Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Babies and Broken Promises



My cleaning service has been sending the same young girl monthly for almost a year now. When she started, she and her boyfriend had recently attended the first birthday party of a daughter they gave up at birth in an open adoption. She showed me photos on her phone and we talked about it at length. She had no regrets, she said, because she wasn’t able to give a child what it needs physically or emotionally and I remarked that it sounded like a win-win for everyone. She whole heartedly agreed. Fast forward to this month when she got here to clean and I asked how her month was going. Boy, did that question open up a can of worms! The adopted parents haven’t allowed a visit for the past six months even though the terms of the adoption states that the birth parents are supposed to get a three hour visit every three months. The two couples live hours apart and this past weekend they had a prearranged date for the bio parents to visit but at the last minute the adoptive parents called to cancel it, putting the visit off until March. Same thing they’ve been doing for the past six months. 

The whole topic of babies, adoptions and motherhood is out of my realm of experience but my cleaning girl was clearly in a lot of pain. She lamented, “We gave these people our daughter but they can’t even keep their commitment to us? Those visits are the only rights we retained!” She was at a crossroads of thinking it would be easier to back off trying to see her daughter at all because “it’s too hard to get my hopes up, and then have the rug get pulled out from under us at the last minute.” I asked her if the adoption agency could intervene to remind them of their legal obligation to allow the visits and she all by yelled, “I shouldn’t have to ask the agency to get involved! They made a promise!” I would have liked to fold her in my arms but instead I said, “Well, whatever you do don’t make any decisions while your emotions are so raw. Whether or not you talk to the agency or back off from seeing the baby or you keep pushing for visitations on your own try to remember this isn’t about it being easy or hard or even about there being a right or wrong approach, a right or wrong decision here. It's about the baby and what's best for her." Ya, I know, I should have kept my opinions to myself.

I guess this is a prime example of why “they” always advise clients not to get involved talking with those giving services of any kind in your home. I’m not good at giving people the silence treatment but on the good side, my cleaning girl scrubbed her heart out in my kitchen as we talked; it sparkled extra clean and then I gave her space to be alone with her overwhelming regrets about giving up her baby and me to be alone to write about it. The whole conversation just confirmed my long standing opinion that no matter what choices women/couples make regarding abortion, adoption or raising an unplanned baby, they will go through a full range of emotions, justifications, acceptance, gratitude and regrets. And that’s okay. Making decisions you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life should never be easy and with tough decisions, there will always be those ‘what if’ moments, hours or days when choices are taken out of their lock box to reexamine. 

“...Life is about making choices. Our lives are the sum of all the choices we make, the bridges we cross, and the ones we burn. Our souls cast long shadows over many people, even after we are gone. Fate, luck, and providence are the consequence of our freedom of choice, not the determinants. When justice is served by following our principles, making good decisions brings us inner peace. ― Judith Land, Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child

I feel badly for my cleaning girl. She thought she made a good decision but she no longer has inner peace about it. She very young and is learning a hard lesson that there’s a difference between idealism and reality, that even good people might act selfishly from time to time and need to be formally reminded of their legal responsibilities. For three months the adoptive parents had this then high school girl living with them, ending with them being coaches at the birth. “I thought I knew these people,” she said, “but I didn’t know them at all!” Who would ever guess that such a sad story would come along with a clean house? ©

32 comments:

  1. That is sad. Makes a person wonder if the adoptive parents are considering a complete split. Do you know if the adoption has been finalized?

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    1. I didn't ask if the adoption is final but I'm pretty sure it is. I really hope she talks to the agency. These are older people jerking around a couple of kids in my opinion. Three hours ever three months is not unreasonable.

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  2. "Our souls cast long shadows over many people, even after we are gone."
    That's something to remember.

    What a sad story. Recently, I've been regretting a decision I made about ten years ago, but it's nothing close to the magnitude of this. She's very young to learn such a lesson. I hope she finds peace with it no matter the outcome.

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    1. I love that quote, too. It's so simple, but so true.

      She and her boyfriend don't have much of a support system in their lives. Though I think she's got a good head on her shoulders, this is a weighty topic to struggle with.

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  3. I think you gave your cleaning lady good, sound advice. It was kind of you to do so. I'd have done the same in your situation.

    You live an interesting life, more interesting than mine! ~ Libby

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    1. Thank you for the validation of my advice. It was hard to know what's the right thing to say.

