Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holidays and the disrupted adoption

When the holidays come around, especially kid oriented holidays, I think of the original family that adopted Genea from Ukraine and disrupted. The first parents have divorced and had no other children and the mom at least has been alienated from her extended family although I understand they are working on repairing their relationship. In a vicious twist of irony, the original parents had decided to adopt children into their family because of the significant mental illness on the part of one of them. That parent was determined to not pass on the genetics of a psychological disorder to their potential children. I guess it is like a turn of the bingo ball cage, you never know what will pop out! There are probably not accurate statistics on what percentage of adopted children may have emotional or mental disorders, but it has to be at least what it is in the general population. In the same roll that everyone gets, they got the one thing they feared the most.

It is easy to demonize the original adopting couple and I have been tempted to join many times, but you know, they did the best they could with the ball they were handed. Their intentions were not to spend years of their lives dedicated to the care of a child and then pass her off.
So when these milestones come around, like the first day of school or Christmas or Genea's birthday I think of 3 moms. Myself of course, and I like to take lots of pictures and set aside sentimental notes or things for Genea to save, but also things that she can show others. She got her first note from a boy at school recently and I not only saved it, I took photo's of it. The second mom I think of is the original adopting mom. I try to remember little parts of our day to day lives and email her an update every few months. I also post pictures for her to follow along on a photo site that is also open to my extended family. I don't have to do this, and no one asked me to. When we were still in the process of finalizing, before their termination hearing, she was a rigid and unrelenting pain in my ass. We had all agreed to weekly phone calls until the term hearing. To me that meant at some point between Monday and Friday, I would call her and let her know how things were going. To her this meant, since we made the first call on a Tuesday at 6:00, bring on your hell and your high water but you better darn well have that call made with your lips flapping before 6:01 strikes.
The third mom is the birth mom. I wonder if she has other kids now, if she is married or not, if her circumstances have changed since she let Genea be adopted. I wonder if she has any way of knowing Genea was adopted to the United States and how she would feel about that. When I save things for Genea I think sometimes, is this something her birth mom might want to see someday? I am interested in knowing about her, but I see that as exclusively Genea's information to obtain or disregard. The birth mom is for her alone.
For all the moms, I think of these things much more around the holidays because that is when I imagine them both struggling with memories and hopes for this child.
The first adopting mom and I have kept up contact and she has been admirably respectful of us since her rights were terminated. The annoying demanding behavior on her part is gone entirely and she tells me she is grateful for the news I send. In turn, she sends cards with a little short note on big days, usually with a gift. I keep these for Genea but I do not show her the cards and do not tell her who the gift is from. I emailed her about a month ago to ask what things she would like Genea to know when Genea starts asking about them and why she does not live with them anymore. For the first time I got dead silence. She sent a card with a note for Christmas but did not answer the question. I guess it was too much for her or she was not ready for it.
The first moms parents, Genea's original adoptive grandparents, put on a huge show for everyone. The court, the agency, the therapists, us, their own psychologist, everyone. They were determined to get their grandparent rights (which do not exist). It was like being in a Broadway production. I had a lot of empathy for them, this was their granddaughter! They had lived every day of the adoption process with the parents, and had helped significantly with fundraising and planning and support and were now being shut out. They had memories and dreams for Genea too. I tried to put myself in their place and I understood they were not coming from a place of aggression and hatefulness, they were worried about their granddaughter. They managed to interfere with just about everything, costing us thousands of extra dollars. They even had their lawyer send us a letter begging to be able to give both girls Christmas gifts last year, and family heirlooms they wanted Genea to have, and dozens of photos from her first few weeks of time here, letters and cards from extended family, all of it. I was suspicious that for all their caring, these grandparents did not ask about Genea and when I introduced the subject of how she was doing, they said oh! yes! How is she? Oh! uh huh! Now back to US.....We spoke, and The Husband and I agreed that we would be happy to accept all of it, and would introduce it to Genea when she was ready. This was last Christmas by the way. Do you know it was August (AUGUST!!!) before they contacted the agency again to deliver these precious gifts. I told them, keep it. And if you insist on delivering this stuff to the agency you should know I intend to give it all to charity. They left the stuff anyway and they had waaaaaaaaaaay overblown the sentiment and value of the whole lot of it. Cards and letters? 2 cards with nothing written on them. One letter, from an aunt that was 7 pages long, handwritten, that was 100% about herself. Not a single 'hope you are well' or the like. 3 photo's. With themselves prominent. I would not have shared further with them anyway but after that, well, they shut their own door. Because I feel firmly that this is the first moms loss and she should be in full control of all information she has and who she shares what with. She lost her motherhood and she has felt it, the agonizing hurt, more than anyone else in her family, including the first dad who seemed to be along for the ride and not much else.
Genea does not ask about them, any of them. She used to for about the first 3 months. Her therapist made her a beautiful memory book that she looks at, oh, every few months probably for about 10 minutes. She has no questions, just asks me to put it back for her. It is where she can see it but where she and her mangling little sister cannot get to it. I intend to be as honest as I can be when the questions start to come, but I don't know many answers. I guess people will have to speak for themselves, and that won't be until much later.
From my perspective as Genea's mom, I see her sadness every day. I see the results of orphanage care in her, and the results of a failed adoption in her. She struggles every single day just barely hanging on sometimes. The chaotic care has annihilated the child she would have been. Who she will become will have to wait. It is as possible that she will be a better person for it, as it is she will become a damaged person.
Wow, I really had no intention of going so deep into all of this. Genea has been taking a rest, and Teena has been watching Thomas so I had the holy grail of momhood- a short period of time to think and focus!
Well, now it is over. Genea just came out to tell me she flooded the bed. Ah, oceanfront property.
Next post - the after effect of a sibling hospitalization on your attachment disordered child who needs to be in control control control! (sigh, my attempt at seeing the humor. sigh.)


