It’s Time to Start Talking

It's Time to Start Talking

“Don’t write about writing.”

Except that I need to in order to move myself—and my writing—forward. Over the past two years, my writing frequency declined. I left a beloved, long-time job just over two years ago. After leaving another job almost one year ago, I found myself unable to write.

It’s not that I didn’t have things to write about at the time. Oh, I did.

However, some things simply couldn’t be written about at the time. Some things still don’t lend themselves easily to the page, though I’ve been working on how to write about certain topics solely from my point of view. It’s hard.

We write so much about the early stages of parenting. Of poop and sleep and leaky breasts. Of best parenting practices and how to make mom friends and how to make your baby a genius. And yes, thanks to our generation of writing moms, we even talk about loneliness, fear, and depression, postpartum or otherwise.

We’re allowed to keep up this talk, this back and forth of learning and teaching, through some point in elementary school. We can write about school trials and tribulations. We’re allowed rant about unnecessary testing. We’re still okay to share our kiddos pics.

Until we’re not.

Until the dreaded tweendom takes hold.

Suddenly and silently, we’re on our own, and quite honestly, it sucks.

The sudden lack of anything in Blog Land regarding parenting of tweens feels much like the Blogosphere when I started writing about open adoption as a birth mother. In 2004, no one wrote about birthmotherhood, open adoption, grief, loss, happiness, visit, or anything in between. In 2005, when I started Chronicles, I did so solely out of a need to share my truth.

It grew into so much more, of course. It grew until those who didn’t like my voice worked tirelessly to silence me. I do not regret that I “let” them “win.” Chronicles, as it existed in its then form, outgrew its purpose. My experience at that time could no longer be used to help others. I recognized the approaching tweendom wall with my daughter, and if no one’s writing about parenting tweens, let me tell you this:

No one is talking about birth parenting tweens in open adoption.

That’s not really good for anyone, our children included. While birth parents can muster through their grief and loss without much direction or support when their child is but a wee babe, doing so without support or empathy from others during those tween years (and beyond) seems like a bad choice.

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I’ve spent the past year silently wishing for help. My therapist—not a birth mother, not an adoptee—can only offer so much insight. I’ve learned a lot from the vocal, helpful, beautiful adoptee contingent on Twitter over the past year, both publicly and via Direct Message. And still, I felt very alone.

It wasn’t until I reached out to another first mother involved in a fully open adoption earlier this year that I learned some of the things my unique family unit is currently experiencing are not abnormal or unique. I literally felt like the only birth mother on the planet going through what we were going through until that moment.

I felt that way because no one is talking about it.

No one is talking about it out of fear of stepping over boundaries, out of habit of walking on eggshells. Out of being silenced by other birth parents; trolled by adoptive parents; dismissed by a society which wants to believe we’re the bad guys in a good versus evil situation.

It’s time to start talking.

It’s time to start talking about how birth parents involved in open adoption can help their child address the trauma caused by relinquishment. To start talking about mental health and illness and suicidality among adoptees and birth parents. To let other (birth) parents know they’re not alone when a(ny) child becomes a tween and the relationship dynamic shifts drastically.

It’s time, once again, to break the silence. Doing so requires careful attention that we, as first parents, discuss how it feels for and affects us, to avoid projecting our feelings. It requires sharing about our experiences, not our children’s experience.

It means knowing what is our own issue, what is not, and a careful use of language and writing skill.

I plan on being part of this next wave of change in how we share about our experiences in open adoption. (I also plan on sharing more about the tween(s-to-be) who live under my roof.) I share all of this now, in this long post about writing and not writing, so that when I jump in soon, readers have a frame of reference.

I sat silent on topics pertaining to adoption for two years because it hurt too much. For the past two years, I’ve dipped my toe in the waters but stayed out of the surf. I’m ready to share, to ask, to learn, to help once again.

All this to say: Hi. Let’s talk about the realities of parenting and birth parenting again.

It's Time to Start Talking

 

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There Is Light

Surprises

I don’t tell the boys when we approach a visit with their sister.

Part of this stems from the true joy I have in surprising my sons with just about everything under the sun. I absolutely love watching their faces when they either realize where we’re going or what is about to happen… or the sheer joy when I pull off a 100% shocking surprise. Oh, that’s my favorite.

I should note that I loathe surprises and if my parents had done this to me I’d probably require more therapy than I already do. I thought maybe working surprises into the boys’ lives might help in that regard. Parenting is a crapshoot at best, and they seem to like it. So we stick with it.

And part of it stems from a few smaller known issues.

Plans can change. When plans change, feelings can get hurt and emotions can run high. While our home is a safe space for big emotions, I really try to avoid letting them down. I hold enough guilt for how my actions well before they were born continue to let them down in a number of ways. I acknowledge that the whole “letting down” thing is going to happen in their lives, but I try to minimize it where and when I can. I mean, I also regularly let them down because I’m a boring curmudgeon of a mother. You know, there’s that.

There’s their excitement and, hand in hand with that, anxiety. “Is she here yet,” quickly escalates to an argument over who gets to sit next to her in the car. (Meanwhile, the both do, because she sits in the middle.) While some might see that as sibling rivalry extending into our unique family unit, I recognize my sons’ personalities and anxieties for what they are: They worry they won’t get enough one-on-one time with their sister. Gut punch.

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Lastly, a totally selfish reason: I’m anxious enough about visits for approximately eleven billion reasons. Do I have enough food and snacks and drinks for everyone? Is the house clean enough? How many times will Callie excitedly pee on the floor? How much is too much? How much is not enough? How do we fit in all I want to do? Is there enough down time for a bunch of introverts and Nicholas? How do I properly process my emotions on the fly during a visit? How hard will the boys crash emotionally on Sunday when they leave? How hard will I crash on Sunday night when the boys go to sleep?

And so on.

I no longer fret about what to wear. I did realize last visit that we only take them to the same restaurants every time, so we’re gonna change it up a little bit this time around. But my brain can spin out of control if I let it. When the boys aren’t asking me eleventy billion questions about the visit, I have time and space to breathe, to make room for the emotions that are not only allowed to exist but continue to help push me toward some semblance of healing and peace.

Every single time I mindfully enter into a visit with an attitude of humble acceptance instead of anxious expectancy, I feel a growth and a change inside my soul. Oh, it’s still hard as fuck when she leaves. There’s no sugar-coating that truth. But I’ve noticed when I take that purposeful approach to a visit and practice some good self-care before hand, good things happen somewhere deep inside where things lay buried.

Remind me of this on Friday afternoon. I’m also hoping to snap reactionary photos of the boys seeing their sister, which should be at two totally separate times thanks to baseball (which has us at the field Monday through Saturday this year, folks!). For the past year and a half, I have witnessed that all on my own. I’m hoping to capture it this time. It’s truly a thing of beauty—something we worked hard to make a safe space for all.

Progress. She happens, especially after a period of hard, dark personal growth. Spring is here, and there is light.

Surprises