5 Ways to Maintain a Relationship with Your Child’s Birth Parent Struggling with Addiction – Adoption.com

addictionPublished 6/10/15

Addiction is a complicated disease that doesn’t discriminate based on race, class, education, or age. Before drug addiction plagued my family, it was something I didn’t quite understand. I knew alcohol and tobacco were addictive. I even had heard of addictive personality traits and addictions to activities like gambling or shopping. But the drug addiction of today is an epidemic that isn’t getting better. Depending on the substance a person is addicted to, detox can be dangerous, and treatment and recovery can be near-impossible. I recently lost my big brother to heroin addiction. It is through that loss, and helping another family member through the same addiction, that I have realized just how difficult it is to love a person suffering from addiction.

Maintaining a relationship with an addict is challenging and frustrating. Loving someone unconditionally does not mean you have to love their disease. It does not mean you have to condone their habit. It does not mean you have to pick up their messes. Here are some ways I have learned to focus on the relationship while also recognizing the addiction. If you are struggling to maintain a relationship with your child’s birth parent because they suffer from addiction, hopefully these tips will help you.

For the list of ways to support and understand addiction, please continue reading at adoption.com.

7 Considerations for Communicating with Your Birth Child – Adoption.com

Protecting our children from unnecessary confusion by setting boundaries with birth parents.

CommunicatingWithYourBirthChildOpen adoptions can be full of complex emotions. I have heard of many of different types of open adoption relationships. Some are smooth sailing while many have bumps in the road. “Boundaries” is a familiar topic when adoptive parents get together and discuss issues that arise in their relationship with their child’s first family. Most of us adoptive parents don’t like to set rules because we feel so honored to have this child entrusted to us. But when you look at boundaries as rule setting, you can set yourself up for failure. Instead, boundaries should be viewed as a method for maintaining a healthy relationship. Just as my family knows not to call too early in the morning or too late at night unless it’s an emergency, birth parents should know the limits of what we strive for to maintain normalcy. Setting the boundaries with the people in our lives means we can live comfortably, avoid unnecessary surprises, and not be annoyed because we didn’t let people know how we’d like our family to work.

Navigating an open adoption and the surprising emotions that come along with it mean that sometimes we say things before thinking.  Communicating with the child as well as with each other is so important.  To find out some tips on how to best communicate with your child placed for adoption, follow this link to adoption.com for more.  You will find tips with communicating with the child, but that when in doubt having a conversation with the adoptive parents is always a good idea too.  Together you can make sure the child’s best interests are always put first.

Words Don’t Have to Hurt – Adoption.com

The words people use aren’t always appropriate, but it doesn’t make them bad.

TwoRealMomsTwoRealDads“Where is her real mom?” or “Why did his real mom give him up?” Sometimes the things people say to us make us cringe. We get defensive and sometimes fire back the answer with the intent to offend or belittle the person asking. We react because it causes us pain. It attacks that soft spot of infertility that not having biological children left many of us with. It may reopen a wound we thought had closed. We fear it may confuse our child. We worry about how the words of others will affect the emotions of our little ones. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. While that little rhyme might not always be true, we do have power to decide what we allow to hurt us.

One thing I have learned, and maybe it’s thanks to many friends in the adoption groups I am involved in, is that I don’t have to take everything personally. To read more about why I don’t think words are always meant or used with ill intentions? Follow this link to adoption.com to understand why I personally have used the word “real” many times in talking about biological family members.

Why I Love Open Adoption – Adoption.com

wearemotherhoodIt was a brisk afternoon, and we had just returned from the outlet mall where we had bought the boys new gym shoes. Our youngest son, Ezra, was running around the yard and chasing after a football. As I fondly watched on, snapping a few adorable pictures on my phone, one of my first thoughts was to share a photo with his birth mom. I remembered she had recently asked if he has started to run yet, so I switched over to video and recorded a short clip of him running across the yard. Her response was quick and full of joy. “Look at him run. I love it. It almost looks like he’s been running and walking for years!” I typed back “He’s a pro!” and her next message was when it hit me… she said “I’m so proud.”

