Friday, January 13, 2006

when an adoptive mom becomes a stalker: some thoughts from inside a closed adoption

micah was born at 33 weeks and was placed with us when he was twelve days old, still in the nicu. he came home to us three days later. his mother, amber, and father, malcolm (not their real names), held him briefly after he was born, but they never visited with him again, nor did they call to find out how he was doing. i'm not sure when his mother left the hospital, probably the next day or the day after that. she and malcolm made an appointment to meet with the agency several days later in order to sign the initial consent (final relinquishment wouldn't happen for three more months) but they didn't show up, and the agency was not able to get in contact with them for several more days. when the agency did reach them, amber and malcolm assured them that they still wanted to place their baby for adoption, and they both signed the initial consent form when micah (then still "baby boy c" [also not his real initial]) was eight days old. the agency called us for the first time that afternoon to see if we would be interested in the placement. obviously we were, but for various reasons, the placement didn't take happen for four more days.

amber had been in touch with the agency several weeks earlier. actually, she had been working with another agency, but they did not think they could find a placement for an african-american baby, and referred her to our agency, which works almost entirely with african-american mothers. at that time, of course, she did not think she was having a baby for several more months. she said she had only discovered she was pregnant at five months, and had known as soon as she discovered the pregnancy that she wanted to place her baby for adoption. she filled out an extensive social and medical history, and answered a few questions about what mattered to her in an adoptive family. she was open to a same-sex couple and to people of a different race -- she just wanted people who were well-educated and open-minded. she did not want to meet us or to know anything about us; the only thing she wanted to know was that her son had in fact been placed with an adoptive family. she did not want us to know her last name; she did not want letters and pictures; and she did not want her son to be able to contact her when he turned 18.

we received the social and medical history, with only last names, addresses and phone numbers redacted, so we know a whole lot about micah's first family. we know his parents were in their early twenties and were parenting his two older sisters, who were six and four when he was born. we know his sisters' first names. we know his parent's birthdays, where they went to high school, what neighborhood they live in. and, because the hospital messed up, and because the agency missed a last name when they were redacting, we know both his parents' last names.

you see where this is going, don't you? we have so much information about them, it would probably take me about a day to find them. and if i couldn't, it would probably take a private investigator about half an hour. it's a constant temptation which i am firmly committed to resisting until micah decides he's ready to find them and is capable of handling the possibility of their rejection. i don't want to betray their trust or disrespect their wishes. i don't want to open wounds, and it's not my place to second-guess the way they've chosen to deal with their grief. i know micah's sisters didn't even know their mom was pregnant with him, or at least hadn't been told. i believe amber and malcolm were told they could open the adoption at any time, that at the least there would be letters and pictures at the agency if they ever wanted them (and we do send them, even though they've never requested them).

and yet... and yet. i'm haunted by the thought of them. i scan crowds when i'm out, wondering if i would recognize them if we crossed paths at the zoo, or a library or playground. i wonder about micah's older sisters, and how much they really understood. i wonder how much micah looks like them. are they also sharp as tacks? do they share his wicked sense of humor, his passion, his persistence? i wonder about amber, how she's doing, if she started community college the next fall like she planned. i wonder about their pain, both amber's and malcolm's, and how they are coping with what they've lost, this beautiful baby boy of theirs. i wish they could know him, know how well he's doing, what an amazing kid they have.

and also i mourn for micah, for what he has lost, and especially the part of it that needn't have been lost had the adoption been open. even if we do find them someday, when he is older, and even if they welcome the reunion ... i just wish for micah that there would never be a time when he didn't know them, his mama amber and his daddy malcolm.

and then there's this: what if right now they are out there, wishing they could know micah, wishing they could have a relationship with him, yearning to know that he's happy and well, and they are just too afraid, or in too much pain, to reach out? what if they can't imagine we would be open to that? or they just can't imagine it, period? that haunts me more than anything. i find myself thinking, well, you could find them and just send a really simple note, and leave it at that. put the ball in their court, but at least make sure they know we're game if they are.

and then i start to feel like a stalker, and think that i need to stop thinking so much.