      Don't you think that everyone's life would seem interesting if we could know their every thought? I just write mine out, spill my guts about everything but bowel movements. LOL I get bored with my life very often.

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  4. Oh this breaks my heart. I clearly see both sides of this story because I am not emotionally involved. I get why the parents changed their minds, that is terribly confusing to the child as they age and the fear of them taking her. But the birth mom was promised one thing and now they just changed their minds. I am not a fan of such an open adoptioin, I don't think it is good/healthy for the birth family or the adoptive family let alone the child. But I can see the pain everywhere. You did such a good job of comforting her. If the plans were a contract and done legally she has recourse. If it was just between them, then she may have none. Why though would she put her child through that. She may just need to learn this is what adoption is and when her child is 18 she wil come looking for. In my experience every adopted child I have know (only 3) has done just that. Still loving the parents that raised her but needed to find the birth parents. I hope this all works out for everyone.

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    1. She says the visitations clause was done legally and I wanted to ask her to remember the reasons why they all agreed to those terms in the first place. Were they thinking of the birth parents, or did they think it would enrich the baby to know her birth parents? But she was too upset to ask everything I wanted to know. I know from earlier conversations that they planned for the baby to call the birth parents by their given name. If the adoptive parents are pushing back this early in the baby's life, this isn't going to end well for anyone.

      I don't know any adoptive people or parents of adopted kids but I know the longing to know who you are and were your "people" come from through genealogy research. The instinct to know would have to hundred times stronger for an adopted child. But at what age is ideal to find out that stuff?

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    2. The adoptive parents should realize that when the child wants to find her bio-parents - and she will want to - the child will learn that the bio-parents wanted to see her and were prevented from doing so. Eighteen years seems like a long time, but it goes by in a flash. The child's interest could rise even before that, and it is so easy to find people with so many tools available.

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    3. Bella, I thought about that from the other side of the coin, too. What if the child finds out that her bio parents could have been visiting her for years but quit trying to pursue it. Or if both sets of parent blame the other for the break. No way could this child not get hurt in the future if they don't iron things out while she's still a baby.

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  5. Personally, as a general rule, I am opposed to open adoptions. There are exceptions to all rules but I'd be very leery in considering open adoption.

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    1. I never really thought about this topic before to have formed an opinion.

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  6. My heart is breaking for her. I have a two close friends who adopted and they would send an annual letter and photo. And yes, each girl then wanted to know their birth parents. And each got over involved in the birth family's lives. Both birth families were very poor and abused alcohol and drugs. The adoptive Moms had many many heart breaking moments after their daughters' turned 18. Messy, messy.

    My MIL's helper/cleaning gal had so many sad stories that touched MIL's heart. But she was wise enough not to hand out money to help her out ... except for $$$ gifts for Christmas and her birthday. It's hard to know where to draw the line about advice ... but I think you did it just right. Mostly listen and especially make decisions when cooled down. Well done!

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    1. My sister-in-law was a sucker for giving money and food to her caregivers and cleaners. Not going to happen with me. She once gave a cleaner $700 to buy a car, she was supposed to work it off doing extra things the service didn't cover---wall washing that sort of thing---but quit instead and her money was gone. She didn't dare tell her family because she didn't want the cleaner to get into trouble.

      I can see how heart breaking adoptions can end up. Very hard for everyone concerned.

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  7. I agree that it is a sad story. Is she arranging the meetings directly with the adoptive parents? I am amazed that she lived with them for three months. That's quite an
    Interesting arrangement. I was wondering if she would feel comfortable enough asking them...letting them know how hurt and confused she is feeling and asking for an explanation.
    I also agree that it is not a generous amount of time that she was given to see her daughter. With such infrequent visits it must be very difficult to walk away.
    I have crossed back over to this side of the Atlantic. I arrived yesterday afternoon as there was sleet and icy rain. What a welcome!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I got the impression they call her direct to cancel. I think she has asked for explanations and in her words "was given the run-around." Like not being available again after this last cancellation for another three weekends.

      The fact that the visits are spaces so far apart I can't see how the adoptive parents could worry that the child will bond with the bio parents. I don't know what their problem is but I hope they work it through.

      What was not a good welcome home!