To read more about our open adoption and why I love it, click here to continue on adoption.com.

Why Our Family Doesn’t Celebrate Gotcha Day – Adoption.com

BittersweetAdoption-13-300x150It was an unusually warm January day in 2013. The expectant mother and I had grown quite close in the short time we had known each other. She had a bad case of bronchitis. As a result, she was not getting much sleep and growing dehydrated. Her amniotic fluid was decreasing, so we were going to the hospital every few days for a non-stress test and fluid check. We had our overnight bags packed, anticipating that one of these visits would result in the big day coming a few weeks early. That day was The Day. We called our spouses so they could meet us there. Things were about to get moving. Good thing she and I grabbed lunch on our way!

“Gotcha Day” can come with many emotions for people on all sides of the triad.  From the term “gotcha” symbolizing an object to be gotten or the way you say “gotcha” when you scare or trick someone, to just not wanting to celebrate something that could have been emotionally devastating for others in the triad.  Click here to see why our family doesn’t celebrate Gotcha Day on adoption.com.

Adoption Guilt?

guilt-07Adoption comes with complex emotions. Often, the emotions are consuming and misunderstood. One of the emotions that a lot of adoptive parents unexpectedly find themselves feeling is guilt. It can come as a surprise if you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed with emotions that you translate as guilt after you have adopted. It is not uncommon to feel adoption guilt…

It is normal to feel a wide variety of emotions while adopting.  The emotions can change minute to minute, day to day or year to year.  Being empathetic to the other members, while keeping things in perspective only help us learn and grow.  To read the full article, visit adoption.com.

What is Open Adoption?

WhatIsOpenAdoption-05Being so involved in the adoption community, it’s natural that I get a lot of inquiries from friends and random people seeking help in beginning their adoption journey.  One of the things I have to often remind myself is that I was once in their shoes.  In today’s adoption climate, open adoption is the norm.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone in the early stages of adoption knows about open adoption or is immediately comfortable with the idea…

To read the full article, please visit adoption.com

Did You Feel Adoption Guilt?

guiltAdoptions come with complex emotions.  One of those emotions that most birth parents and many adoptive feel is guilt.  I think it is completely understandable (yet unnecessary) for a birth parent to feel guilt.  They may feel guilty for making the adoption plan, for not being in a better place in their life, to wanting more for their child and themselves.  But, at the same time, it is my hope that they also see the all the positives of why they are making that choice.  It can come as a surprise when people outside of adoption learn that adoptive parents may also suffer from feelings of guilt.

Guilt is a loaded word.  The definition of guilt to many people is that you have done something “wrong”.  However, I think these people are just looking at the word guilt differently.  While some may use the term “guilty” to describe the feelings they have for feeling joy with their adopted child, other words could easily be used in its place.  Empathy, Compassion, Appreciation, Affinity, Pity, Sympathy, etc.  It really is about the person feeling the emotion and to what degree they perceive the situation.  Some people just tend to beat themselves up more than others.  Some people rely on the good in a situation to thrive or survive through it. (Some people just lack understanding and feel entitled.  Let’s hope none of my readers are of that variety.)

When we were in the process of adopting, I went through a variety of emotions.  Guilt was one of them.  Guilt came in many forms:  Guilt that I couldn’t provide my husband with a biological child (or that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to).  Guilt that I wanted to adopt a newborn.  Guilt that I questioned my ability to parent outside my race.  Guilt that I was going to “sell” myself as someone with more resources for parenting a child, to an expecting mother.  Guilt that I would get to be called “mommy” by a child she loved so much.  Guilt that I would experience all the firsts.  Guilt that I would never understand how tough her decision was.  Guilt that I may not be a perfect parent either.