At January 13, 2006 11:07 PM, Blogger sster said...

Thank you for this post. We're about to (probably) enter a closed adoption that we really wish was open. I can identify with a lot of what you're saying here.

At January 14, 2006 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh boy - what a headful. I utterly and completely understand your "tussle" with the issue. I know you know that all parties involved in the decision-making are consenting adults...and the bonus on your end is that you have a bit of a backup card for the future. Sit tight for now...b/c it's the right thing to do - and you can gauge Micah's need re his bio parents in the future.

Love your writing, but I knew I would :) Sara

At January 14, 2006 5:16 PM, Anonymous mamacate said...

Wow. That's an intense situation, and I think I'd be in just the same place. I'm glad you have the information, but at the same time it's such a difficult place to be in. I suppose it's quite impossible to ask the agency to get in touch and urge them again to open the adoption?

I understand that a closed adoption is a good situation for some adoptive parents (and an unknown and unknowable donor as well), but frankly it's hard for me to imagine. I would have used an unknowable donor if I had to, but wow, it would have been tough. Hugs. And thanks for sharing your thoughts.

At January 15, 2006 8:08 PM, Blogger susan said...

I don't know that you can stop thinking, Marta--I can see how you could think yourself into overwhelmed circles looping around about what if, what if, what if, and that could be a pretty difficult psychological space sometimes. But at the same time, all the what ifs acknowledge that Micah's first parents are real people, who made the choices you know about around Micah's birth, and you're not trying to pretend that they are frozen in time or that you know what they meant or mean or feel or felt. That you don't know (as I don't know with CG's original parents) where they are now or what they are feeling now is something to be mourned, but I think you are making space for Micah to have his own feelings, questions, attitudes as he grows. And that's something, isn't it?

At January 16, 2006 9:30 AM, Blogger Dawn said...

I'm with Sara -- I'm glad you have a backup card. Should Micah need/want that information, you will be able to give it to him and that's a huge, enormous blessing. (I just found your blog and I'm glad to add it to my rss feeds!!!)

At January 16, 2006 10:00 AM, Blogger afrindiemum said...

z's story is different from micah's, but i recognize a lot of similarities. especially the feelings you're having. i don't have any suggestions or answers - because i have the same questions as you - with just a slightly different angle thrown into the mix. it's so hard, i know.

At January 17, 2006 7:07 PM, Anonymous trey said...

oh my, you've said exactly how we feel sometimes. We know a _lot_ about the adoptive mother and could probably find her with an hour or two of work...

but we'll wait till Emma is ready and asks.

but i do catch myself wondering every once in a while.

At January 26, 2006 11:48 PM, Anonymous sjusju said...

Hi Marta,

just came across your blog - lovely!

I think it is great that you are so conscious of trying to give Micah some connection with his birthfamily. My mum relinquished a daughter before I was born, and I wish my sister's adoptive mum had felt the same way as you do. I always longed for a big sister, never knowing that I already had one.

You can't make the decision on contact for micah's birth parents, but I don't think it would be too much if you just put a little "feeler" out there to see if they might want to see him, or at least receive a photo or something.

The old-fashioned "just pretend it never happened and you'll be fine" thing is really damaging - my poor mum had to go to her sister's wedding about a month post-partum, and no one said a word to her about what had happened.

We did meet my sister a couple of times, but she ended up having to cut off contact because it upset her adoptive mum so much.

Please don't feel like you are being a "stalker" - I think it is pretty normal and natural to feel connected in some way to the people who gave birth to your son. Even if you never see them, they are your son's family, and therefore yours.

best wishes,

At February 04, 2006 12:32 AM, Blogger being mama daily said...

Your intention in this situation is beautiful. So when the longing to knowcomes - and I believe it will - you will be in the perfect position to hold his hand and walk through it with him. Best to you.


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