A birth mom visit

Miles’ mom, sister, aunt, and cousin left yesterday, after a four-day visit.

When we all lived in the same city, we saw them every other month or so. Since moving, we returned for a visit once, about a year ago. This was the first time they came to stay with us.

Now they’re gone, and I’m reflecting on what the visit means for our relationship to Miles’ mom, his relationship to her and his sister, and our relationship to him. In the coming week, I’m hoping to work it out by writing a few shorter posts, each about a different aspect of the visit.

Overall, things went remarkably well, especially considering the potential pitfalls and tensions. For today I have just a few impressions to share.

Within an hour of their departure, I dropped Miles off for his first day of school. He didn’t seem preoccupied with their leaving. His chief concern, at least the stated one, was that he wanted me to stay at school with him. After clinging to my leg for a bit, his teacher convinced him to go through the school door, and he didn’t look back.

I returned to an empty house, empty except for me.

I wasn’t sure what would happen. I was worn out and knew I’d been feeling more than I understood. Would I collapse into a deep slumber? Would I listlessly waste my time after giving so much attention to our guests? Would I unexpectedly cry?

Instead, it just felt good to have calm restored.

While sitting at the dining room table, my hand got caught in a tiny pool of maple syrup, left behind by Miles’ two-year-old cousin.

Standing over the toilet, my bare feet pushed into the sand that had fallen out of Miles’ sister’s bathing suit after a day at Lake Erie.

As I hung the wet sheets outside on the crisp and brilliant 70-degree morning, I spotted a tendril of long, black hair. Miles’ mom’s hair.

This is the kind of relationship I have had with Miles’ birth mom since the beginning: intimate and connected, yet awkward and slightly wary.

Clamping the sheet to the clothesline, I remembered her pillowcase, the one I surreptitiously removed from her hospital pillow just moments after she placed Miles in my arms. An attachment parenting class had suggested keeping something with her scent near him to ease the abruptness of her absence. We kept it in his crib for a few weeks, never knowing if it helped him.

There’s a lot we’ll never know. With the pillowcase and the visit, did we make the right choices? I sift through the words of experts, adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and birth moms, hoping to figure out how to minimize the hurt and loss I’m told he will experience.

There’s no clear path. I pick my way through, giving Miles age-appropriate truth, love, and attention. I try to see him for who he is and who he’s becoming, not make assumptions about what this experience will mean to him. Right now, my instinct tells me that we–all of us–did something right by coming together for this visit.

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6 thoughts on “A birth mom visit

  1. I have really been enjoying your blog. This one brought tears to my eyes as I thought about you keeping his birth mother’s scent near him. It sounds like Miles has many people in his life who care for him. Some he will see daily and some just every so often. I look forward to reading your upcoming blogs about the visit.

  2. Rhiannon –

    Thanks so much for your comment. Nice to know you’re out there, getting something out of the blog. I’ll check out your blog too.

    I’m hoping to have another post about the visit up soon. I like your point about thinking about the ways adoption gives Miles that many more people in his life who care about him. He does have quite a constellation of love and family.

    -Josh

  3. It’s not the same, but I think about related things with regard to our kids and their being donor conceived. Will they feel that as a loss or not a big deal? I don’t know. I have my suspicions based on what I know of their personalities so far, but like you I try to hold back on the assumptions (though I find that’s easier said than done).

    You write “I sift through the words of experts, adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and birth moms, hoping to figure out how to minimize the hurt and loss I’m told he will experience.” One thing that shifted for me recently was feeling myself start to let go of needing to minimize a potential loss my kids might feel in having such limited information about half of their genetics. Something clicked, and I stopped hoping my kids would think it was “not a big deal.” It might actually turn out to be a really big deal for them, and I’ve shifted from trying to figure out the “right way” to make sure it’s not, to feeling more confident that they’ll do what they need to do to figure it out, whatever that is, and that our family can remain strong throughout.

    I’m not sure I’m quite getting the idea pinned down right, but I feel like there must be a parallel here with your navigation of the relationship with Miles’ birth family. It sounds like you are putting the tools in place for him to do what he needs to do as he figures it out for himself.

  4. Hi Lyn –

    It does seem like there are similarities or parallels for all of us queer families. I think it was Dan Savage who, in debating The Kids Are Alright on NYTimes.com, raised the point that we all have a third figure in our families–whether a known or anon. sperm donor, surrogate, or birth parent. So many of us are now trying to figure out how to address this with our kids. I’ve been enjoying your blog because you seem to use your writing to genuinely inquire about this and related issues. I know, for me, blogging has helped me figure out what I’m feeling and where I’m going with my parenting.

    For Miles, I want to put the elements in place–the truth about his story, a sense of security about our love, and knowledge of and contact with his birth family–that will equip him with the capacity to navigate his experience. I expect that he’ll feel some kind of hurt and loss as he grows into a better understanding about his adoption, but my hope is that we can make it less difficult by taking some of these preventative steps.

    Your comments about your experience is a good check for me. Makes me realize my understanding is limited to what it has meant to parent this one child, for all of three years. He’s just now beginning to be a more independent little creature. I expect to be surprised and floored many times. I just hope when we all come out on the other side of the teenage years, he still likes us and wants to be around us.

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