  1. From my perspective as Genea's mom, I see her sadness every day. I see the results of orphanage care in her, and the results of a failed adoption in her. She struggles every single day just barely hanging on sometimes. The chaotic care has annihilated the child she would have been. Who she will become will have to wait. It is as possible that she will be a better person for it, as it is she will become a damaged person.

    This speaks volumes Essie. Trying to hold back the tears... had no idea it was going to be a weepy day....

  2. Well written! 3 of my 4 children come from a situation of disruption so I have thought often of all of the "mothers" and what they must be feeling at holidays, birthdays, everything. There is such a fine line between information that "belongs" to all involved, but I tend to play sole advocate for my child. While I respect the feelings of the adults, this is my child's story and all the parts become bricks of the life they must lead. Not excuses, just parts of the whole.

    I admire your techniques for handling the notes and gifts from former family. You all deserve to grow your family tree with out having to keep track of the branches from the other.

    I will now step down from this box. LOL!


  3. Hey Essie. Great post. I wonder this with my kids too. With Toby, we are about to make contact with his aunt, who disrupted his adoption yet kept his sister...and I just wonder so many things...

  4. Gosh i feel your pain when i read your writing. thanks for sharing this with us.
    It must be so hard to not have the answers to things, but i guess you just have to be honest with her later when she asks, we can not always know why people do the things they do.
    As a side line, how did it come about that she thought her disrupted mum and dad were in an airplane? just wondering

  5. Thanks you guys! I usually think of a post and rattle some ideas in my brain first, but this time it all just flowed out since it was briefly quiet in my house.
    No one knows where Genea got the idea her old parents were on a plane. The mom used to travel for work sometimes, so that is all anyone could think of. I saw her one time role playing with Teena their leaving and saying goodbye to her to get on a plane. It must be the only explanation she could come up with in her little kid brain. I have no idea what they told her actually, now that I think about it, it could have come from the first parents.


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