Thursday, July 28, 2005

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.
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33 Comments:

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everybody needs a name so why does the mother get called birthmom? What's her name? You seem like a really sweet guy I am sure you don't intend to be dismissive of Ashley's mother.

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Sam said...

"Birthmom" is what is commonly used. I struggle with this, but decided to air on the side of respecting the Birthmom's privacy a little, rather than giving her full name, neighborhood, etc...

I'd share everything, but I've been cautioned/asked not too. Like other than drug use, I haven't been real specific on the circumstances of Emma's birth which most folks would find to be aweful/wierd.

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Michelle said...

I dont' find you to be dismissive of her at all. Actually I'm suprised you can even put her picture online. (Is she ok with that?) I'm not putting any picture of my daughter on my blog until she is legally mine.

 
At 4:57 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Damn, I knew I should have written more on this.

I liked her. I've worked with a good number of kids like her and teenagers and middle school kids for years at a teen center I ran. She just is an addict and a kid with no skills and motivation to do much from a really messed up family.

I met with her a number of times-i followed up with her when she didn't contact the social worker...tracking her down once when no one knew where she was. She knew she wasn't ready to be a parent, and she thought we were "cool...it would be good if you could adopt her..."

Sadly, she didn't show up to a visitation the day after she promised a social worker she would, then her foster mom died, and the rest of the family moved. Neighbors and her sister told her I stopped by with the baby several times but she didn't say much.

Like I said, I may track her down...but through court records some day.

Emma is legally ours...as of last June 24th!

I've wondered a little about putting her story out to the public but I figure it'll help some people and that's what life is about...i think anyway...so I don't worry about it, name changes, etc...too much.

more later

 
At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can give her first name since you have her photo here. Just calling her birthmom is like having a photo of your dog and saying "dog". She has a name, or say this is the mother, which is what she really is, the child's mother.

 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Ok. Maybe someone will recognize her.

But she is not her mother. Mother implies caring for her, loving her, and a lifelong commitment - none of which she has done.

Her real mom is in the photo below.

 
At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Michelle said...

I saw that after I commented that you did already adopt Emma. I think it is great that you recognize the role that Emma's mother played in her being here, and like you said, she is no longer her mother. I have decided not to post any information about my daughter's birthmom or about why she is in care because it is her story. It is extremely personal to her.

Although I think there is are extremely wonderful birthparents who make loving adoption plans for their children, the truth is that there are plenty of birth parents who do not respect their children this way. By not including my daughter's birthmom in my public discussions, I am not being dismissive of her. My daughter knows she can talk about her birthmom anytime. But the truth is, she did not take care of my daughter. She did not take care of my daughter's brother. She abused and neglected them.

Anyway, glad to see another adopted from foster care blog. :)

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as much as you may dislike it- Emma has TWO moms. And- BOTH are
R E A L.

 
At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" But the truth is, she did not take care of my daughter. She did not take care of my daughter's brother. She abused and neglected them"

It is sad how natural parents, as well as adoptive, and foster sometimes abuse children.

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger Sam said...

we're arguing over semantics now, but only one person has legal rights as a mom, cares enough to be Emma's Mom, and therefore is her mom.

Getting high the day you give birth, as well as throughout the pregnancy, not calling or visiting, not showing up to a visit when you were a block away because you stopped by a drug house to get high....and then not calling the social worker for months and months....even when the foster dad gave you his number, photos, etc... We'll you lose your right to the title of "Mom."

This would probably be different in the case of women who say, "I can't handle a baby right now and I want something better for my baby."

That Patricia is no longer Emma's "Mom" has nothing to do whether I "like it or not."

.....ready to share with us anonymous, why you have such strong opinions?

 
At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That girl is her mother, her real mother, her natural mother, her birthmother, whatever name you want to give her.
That is her mother. Just because she lost her to adoption doesn't mean she isn't her mother. Baby Ashley/Emma has two mothers, the real mother and the adoptive mother, and they are BOTH her real mothers.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Sam said...

ok, you seem not to want to define the term, "Mother" but pretend to want to be as accurate as possible...so lets.

