In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is running a special series called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
Picture that your little boy - the light of your life - has two relatives who might be politely described as "troubled." They dropped out of high school - the male relative at 13- and they drink a lot. This is not good, because both their moms are alcoholics.
They both have tempers and the male relative has been arrested several times - once for hitting his own mother. He might have sexually abused his little sister. The female relative has borderline personality disorder, which means she is extremely emotional, needy and insecure.
When your little boy was an infant, these relatives spent time with him. It didn't go well. One time, when they were supposed to be watching the little boy, they left him naked and lying in his own pee while they went outside for a smoke. Other times they fought with each other in front of the boy. They forgot to change him and feed him. He came home with his genitals bright red and you still don't know why.
These relatives - this young man and young woman - really love your little boy. They want to see him, spend time with him, get lots of pictures of him and be part of his life.
But you, as his mother, know they are not safe for him to be around. They are good people at heart, but they are deeply troubled and you fear they might hurt him. Either physically or psychologically. They say they "won't take him from you," which is horrifying for the very fact that they even brought it up. Their need for your son seems to have little to do with who he IS but instead, what he REPRESENTS to them as a relative.
Frankly, these relatives scare you. If they weren't related to him, if they were just neighbors down the street, there is no way in hell that you would let your son spend time with them.
Now picture that these are your son's birth parents.
This is why my son has a closed adoption and always will. His birth parents are not safe and I will do everything in my power to protect him.
I am the mom, the one who takes care of him and I know what's best. When he is 18 and he wants to seek them out, I won't stop him. But this is a CLOSED adoption and will remain so. Blood is one thing, anger and instability is another.
Child welfare workers took this little boy from his teen parents as an infant because they couldn't even handle the first few weeks of his life. They were charged with neglect. I won't go into all the specifics.
Child welfare workers kept him away from his birth parents because they couldn't get it together to even visit with him regularly. The judge favored them at first because they were such young teens - they were given visitation of two times a week, for several hours at a time.
So in a one-year period, they could have seen this lovely little boy more than 100 times. Do you know how many times they showed up? In a whole year? Fourteen. And that was with social workers driving TO THEIR HOUSE to pick them up. Often, they just wouldn't get in the van. Even if the little boy was inside.
For several of those visits, I actually drove my son there and back. He was my foster baby, they were his birth parents. I knew I had no rights; I knew the score. He needed to visit with them; I would help make that happen, even though I loved him, too.
The birth parents met me four times. They knew I was adopting their son. After a year of these failed attempts to parent him, they decided not to fight his adoption. Since he was my foster baby, I got the first say in whether I wanted to adopt him. Of course I said yes. Since he was being adopted through foster care, they knew it would be a closed adoption - no contact.
The last time I saw his birth parents was at the courthouse for a hearing. They paused long enough from fighting with each other to talk to me briefly. They asked me to send photos once a year, around his birthday. That was it.
He was supposed to have one final visit with them, for his first birthday. They cancelled three times.
After a year of dealing with their nuttiness and drama, I was glad to be dome with them. I didn't send pictures that year. If they wanted to know how he was, they could have shown up for the visit.
But when his second birthday rolled around, I was feeling guilty. Open adoptions are much more in vogue these days. And I was watching a lot of "Teen Mom" with Caitlyn and Tyler. My Catholic guilt set in.
I knew their names, hometowns, etc. So I looked them up on MySpace (this was a couple years ago) and messaged them. They responded right away. To protect my son, I never told them my last name, where we live or where I work. But we chatted about our son and I sent pictures. Things were okay for a couple months. They were, surprisingly, still together as a couple. They had an apartment and he had a job.
Then the craziness reappeared. She emailed all the time, in a very needy way, not just for our son but for contact with ME. I felt like I had to mother her, too. She didn't understand why I wouldn't text her (um, because then she would know my phone number).
By this point, we had switched over to Facebook. She started complaining, to all her FB friends, about how she "wasn't allowed to see her son." I emailed and tried to tell her my reasons why: He was still so young and they were still not all that stable. Her emails got nasty. They got mean. I got angry. She wanted to see him, talk to him, visit him. She WANTED him. It became clear to me that not only is she manipulative, but delusional.
I didn't initiate contact for a while. Then after many months, the guilt returned. i was probably watching "Teen Mom" again, or maybe "Juno." So I responded to her emails. They started off fine and then BOOM she unloaded a crap ton of negative emotions and hate onto me. It was awful and upsetting. Her reaction should not be surprising, given the instability of her life and her borderline personality disorder diagnosis.
But having that much hate and vitriol directed at me was horrible. And it made me very, very worried for my son's safety. From now on, they will get a very brief email once or twice a year, letting them know our son is fine. But that's it. That is it.
I know I screwed up by contacting them. I thought it would make this better for them, but instead, I made it worse. For that, I am sorry and regretful. I know they are hurting, I do. But I have to do what's best for this little boy, since they cannot or will not.
They still don't know our last name, where we live or where I work. But I know his birth mom is always looking for him. She is on the Internet all day and we live in the same state. As soon as my son turns 13 and gets a Facebook account (or its future iteration), I know she will be there: BOOM! Trying to explode into his life. I am trying to prevent that from happening for as long as I can.
That's why this blog post is anonymous. It's why he doesn't show up in my Facebook profile pictures. It's why I refuse permission for his Little League team or his school to post pictures of him online. It's why I am not telling you his name or age.
I tried to open up our adoption, maybe just a little bit. And it was a huge mistake. The state created closed adoptions from foster care for a reason.
I wish we could all be one happy family. I envy Carrie's relationship with M (the Portrait of an Adoption family). But M is older, got her issues worked out and is not harmful to K.
That is not the case here. I will never badmouth his birth parents to him. He has seen their photos and I answer whatever basic questions he has. But he hasn't had many. When he is 18, he can read my huge, thick file of his records from the state, including his birth parents' full names etc.
But while he is underage, I will protect him and keep him safe. Even from his own relatives.
By An Anonymous Adoptive Mother
Portrait of an Adoption has been nominated to the Circle of Moms Top 25 Book Author Mom Blogs! If you are enjoying this adoption series, please support Portrait by clicking here and voting! So easy to do, and you can vote once a day until December 7, 2012.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. This year’s adoption series is full, but if you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year’s series, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.