Tell Me Your Story: Of Waiting Again

From the moment Angela and Matt started dating, they knew that if they had a son, they would name him Kyle. When it came time for them to adopt, the couple posted their profile online, and shortly after posting, they received a phone call from an expectant mother. As soon as Angela heard the woman’s name, she knew it was meant to be. Her name was Kylie, and Angela knew that they had just met their miracle.

Angela and Matt stayed in touch with Kylie throughout her pregnancy and were at the hospital when she delivered. The couple brought baby Kyle home, and started the adoption conversation early by reading adoption themed children’s books and watching adoption related episodes of Sesame Street. One of Kyle’s favorite books is Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis. For Angela, the book holds special meaning because it closely mirrors Kyle’s story. As Angela curls up with her son for a bedtime story, she adds details of how she and Matt met his birth mother, were present for his birth, and how they brought him home.

looking at kyle

Angela also helps Kyle connect with his birth family through pictures and stories. She says that Kyle comments that his birth family lives “far away”, and when he is shown pictures, he points and asks questions about each person, curious to know about his other family.  When Kyle was only two, Angela wrote a letter to Kylie and included a few pictures. Kyle helped put the letter and pictures into an envelope, as Angela explained to the curious face peering up at her who the letter was for.  A few days later, Kyle folded up a piece of paper with his tiny hands, explaining that he was going to send a letter to Kylie too! Angela says that even though he is young, Kyle displays an awareness that their family was not formed in the traditional way – he knows that he has someone special that he has a connection to.

Now that Kyle is three, Angela and Matt are ready to adopt again. But the experience is much different than the first time they adopted, and Angela sometimes doubts why someone would choose their family “when there are so many beautiful families to choose from.” The wait for a first adoption is hard, but the wait for a second adoption is even harder, especially when the adoptive parents are considering another open adoption. It’s more than just checking off the right boxes and filling in paperwork –  it’s trying to find a match with another special family.

Besides being matched, there are other obstacles with a second adoption. With two children from two different families, one family may not have the same level of openness as the other. Angela is worried that it will be difficult to explain to her children why one family has a certain level of contact while the other does not. Kyle’s birth family is a drivable distance away, but if their future child lived further away, it might become difficult to visit both families equally.

Although it’s in the back of her mind, Angela doesn’t have to worry about all of those details just yet. The family has a profile on Adoptimist, but she hasn’t told Kyle any plans for a sibling yet. Angela says, “Kyle lives in the moment because of his young age, and I am not sure that he would understand what waiting means. And I know that he would not understand the disappointment that is sometimes involved with the adoption process.” Angela and Matt find themselves patiently waiting again, but they are also treasuring each moment with their son. Angela would love to someday have a sibling for Kyle, but ultimately she is thankful for her son and grateful to be a mom.

On Mother’s Day

As this time of year approaches, I always start wrestling with my emotions about my birth mother. Growing up, my longing for a connection with her always intensified on Mother’s Day. It was a feeling that I tried to avoid the rest of the year, but on Mother’s Day, it was was inescapable.

marion-bolognesi4On Mother’s Day, my siblings and I would make cards, buy flowers, or offer up whatever art project we had made in school. I was happy to show my appreciation, but inside I felt much differently. The days leading up to Mother’s Day always filled me with an overwhelming  anxiety, and on Mother’s Day I always felt awkward and uncomfortable, despite my outward display of gratitude. I mostly hid my true feelings about my birth mother. She was the woman who thought she had given me up for a better life, and I felt there was no room for anything but gratitude.

On Mother’s Day, I was celebrating the mother I had, but I was pushing away feelings of hurt and anger for the mother I lost. To express these feelings meant admitting that I was missing something. That I wasn’t entirely satisfied when everyone around me had done their part to ensure my success. I had no idea how to verbalize my conflicting emotions. And so Mother’s Day would come, and I would grin and bear it. A week would pass, then a month, and the sharp pain became a dull ache for the rest of the year.