While Ezra’s birth mother is an incredibly strong woman, I know this hasn’t been easy for her.  She seems at peace and very proud of Ezra as well as her decision, but still, I am sure there are times that she wishes she could have parented him instead of placing him for adoption.  Ezra’s birth father has always shown more emotion when it comes to the struggles he faces with adoption.  He has always been extremely kind to us and never showed us any resentment.  He is always smiling when we are together and he is very affectionate toward Ezra.  These things just show me how much he cares.  Watching the yearning in his eyes gives me guilt.  It gives me guilt to know that we have the ability to give “more” and because of that we were chosen to parent their child.  It is very normal to celebrate success, but when it contributes to someone else’s pain it is more guilt producing.

Guilt in adoption hopefully fades with time as the open adoption relationship blossoms into a healthy, loving extension of your family. Understanding that these people chose you to parent their perfect little creation is something you should not feel guilt over.  But just because it is OK to not feel guilt, does not mean it is OK to feel indifferent or not want to help ease their pain.  Sharing an open adoption and open communication is good for all members of the adoption triad.  However, if you allow guilt to consume you, you may begin to suffer in other areas and your child will also suffer.

Have you experienced any of these emotions?

Foster Series: 3

Today’s foster series post comes from a wonderful lady who has asked to remain anonymous.  I am very grateful for her entry and the heart wrenching openness that brought me to tears and kept me on the edge of my seat while I read her story.  Congratulations on the finalization of your wonderful son!  – Sarah

200353956-001Tomorrow is the adoption day for my youngest son. He is 22 mos old.   I have known of him since before he was born.  We had gotten a call during his birthmom’s pregnancy, telling us little, just that a mom may need her baby placed, and our name was brought up as a possibility.  Fast forward a few more months…and we were just ending an emotional, media frenzied placement.  My husband and I were discussing quitting foster care.  I was emotionally drained.  It had only been a week since the last placement had ended, when we got the call.  This mother was in labor, and the newborn would need to be placed.  My heart raced.  We were quitting!  But I was already thinking about baby supplies.  I asked for time to think.  I was offered an hour.  I texted my husband, who responded something like, he was in if I was sure…or something close to that.  It took only 5 minutes for me to reply to the worker that we wanted the baby.

I knew this was a foster care placement.  I also knew they thought it would be long term.  This scared me.  I knew it would be another hard, emotional case.  I tried to begin preparing myself.  I waited to hear that the baby was born, and found out it was a boy.  We had all girl things!!  We needed to shop!  And so we did!  My husband actually really got into shopping for a little boy, it was fantastic.  We went to see him in the hospital, and found he was being released to us.  I let my daughter, 12 at the time, hold him first, as I filled out the paperwork.  My husband was home with our other son (who we are also trying to adopt from foster care, he was almost 3 at the time).  I saw this baby, and I knew I was in trouble.  When I held him, and he wrapped his hand around my thumb, the wall I tried to build crumbled.  We became a team in that moment.  My son never took a pacifier, attached to a blanket, or a stuffed toy.  I have always been his comfort item.  We have an incredible bond.

My son’s birthmom has a mental illness.  Her inability to parent is not her fault.  This causes me great guilt.  Her illness also causes me fear.  She was given the opportunity, once stabilized with medication, to try to demonstrate the ability to parent.  The initial goal in foster care is always reunification.  Because of her illness, I was always afraid for this little boy.  I know she loves him, without a doubt.  I also know that what she does sometimes is not “her.”  I had to trust the social workers, and this was very difficult.  I cried a lot of tears.  I felt incredible guilt, because I was trying so hard to help his birth mom too, as is my role as a foster parent. I would give her tips, and prompts and help along the way. But, the reality was, I wanted to adopt more than I wanted air to breathe.  I could not imagine this child anywhere else.  I felt selfish.  I knew her illness was not her fault, and I felt horrible that this was happening.  But, I also knew what the right thing was…and it was for him to be safe, with us.

