Adoption Bloggers Interview Project: Adoption Ain’t for Sissies

I’m excited to participate in the second annual Adoption Bloggers Interview Project, coordinated by Heather at Production Not Reproduction.

Here’s the impressive list of randomly matched blogger pairs, links included. It’s a whole world of adoption bloggers–birth parents, adoptive parents, and adult adoptees–I wish I would have found sooner. Thanks to Heather for taking time out of her life to bring us together.

I was paired with Jill of Adoption Ain’t for Sissies. She is, in her own words, “a wife, a mother, a civil engineer, a homeowner,” as well as “a recurrent miscarriage-er, a mother through kinship adoption, [and] a raw foodist…” I also learned from her blog that she is a Mormon, which you can learn more about below.

Here’s my interview of Jill. You can read her interview of me at Adoption Ain’t for Sissies. UPDATE: Here’s the direct link to Jill’s interview of me.

1. You adopted your son, River, via kinship adoption. Are there ways you think raising a child who came to you through kinship adoption makes the experience different from raising a child who was adopted through an agency? Do you think adopting a child who shares a biological connection (with your husband) makes it different?

I definitely believe that adopting through kinship makes the experience for all involved much different than if it was standard through an agency.  I know that this is a cop out but try as I might I could not do a better job answering this question than I did in my interview with Mama C back in the last Open Adoption Interview in March 2010.  So please allow me to quote the following thoughts I had on how openness is easier and more difficult in kinship adoption:

“As I began to write my answer to this question I realized that in so many ways the answers to what is easier and what is harder are exactly the same. The closeness that makes our open adoption so easy to develop also makes it difficult to maintain. In particular, necessary boundaries are difficult to set and sometimes even seem silly and/or futile when someone you know and love as a sibling is on the other side. Perhaps every blessing has its price, though. I know that at times it will be an enormous challenge while at others it will practically seem natural to maintain harmony in our new expanded relationship with Angie [River’s first mom].

“During her pregnancy it made being a part of his prenatal care very easy and comfortable. I was able to go to all of her doctor’s appointments with her without any awkwardness like there would have been if in advance she had been a stranger. On the flip side, because we are close I had access to and witnessed the pain and agony she experienced over the impending loss that most adoptive parents do not. Adoptive parents are always aware of the loss experienced by their child’s birth parents but to witness it in person humbled me and at times made me feel like the worst person in the world. It was difficult not to blame myself for her pain and agony and impossible not to wish my becoming a mother didn’t have to hurt someone I loved so much.

“One of the most appealing parts of the nature of our adoption is the fact that the majority of what is difficult is difficult on myself and Cory [my husband] and the majority of what is a benefit is a benefit to River. Like any parent I am willing to take on as much discomfort as necessary to make things as easy on River as possible. River will always be able to have a close relationship with Angie since she is now his aunt. That will allow him access to the answers to many of his questions and may even prevent the need for him to ask them as the answers will be apparent in the nature of their relationship. To me, that alone is priceless and worth whatever discomfort it may cause me.”

2. You have experienced a number of pregnancies that did not carry through to full term. Can you describe some things you did to grieve and heal?

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m all that great at grieving.  I tend to get angry, and push people away.  However, I do have a few positive habits that I have developed that have helped during my grieving process.

The most important thing I have found is to make sure to take time to myself to let the tears go.  I’m not good at holding them back so I do my best to let them out in a controlled setting.  I remember that I tried to tough it out through my first miscarriage and continued to go about life as usual.  It was difficult because I was one of the few women in the office I worked in and I’d have to run to the bathroom or hide in my cubicle to sob.  I learned my lesson after that.

Music is also an amazing source of comfort for me.  I love a well written sad song and so listening to certain albums helps me to let go and get it all out. (I highly recommend “The First Days of Spring” by Noah and the WhaleTori Amos is also great as are The Weepies, Laura Marling, and The Cure depending on your taste).  Once I’ve given plenty of time for the tears I switch it up and listen to any type of music that makes me want to get up, throw my hands in the air, and dance.

