Adoption 7: LOVING THE BIRTHMOM
Patricia gave birth to Emma, Feb. 18, 2004. I can sure see the resemblance.
I suppose given the comments below, I should fill in this section....
The worker gave us the aweful personal history of the Birthmother, Patricia, and the aweful circumstances of Emma's birth. My first question was, given that we were terrified that we'd bond and then have to give the baby back, how likely did the social worker think that was? 95%-99% unlikely. Young kid, on drugs, no home to speak of, herself growing up in a foster home with a very old lady who was sick (and about to die) of stomach cancer.
Still, when we found out Patricia would attend a "visitation" we suddenly had a wave of panic. (Even two weeks into having Emma, my wife and I were in a store, and we started thinking about losing her, and both of us teared up.) My wife could not stand to go. I think she was
angry at Patricia and uncomfortable, however, I've worked with a lot of teenagers and can't stand letting things just happen without my knowing exactly what is going on.
That first visit was very strange. I walked in carrying Emma, big smile on my face, and said, "Hey, look who's here!" Patricia kind of muttered and stared at the floor. Her own adopted mother in contrast was very friendly. We sat in a conference room while we chatted a bit and then I said, "would you like to hold her?" They kept referring to "Ashley" as "our/her" baby...and I had to quell my own defensive reaction. Patricia was uncomfortable at first and didn't know how to hold or feed the baby - not surprising - and her mother kept bossing her around.
After another visit like this - but at a Burger King - she started to warm up a bit. I knew all the same music and teenage stuff that she was into, and her own adoptive mother liked me a lot. But then she disappeared and stopped coming. The worst thing was that at the last scheduled visit she didn't show and I went to her house a block or so away and her sister said that Patricia had been there a few hours before. (She later admitted to me that she went and got high instead.)
The social workers told me to just give it up and not worry about it, but I went and tracked her down at a nearby gym and then visited her at a recovery house she was staying at. (Note that foster parents do not take babies to strange neighborhoods, with people they don't know to visit drug addicted Birthmoms, but I've worked in neighborhoods with a lot of different people and figured I could handle it.) It was a nice house with nice recovering addicts, and we talked for a few hours. I liked her. Turns out Meth users act as normal as anyone until they get high and they disappear. She was just a kid on drugs, with no support system, education, or skills, or perspective, and I've felt really sorry for her that 'drugs' can come in between a Mom and a Baby which is the most powerful bond on earth...except for that of me and my baby of course. By the end of the visit she was back and forth on whether to complete her services or just voluntarily let us adopt Emma.
The social workers were surprised I'd found Patricia and got in contact with her. Again she didn't show up at the visit and no one has seen her since. (She wasn't even able to follow through on making a phone call to the worker, treatement program, or me.) Her sister, Raven, saw her once and told her that I'd been by to visit several times, but she said, "I know," and didn't seem to care. Her legal rights were terminated around May, and then our adoption finalized in June.
I wanted to be able to tell Emma that I did everything possible to keep a healthy connection between her and her Birthmom, despite the fact that Patricia disappeared. I meet a lot of people who do not want to do this. They look at the bottom line, which is that Patricia fed her baby drugs, could have maimed her for life, or killed her and thus has no claim to her and should not be allowed near her ever again! I can sure understand and respect that opinion, and take seriously the advice that if Patricia does resurface in jail or addicted, etc...that I should Not allow Emma contact with her at all, or only through an intermediary like the social services agency. Would you let your teenager hang our with or correspond with someone who was on drugs or in prison? Probably not.
We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I'll always be honest and open with Emma, and if she is mature enough to handle what she wants, I'm sure I'll be supportive in any way possible. Most adoptive kids always wonder - what happened, why didn't she want me? - and I hope to have as many answers as Emma needs. My hope is that I'm a good enough parent that any "hole" or "ache" she has in her life will be small and won't matter much at all.
Who is Emma's real "Mother?" We've been having an interesting - if not consequential - discussion about this in the comment section below.