Suddenly, when our son was 15 mos old, his birth mom announced that she wanted to let us adopt.  It took me by surprise, and I don’t think I have ever sobbed the way I did in that moment.  When I left that visit, I tried to tell myself not to be too hopeful, that she may change her mind.  But, she never changed her mind.  This is what she wanted.  We never did another social worker visit after that.  I continued visiting with her family, and she came to those visits.  I am glad for that.  I want him to know her, and her family too.  I know she made the decision out of love.  They have a bond, and I want the bond to continue.  I think she recognized that the case wasn’t progressing, and I think she wanted it to be a choice, not something taken from her.  I think it was a healthy decision.  The birth father has never been in the picture. When he found out about the baby, he immediately wanted him adopted by us, citing the bond we had formed.

Nothing about foster care adoption has been easy.  Until the petition for adoption is signed, I will worry that someone can take him.  Family always has priority to foster care placement.  We have been fortunate to have a relationship with family who wants to be involved, but not take placement.  But, that involvement also gives me some fear until the date of adoption.  What if they changed their minds??  That fear seems irrational with no basis, but it is still there.  I don’t think its abnormal to have fear.  Its also such a long process.  But the end is worth it.  So very worth it.

I am blessed.

– Anonymous

Family Bonding

Family Bonding

Sarah Baker | July 01, 2013 | 02:45 PM

When adopting a child, the fear of bond is even greater than it is when it’s a biological child. I can remember when I was pregnant with Isaac and reading about women who failed to bond with their child after birth. That terrified me. If I had those fears with my biological son that I carried inside me for 9 months, how would it be with my adopted son? I feared it would take us longer to bond. That I couldn’t give him the maternal love he needed, that things would be “different”. The good news is… it was exactly the same. It was surreal, but it was the same. I saw that precious baby the moment he was born and was instantly in love with him. The first night we bonded so well that by the next day I knew him and he knew me. My husband was instantly smitten and I saw him cry just holding our newborn son.

With adoption it can be hard to bond with the unborn child. You bond with an idea of being a parent. You may have names picked out and a great relationship with the birth parents… but you still fear that adoption being disrupted. In our first match, we put ourselves fully into that match. When we saw family members treating us different from siblings that were also expecting; we were hurt. But, for them, the match wasn’t real. The baby wasn’t here yet, there was no guarantee. We wanted to celebrate our excitement, but they were afraid. We had to speak up. We now understand that it wasn’t their lack of excitement for us, but that they were protecting themselves in the chance it didn’t go through. Of course, our first match did fall through and we felt like that would just support their cause of not being excited if we got matched again. It’s like a miscarriage, in the sense that you don’t know what could happen. But should the “what if’s” cause you to avoid attachment? WHAT IF it does go through? Then you haven’t prepared or mentally bonded with that baby?

So when we did get matched again, we were terrified. But Ezra’s first mother knew about our first failed match, she understood my need to be up front about everything and clarify our expectations and us to understand her expectations so that the match could be a success. After we got that out of the way, I was able to cautiously bond. I was still scared, all the way up until he was born. But, I also was afraid for her. Afraid Ezra’s expecting mom was hurting. Afraid she would regret her decision. See, the beauty in bonding with Ezra before he was born, was that I also bonded with her. She is an amazing, strong woman that chose life for her son. She chose to be the best mom she could be to him and to her other 2 children by placing him for adoption. I am so glad I didn’t allow my first failed adoption to result in shutting my emotions down when we moved forward with trying again.

When Ezra was born, we stayed a couple days in the hospital with him and them. We did not invite family, but we were on the phone a lot, talking to family and texting pictures. When we got home, our immediate family came to visit in the days ahead. Those family members that struggled to bond and show excitement fell in love immediately. Their fear of the unknown vanished when they held our little 6 pounds of perfection.

The best part is seeing our older son, Isaac, with Ezra. When Ezra was about 2 or 3 months old, I was talking to Isaac and I said “I can’t believe he’s ours. He really feels like he is OURS.” Isaac said “duh, that’s because he is. He’s my brother.”