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  8. that is so sad, but it's clear she better get professionals involved to help. :(

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    1. I totally agree but I didn't want to be one of those persons who put unnecessary pressure on her when she's the one who has to live with the repercussions of her actions for a very long time

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  9. I was adopted. I lost my father before I was three. I lost my mother by the time I was 16. I lived with my aunt until I was 18. I searched for my birth mother and found her but she didn't want to build a relationship. She married but had no other children.I went on with my life but kept trying to find how I came to be born. I never did and a few years ago I just gave up. I still have no roots. No siblings, no grand parents, no cousins, no brothers or sisters. It can be a very lonely place.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in on this discussion. I'm sorry that your birth mother, for whatever her reasons, wasn't open to filling in some of the blanks in your life. Who knows, maybe doing so would have opened up a very painful part of her life, maybe she thought you were better off not knowing. Or maybe she was just a person who lacks empathy and/or a mother's instinct like the baby tigers on the news today whose mother rejected them. But I'll bet you're strong person, having gone though so much grief early on. My cleaning girl didn't have a good early childhood either.

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  10. It sounds like the adoptive parents are regretting the agreement they made -- for reasons we don't know. If the birth parents are willing to get the professionals from the agency involved, it may provide an opportunity for mediation and a better outcome than increasing enmity between the two sets of parents. I'm glad you gave her an opportunity to talk about this and some good advice. -Jean

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    1. I've been thinking along the same lines...that they need something like a marriage counselor. I will suggest it if I get a chance. Even if things have ironed out by my next appointment, my cleaning girl needs a plan for the next time there is friction. Bad feelings shouldn't be allowed to fester this early in the process and this can't be a unique situation with these kinds of agencies.

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  11. I can see both sides to this. I put myself in the adoptive mother's thinking, but then I know how I'd feel if I had the arrangement and then they were jerking me around.

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    1. That's our advantage of age...that we can see all sides.

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  12. This is a sad story. I would think under even the best of circumstances any arrangement like this with bio parents and adoptive parents trying to share a child there would be all sorts of problems, not to mention periods through the years for a child to feel very conflicted, too.

    Sometimes it is enough to just listen which is all the person wants -- they don't want someone trying to solve their problem -- another person injecting themselves into the process even with well-meaning advice which might account for the anger. They may just want sympathy or they may well know what to do, what their choices are, but you were there and and better equipped to assess her manner, state of mind, etc.

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    1. I know know what you mean about people just wanting someone to be a sounding board who won't tell them what to do. When I'm in situations like this I try very hard not say, "You should do so and so" but rather ask, "Have you thought about doing so and so." Young adults can get so many others telling them what to do, it gets confusing plus when someone tells me what to do I want to do the opposite myself just to assert myself. My cleaning girl comes on Monday mornings and this had just happened the day before which was the source of her anger . She was upset from the minute she walked in.

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  13. I'm an adoptee. At the time there was no such thing as open adoption. My adopted parents were great and I always thought, and still do, think of them as my parents. But, that didn't stop me from wondering about my birth mother, why she surrendered me, what blood relatives looked like, etc.

    My mother died when I was in my early 20's. A couple of years later I started the search for my birth mother. It wasn't easy because my records were closed. It's a long story but eventually I did find her. After she surrendered me, she moved back to Ireland, got married, and had 7 more children. Only her sister knew about me. She was thrilled to hear from me and learn that I had a happy upbringing.

    We corresponded and spoke on the phone occasionally. She chose not to tell her family who I was for about 10 yrs. I respected her privacy.

    It's been over 30 yrs since I found her. Now everyone in the family knows who I am. While I don't think of them as my mother and siblings exactly, since I didn't grow up with them, I feel close to them. I visit them in Ireland every couple of yrs.

    Peggy

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    1. I'm glad you had a great outcome with finding your birth mother. Wanting to find our roots is so basic. I can't imagine not knowing family background---countries and nationalities, etc. And for your birth mother not to have to live with a secret anymore has got to be a good thing for her, too. There are so many scenarios one could run into with finding a birth parent or a child given up for adoption, that's it seems to me to be a very brave thing to do.

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  14. We have an AM radio talk show host here in Houston with two adopted kids from Ethiopia. He and his wife have done a wonderful job with them -- particularly in terms of inculcating an appreciation for their heritage. They go back to Ethiopia every year (though I don't think seeing birth parents is involved), they eat Ethiopian food every week, speak the language, and so on.

