is keeping.

    I will always have a special place in my heart for D, without her I would be motherless. Because of her I now have two wonderful, beautiful and intelligent daughters. Our love, psychotherapy and being surrounded by family and friends has helped my girls understand that their history does not have to define them. It is a arduous process at times. During those times I focus on the lives that she gave us and I anchor myself in that truth.

    Life is beautiful. Life is fragile. Treasure it. Defend it.

  9. […] her post Left Unsaid, Luna of Life From Here addresses the question: where does one person’s story end and the […]

  10. […] swirling around, yet find I have no energy to articulate an intelligible sentence. Or I realize, once again, that I’m having hard time differentiating where my story ends and another begins. Sometimes I […]

  11. […] day, though, I know she’ll be asking “why” again. Why did Kaye ask us to be her Mama and Dada? Why did we take her home? Why couldn’t Jaye stay […]

  12. […] daughter is three years old and beginning to learn about adoption, I’m drawing an even more distinct line between my experience and hers. I feel extremely protective of Jaye and her story. I want her to know that while adoption may be […]

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