Finally, I’ve got to give props to River.  In the several miscarriages I’ve had since he was born just his presence has been a huge comfort.  As he gets older and develops the ability to read emotions he has also started to consciously comfort me.  After my most recent miscarriage in September/October, without any prompting, he would not leave my side.  The first day we spent cuddled up in bed watching “Star Wars” and I was amazed that despite his bouncy-endless source of energy-can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes-3 year old personality, he put up with hours of vegging out because he wanted to be there for me.

3. So tell us, what do you mean by “adoption aint’ for sissies”? What makes it tough?

Unfortunately, I must admit that initially the name was borne of my largely self-centered observation of the adoption process and coming to terms with the fact that adoption was not what I expected.  As a prospective adoptive parent I totally fell for the adoption myth that adoption is best for everyone involved and thus the process should be all unicorns and rainbows.  Instead it kicked my ass.

While I was over the moon excited to finally be a mother the process forced me to face many personal demons.  Some of those demons were in line with what I expected like facing my infertility, and fear of the possibility of failure as an adoptive parent.  However, some of my demons I didn’t quite expect.  The most shocking was realizing after years of doing all I could to be unique and stand out in a crowd that deep down I wanted to be normal and be accepted with open arms into the community of mothers.

Also being a total Type A, Aries personality I struggled to accept the fact that I had no control over the situation and that, that was exactly how it should be.  The adoption process should be all about the expectant/first parents and the child.  Not the expectations and hopes of the prospective/adoptive parents.

4. In a few blog posts, you mention attending an adoption conference. For those out there who haven’t attended adoption gatherings but might be interested to know more, could you tell about which conference you attended and what was beneficial about it?

This April I attended a Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) Conference because Kelsey from “A Birth Mother’s Voice” was the key note speaker.  I love that woman and was excited for the opportunity to get to meet her.  Her speech was amazing and, I believe, very beneficial for the largely adoptive parent audience.

The conference also included a panel of first moms and a panel of adoptees to answer questions.  Very deep questions were asked during both panels.  This gave me great hope that we as adoptive parents may finally be moving toward a place of understanding first parents and adoptees.  However, I felt all of the panel members were very pro-adoption and as a result some of the deep questions were dismissed without honest answers that may be more representative of how first parents and adoptees feel in general.

There were also sessions of classes and I attended classes on open adoption, grieving infertility and the experience of failed adoption.   Each class hit on points I wanted and needed to hear.  I highly recommend those involved in adoption attend as many conferences, read as many books and join as many communities as possible.  So much can be learned from gathering experiences like this interview project for example.  Especially when all three members of the adoption triad are brought together so we can come to understand each other’s perspectives and learn how we can best support each other.

5. I’m really curious to know about ways in which you experience gender. As a gay papa, it’s hard for me to relate to the ways non-gay people talk about moms and dads being different, but I’m aware it could feel very different to be straight and parenting with someone of the opposite sex. What are the ways you think men and women or moms and dads are different, on average?

Before it even occurred to me to start buying River gender biased toys like trucks he began to “drive” random items around on the floor like CDs, TV remotes, etc.  So it is my belief that there are differences either born or bred into each gender and that does influence our parenting styles.  In observing the differences between myself and my parenting partner, my parents, friends and in chatting with fellow members of the mommy community I believe in general women excel in micro parenting.  We tend to be more detail oriented while men function better in macro parenting like general discipline.

I also believe individual personalities have an influence and can trump gender tendencies.  I have been very interested in reading each of the various responses by gay mamas and papas on your blog to the question:

Do you think of yourself as a “mother”? A “father”? Something in between? Why?

It has really made me think about the roles society places on the two genders and whether or not society is being held back because of those limitations.

6. I know in some places being Mormon is very mainstream. In others, it’s seen as outside the mainstream. Has it ever affected how others perceive you or your family? Are there any stereotypes or preconceptions of Mormons that you’d like to address?”