If we want to get real accurate, let's call Patricia, Emma's "abusive,drug feeding, attempted murdering, abandon-her-daughter mother" and we'll call my wife, Emma's "nurturing, loving, caring, committed-for-life mother." The vast majority of people wouldn't ever ever let the former "mother" see the baby ever again.

She didn't "lose" her daughter to adoption. Her daughter was taken away because of her abuse.

Again, I'm continually astonished in life how people get hung up on side issues rather than the things of central importance i.e. name vs. name rather than how wonderful it is that someone would take a risk on a baby that could have lots of problems and even be open to the birthmom seeing the baby at all after what she did to the baby.

This is kind of like for Christians, getting lost in a debate over, "Well what happens to the babies in the Amazon who die in childbirth...do they go to heaven because they haven't accepted Jesus?"

see, I should be filling in the rest of the story instead of going back and forth on the term "mother."

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was in a recovery house, she admitted that she had been using. She must have felt your wife's discomfort. She must have felt extremely shy and ashamed and overwhelmed.
Try to keep a positive attitude to her. Your wife also needs to be less threatened by her so that she doesn't pass that on to Emma.
Who is Emma/Ashley's real mother? Patricia is of course but that doesn't lessen your wife's role as her mother. They are both real mothers.

 
At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your obvious anger and hostility towards Patricia also needs to be resolved. On one hand you give the impression of being an easy going guy all for open adoption yet you harbour obvious resentments towards her.
She would pick that up and it would make her very uncomfortable and nervous about having contact.
When you hate the child's mother you are actually hating the child.

 
At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Sam, Patricia is the child's mother. Yes, she did lose her child to adoption.
I wonder if you were very kind to her before the adoption was actaully finalized.

Why do you have such a huge resentment against the poor girl? Imagine how low her self esteem would be, consider her backround, and why is there no blaming of the child's natural father? Where was he in all this? The girl went through the pregnancy alone. Do you have any understanding of the disease of addiction at all? Perhaps you ought to since it can be genetic so Emma might end up suffering from it too.

Both you and your wife need to change your attitudes about adoption and be more secure in your relationship with Emma. She is your daughter but she is your adopted daughter, that means she has a mother and whole other family as well.
She will grow up with your negative attitudes towards her mother and it will badly affect her self esteem. Surely you don't want that.
Being angry with me and others for questioning you is also not helpful. You have a public blog on the internet. We have not personally attacked you. We just see things differently to you that's all.

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Ha Ha, "you have not personally attacked me!" That's funny. You've made negative judgements about me, assumed things that aren't true...a pet peeve of mine that I suppose I'll have to get over.

Oh you silly person(s), I don't have any resentment towards Patricia at all - despite how awful she was to her baby - it hasn't effected Emma a bit! If anything I feel grateful that God can take a bad situation and work it out so well.

I was merely pointing out that if we we want to be factual about the term "mother" let's call what Patricia did, what it is - abuse and attempted murder....yet I'm still open to a continued relationship. Just how's that supposed to damage Emma's self esteem?

Clarifying a few things:

1. Patricia was in a private recovery house, because she needed a place to crash and was kicked out because she was still using. Had she picked up the phone, the social workers would have immediately put her in housing, counseling, and drug treatment. Sadly, she couldn't/wouldn't do that and I feel very bad for her - that doesn't change the facts of what she did.

2. I have addicts in my family and understand a lot about addiction. The latest research show that since Emma has been exposed she's not necessarily more likely to become an addict, but if she uses, she would be more likely to become addicted than a baby that was not exposed in utero.

3. She never met my wife so how could she feel my wife's uncomfortableness - part of the reason I, in fact, didn't want my wife to go. She only knew my wife couldn't get out of work.

4. I was always very kind and supportive to Patricia, encouraging her to get into treatment - because that was my role in the process - and I had some integrity about that role. Our social workers had never seen anyone so kind to the birthmom.

(In fact, they said I was doing too much to help. They insisted Patricia needed to show she could take some steps like picking up the phone, before she could take care of the baby, and said that if I were doing everything for her than it'd create a false impression of what she was committed to doing.)

Let me say it again, "I don't hate" Patricia. Although I suppose I'd be perfectly justified in hating what she did to Emma, although fortunately it turned out fine...course, we'll have to see if the Meth exposure gives her ADD or ADHD later.