These are feelings that many will have on Mother’s Day, despite having loving families. I have many people in my life who love me including my adoptive parents, siblings, and extended family. I have a close group of loyal friends, and a wonderful husband and two beautiful children. And still that will never be enough to fulfill this longing.

We all have a different story, so there is a danger in saying that every adopted child feels this way, because some do not. I’m no expert, but I do think there is a certain healing effect when you can acknowledge the loss. Discuss it. Cry about it. And know that it doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful.  Some of us will find closure in this lifetime, while others will have to learn to accept the unknown. So this is for anyone suffering from the loss of a mother, any mother, on Mother’s Day. Today you are not alone.

Interview with Jody Cantrell Dyer

In my last post, I reviewed The Eye of Adoption by Jody Cantrell Dyer, and I also had the pleasure of interviewing her. Jody is just as personable and open in her interview as she comes across in the book, and she is honest about her struggles in order to help others. Read on for the interview!

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In parts of the book you describe your various methods of trying to conceive and the obstacles you faced – did you find it hard to be so transparent?

I wrote The Eye of Adoption to help, in a real, raw, way, families who are trying to conceive or adopt. I felt that transparency was key to meeting that goal. I wanted to be approachable, flat-out honest, and believable, so I gave details. Infertility treatments can be humiliating and costly, and I felt readers would appreciate me saying so. I was concerned I would offend someone who used IVF. It simply was not a healthy option for me financially, physically, or spiritually. Financially, I would have had to gamble smart by implanting at least two embryos. That would put them at a physical disadvantage because of my clotting disorder, “bumpy” uterus, and other issues. Finally, I did not want to “wonder” about any embryos left over. (I had good, plentiful eggs, so that was a true possibility). I didn’t spell all that out in the book because every woman’s body is different and I didn’t want to come across as judgmental. I tried to describe my treatments so that other women could relate, but not question their own decisions.

 You mention MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and the movie Juno made an impact on you during your adoption journey.  Do you think media depictions of adoption are accurate? 

I think that MTV did a much better job than Juno writers did. Of course, 16 & Pregnant is a reality show, but they could have edited to control the message. I would like to have seen some stats about adoption, abortion, and open adoption in the broadcasts. So many young girls watch that show—why not give them hope through details about agencies, adoption information, etc.? Catelynn and Tyler are wonderful advocates for adoption. You can see that, though they grieve, they are healing well and moving forward in healthy ways. I sent them a copy of my book and they loved it! They Tweeted me really sweet messages, as did their social worker, Dawn. I loved Juno. I felt that Jennifer Garner did a great job of capturing the desperation and emotion and sometimes business-like approach to adoption. What wasn’t realistic was her husband’s strange affection for Juno and Juno’s parents’ cavalier attitude toward losing their grandchild. Media has so much power. Unfortunately, most media messages (particularly in the entertainment industry), gloss over the heartache and stereotype birth parents and adoptive parents.

You struggled with your inability to conceive and others’ ability to do so quite easily. At one point, you joke with your doctor that “If I’m not pregnant in six months, I’m going to start smoking. If I’m not pregnant in a year, I’m doing meth. Smokers and drug addicts get pregnant.” All jokes aside, now that you have adopted Scotty, do you feel less resentful towards pregnant women?

Not being able to conceive is an incurable, frustrating loss. To be honest, I still look at pregnant women and think, “Please be humble and grateful and modest. So many women are struggling through gut-wrenching heartache to just be normal and be mothers.” I am happy when someone I know becomes pregnant, but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely cured of the hurt of not being able to have more children. I truly think that turning 40 helped me more than anything, i.e., I feel too old to have a baby now, so I don’t want to be pregnant! Adoption doesn’t cure that loss, but adoption does cure the longing for a child.

 On the topic of infertility, you called it “traumatic” and despised advice from anyone, including the popular “Just relax and you will get pregnant.” What is the best thing to say, if anything, to a woman or couple struggling with infertility? 