Generally, outside of Utah being Mormon is not mainstream.  I’ve grown up in the neighboring state of Colorado, however, the percentage of Mormons in the state is pretty small… less than 5%, I believe.  I definitely grew up knowing that my religion was weird to other people and to a certain extent kept it to myself because of that.  I remember once in a history class in high school my teacher was talking about how members of my church tend to be high achieving students and asked if anyone in the class was Mormon.  I didn’t raise my hand for fear of the judgment I may receive from my classmates.  Sadly, I find that even as an adult I do the same thing.

As I mentioned to you in our email discussions I was so afraid you wouldn’t like me because I am Mormon and my church tends to be intolerant of the gay community.  I was so afraid you would think that I felt the same way and would judge you as a gay man.  I love the irony in that, and the fact that it turned the status quo on its head, though!  I think that the religious community needs to understand what it is like to be judged. It is one of the best ways to develop tolerance and understanding.

I am glad I grew up Mormon in a non-Mormon community.  It helped me to see life outside of the trap of black and white dogma that many churches fall in to.  I had friends that were gay, that smoked ridiculous amounts of weed, chose to end pregnancies that weren’t planned and each and every one of them was an amazing person that I loved to death.  I don’t believe we have to have the same beliefs to get along.  As a matter of fact I feel I get along better with non-members than I do members because our different beliefs often fit perfectly like pieces of a puzzle.

The one stereotype that I would like to address for my church is that of intolerance.  My church is very family focused and as a result tends to reject anything outside of the traditional family definition. This is where the intolerance comes in. It isn’t that we are all back woods bigots, we just have a limited definition of family and fight for that definition. However, my church is also big on the concept of free agency… the opportunity we have to make our own decisions. This is what I like to focus on.  Everyone has the right to make their own decisions. Whether or not you agree with them shouldn’t change your opinion of the individual.

I know this is growing long but I’d like to end this question with a quote from the episode of South Park called “All About Mormons.” This is the speech that Gary, the new Mormon kid gives to Stan when he judges him for being Mormon,

“Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people… All I ever did was try to be your friend… but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.”

I love it!  It is a great response to any form of intolerance!

7. I noticed on your personal timeline that you are trying to have another child. How did you choose TTC versus attempting another adoption?

While we have had problems TTC we still have not given up on wanting to have a child biologically.  So it seemed the best option to start with for our second child.

That said, I have weighed the options lately because I wonder how River will feel if his sibling is biological v. adopted like himself.  I’ve heard from adoptees that this can make them feel “othered” and I do not want to do that to River.  On the flip side I am also not anxious to adopt again because going through the standard procedure is largely foreign to me.  Dear Birthmother letters, home studies, and waiting were not really a part of our experience adopting River.  The vulnerability, pain and loss were, though, and I don’t know if I want to inflict that on expectant parents or (selfishly) myself again.

8. For people new to the adoption blogosphere, name three resources (books, websites, etc) that helped you understand more and connect with other people touched by adoption.

First, Discussion Boards.  I originally joined Mama Kaths’ TTC website a few months after I miscarried for the first time.  There I found support from other men and women struggling to conceive.  The website also has an adoption discussion board and when we made the decision to adopt I moved over to that discussion board and forged beautiful friendships with the girls there.

Second, Blogs.  In particular I think it is important for prospective and adoptive parents to read the blogs of first parents and adoptees.  If you are interested I can provide a list of first parent and adoptee blogs I follow that are great.  Joining a community of blogs has been essential for me.  In our own geographic communities we are generally not in the norm.  Only 2% of children born are placed for adoption.  Blogging allows us to connect with those in the adoption community and provide a place where we feel safe and understood.

Third, Read.  (Insert poster here with Bella and Edward saying something like, “Take a bite out of life… READ” or similar cheesy reference) This year I joined Jenna in her Adoption Reading Challenge.  Jenna is a first mom who blogs at “The Chronicles of Munchkin Land.”  Some of the books that I have found helpful have been:

In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda.

Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff.

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Aldridge.

There are so many great books out there again to help us connect with people who understand us, know where we’ve been and have various opinions on the best way to go from there.

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