    But the real point is that once every quarter, because of his experience, the radio host devotes a full, five hour day to discussion of adoption: every issue, from whether to adopt, how to arrange visitation (or not), and so on. People call in who have been on every possible side of the issue -- birth parents, adoptive parents, kids who knew, kids who didn't -- and they do a great job of laying out all the issues. Because personal experiences are such a part of the discussion, everyone gets to hear how well things can go, and how badly. It's the sort of thing radio can do so well -- I think it probably has helped some people sort things out.

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    1. That really sounds like a great and informative program! Adoption is a complicated subject, isn't it.

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  15. Well, well. Gotta chime in. I'm an adoptive parent (twice) and both are "open adoptions".

    We were actually among the early pioneering families (1985) to do adoptions where the birthmothers "chose" the adoptive parents based on portfolios we submitted and then met with the birth mom (and dad if he wanted to; one did and one didn't) before the baby was born and again on the day of placement. Our arrangement was to exchange letters and photos "regularly" the first year. No strict time table, but I did it monthly.

    There was always the idea that we might someday meet again when the kids were older -- and we did. When they were each 5-6 years old we contacted the birthmothers and arranged meetings. We did this a few times in their childhood and each time was easy, successful in terms of feeling good about it all, and very validating and reassuring for all concerned.

    Our sons have always known they are adopted and know as much as we could tell them about their birth families. They are now 29 and 31 years old and have seen their birthmothers as adults too.

    My older son's birthmother came to his wedding. My younger son visits his birthmother and half-sisters a couple times a year. Both say they have no conflict or confusion about who is "mom and dad" and think of their birth families as "relatives we see once in a while".

    We were grateful that in both cases we really liked the birthmothers and their families -- mature and thoughtful people who in no way tried to make any claims or intrude on our family life. (We live 3 hours from one and 5 hours from the other, so not right in our community.)

    I have heard stories of some open adoptions not working out well at all. Everyone needs to understand the boundaries around the legalities and also the emotions around it all. On occasion of "our" birthmothers would refer our child as "my oldest son"....it made me cringe and grind my teeth a bit, but I didn't begrudge it (too much) since technically it was true...but adoptive parents often have feeling of not being entitled to the child -- that this is a gift that could be rescinded or fought over -- and that is terrifying.

    You are hearing one side of the story -- who knows what happens and what's said when the visits occur? Maybe it's just too hard for the adoptive parents to "share" at this point (but they might need some counseling to help them over this hump.) I'm glad I had several years of feeling completely and fully their mother before we started face to face visits. It helped me to feel like a "real mom". No adoptive parent EVER forgets she didn't give birth to the child and always knows she is sharing this child with another.... It takes a lot of strength, compassion, and empathy on ALL sides to make it work. Everyone needs to remember that the whole thing is for the benefit of the child.

    Adoptive parents need to protect their child from any birthparent who is inappropriate to be with the child, but barring that, I believe it is in their best interest in the long run to be as open as possible and to allow some contact. AND even though promises were made and should be honored (yes! get the agency and/or mediator involved to sort this out!), the birth mom needs to understand what relinquishing parental rights means -- she has no legal right to the child anymore. Adoption is not babysitting.

    I hope it all works out; it can either be amazing or heartbreaking for all concerned and at any given time throughout the lifetime of the relationships, it's likely to vacillate between the extremes. I'm glad my sons are grown and can mediate these relationships on their own now. I mostly watch from the sidelines and note they feel fondness, but no strong attachment. I think that's as it should be. The end. :)

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  16. Wow, thanks for giving me insight from the adoptive parents point of view. I am very aware that I'm only hearing one side and also that this early in a child's life birth parents could easily---and maybe unknowingly---make the adoptive parents nervous. I have no doubt this young girl understands she has no rights beyond the visits, she's said it out loud and when we first talked about it months ago, I asked her what they plan to have the child call her and her boyfriend. The answer was "by their first names." I just hope something gets ironed out by the time I see her early next month. These kids are really young for such a heavy problem and both have been in "the system" much of their lives.

    Oddly enough, I saw a movie today about an adoptive child who searched for his birth parent and he kept that fact from his adoptive mother because he didn't want to hurt her or make her think he wasn't "grateful." It had a great, feel good ending that made me cry. I'm blogging my review tomorrow.

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