Ha! Amen! Unless you are an ob/gyn or fertility specialist, simply say, “I am sorry you are having trouble conceiving.” I urge people to help those going through any struggle by doing something specific. We can pray, donate money to the cause (treatments and adoption are expensive), give a gift that demonstrates faith but won’t be too sad for the recipient (a baby blanket, a photo album, diapers, a devotional, a massage, a gift basket). Any tangible token of love would be thoughtful. Basically, women struggling with infertility can feel isolated. What we need is friends who will listen without judgment or criticism.

 Your book is unique in that it includes many different perspectives of adoption. Your husband was adopted as an infant, and you thoughtfully include his story. Along with your own narrative, you also include an interview with Scotty’s birthmother, Kerri, at the end of the novel. Why was it important for you to include the different perspectives? 

One of my goals with The Eye of Adoption is to build kinship among the adoption triad (birth family, adoptive family, adoptees). Adoption is a dynamic, extremely complex “industry” and experience for all parties. Adoption has been mishandled so many times and I don’t think the general public really understands it even know. By sharing all the different views, I could illustrate the positive and negative aspects of adoption for all of us. Kerri wanted to dispel myths and communicate hope to adoptive parents and birth parents. Adoption situations are as unique as the individuals involved in each match. It is important that families are educated so that they make right decisions for their children. It is also important that family and friends read books like mine so they can empathize with and support loved ones struggling to conceive, adopt, or place a child.

You also share emails exchanged with Scotty’s birthfather Bryant. At one point, you and your husband flew him down to visit. Are you still close to Bryant, and how do you see Scotty and Bryant’s relationship in the future? 

We feel emotionally close to Bryant, but we don’t talk with him very often. Kerri does. She shares information and pictures with him every time we get together. Bryant is hoping to visit this summer. At this point, I have no idea what Bryant and Scotty’s relationship will be. Jeff and I speak of Bryant and Kerri with love and respect, so I think Scotty will feel love and respect for him. But, Bryant lives in Pennsylvania, so I don’t think they’ll be too close. Open adoption is open-ended. We’ll have to see how Scotty’s relationships evolve. We all agree that his mental and emotional well-being are the most important concern.

For anyone considering adoption, by either placing a child or welcoming a child, what would you tell them?

To birthparents, I say “Do what your heart tells you to do.” If you want to parent, parent. If you need help, work with an agency to help you secure the resources you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy and be a successful mother or father. If you are considering adoption, read as much as you can about all types of adoption and get as much counseling as you can from social workers and pastors. Talk to other birth parents who have placed. Pray for good judgment and peace of mind. Know that you can negotiate the adoption relationship that is best for you and your child. Know that adoptive parents appreciate, love, admire, and respect you more than you can ever imagine, and that many want a continued relationship.

To adoptive parents, I say, “Do what your heart tells you to do.” Be willing to spend every dime, every moment of time, every ounce of energy, and every bit of your heart on the beautiful, burdensome, blessing of adoption. You will question, doubt, worry, and suffer. You will also gain the spiritual education of a lifetime. I think adoption is the most intentional process in the human experience. Pay attention to the miracles that happen along the way and allow yourself to grieve and heal. No matter what happens, if you want to be a parent, keep moving forward and do not give up on your dream.

Do you anticipate a follow up book or other adoption books in the future?

Kerri and I have talked about writing a book together. We’d like to write something that ministers to birth parents. My mother tagged me a “compassionate humorist” and my friends have begged me for years to write a “funny book.” I am currently writing the funny book one chapter at a time through my blog, Theories: Size 12. Basically, the posts are weekly rough drafts of chapters (my editor’s idea). I have a few ideas and projects in the works, but they may take some time to complete because I teach full time, write for a local magazine, contribute guest posts to adoption blogs all over the country, and, of course, have two busy little boys. Whew! I love to write, and definitely like writing with the purpose of inspiring others, whether that’s through emotion or humor. I am thrilled and honored when appreciative readers say that The Eye of Adoption ministered to them or that my latest Theory made them laugh out loud. I want my work to affect others in a meaningful way.

To find out more about Jody Cantrell Dyer, you can visit www.jodydyer.com