I'm glad you find this blog so interesting! I guess I'm just re-discovering how so many people have strong opinions and feel so sure they are right that they feel the need to caution other people to "do" this or "don't" do that....which you may note, I've not done to anyone here.

Course, if I was, I'd say something like, "you should go analyze why you feel such a strong need to criticize other people's actions and decisions when you know nothing but a few paragraphs of writing. Did you 'lose' a child to adoption and now you are resentful of adoptive parents, when you should be angry at yourself?"

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger Sam said...

P.S. I just got a note that says I'm being disrespectful of Patricia by posting her name on the internet.

My defense that I did so in response to a poster who implied that I was treating Particia like I would a dog didn't wash.

p.p.s. Emma just saw the picture of my wife and said, "Mama" so I suppose she'll have the most, real judgement in the long run on who her Mama is.

.......and, as for extended family, she has lots of family and friends who love her immensely, as opposed to the "other" family, none of whom cared to call or visit, or show up at court, or anything (which frankly is not nice or loving to her) - except for Emma's Grandma (yes I call HER that) who passed away and now gets to watch this silly debate from heaven.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About personal attack comment, I am glad you don't feel personally attacked. They may seem like negative comments and you can react like you just did or you can be stimulated into learing more about adoption. Surely you want to be the best dad possible? Or would you rather just think that you know it all and try to find fault with me? It's your choice, I can't force you. My personal details are not important, and you dont ask in a respectful manner so don't invite trust and intimacy.

 
At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You call all this a silly debate, you just want to be all self righteous and proud. The grandmother is probably telling you not to be such a stubborn fool and take all information from all sources. I don't know it all, do you?

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Sam said...

akkkk, the grandmother is dead!!!! didn't you read that part!!!!!

it's silly, in that some people - not to mention any names of course - need to read more carefully and not quite so selectively in making their judgements.

The grandma was a very sweet lady who had taken about 7 kids into her home but whom herself had a history of neglect...and if you saw her house when I did you'd understand how it was an aweful environment.

I'll be she's up there just pleased as punch that Emma got a home and parents and a sibling and friends and family that love her so much and provide for her so well. That's the main point, right?

She was in favor of us adopting Emma, and she'd probably think it was good of me to share our story in hopes that it might help some folks - although helping folks argue about 'name' and stuff like that is a little silly don't you think?

I learn a lot from other people - on other sites. Every issue here so far I've thought a lot about, read about, and discussed before.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Seriously...

Don't you think giving drugs to a baby in the last few months before birth is attempted murder/involuntary manslaughter at least?

She'd be thrown in jail if she'd done that 1 second after Emma was born?

First we need to establish what is really wrong.

Then - and only then - do we go about addressing the why and how to stop it from happening again.

People mix the two up in arguments and attack people for being insensitive for merely pointing out the first in a facual manner.

I wouldn't be surprised if we get a call from the social worker saying, "surprise!" you get another one, as it's likely Patricia will get pregnant again.

....this is fun and interesting but boy does it take a lot of time...and I need to work on the other sections and Downwithgabe

 
At 1:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes the grandmother is dead, you said what she would be doing watching all this....Err...so that got you all excited like proof that I am stupid or something...I am not trying to be more clever than you....It's not even about the mother anymore, it's about your attitudes. If you don't want to grow then we can't force you.

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Why do you feel a need to educate me...to help me "grow?" Why do you need to help me learn more about adoption? Because I disagree with you?

Because you care about Emma? Please.

Someone, somewhere said something about how they will "pray" for us. No thanks! We have plenty of people who "real"ly care about us to pray for us.

I've never understood people, who think they know everything and have to educate everyone else on their correct way of thinking.

That's the kind of thinking that creates bad adoption experiences.

 
At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can remove the mean comments from her too if you like. (yours as well as mine)

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger MeekoMommy said...

This is strange, the more I read, the more similarities I have found!! Our adoption was finalized June 22, 2004!!

Amazing!

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger Annie said...

Hello Sam!

I am a birthmother, i placed my gorgeous baby girl in a loving awesome open adoption on the 9th of august 2005. I like the term birthmother, i am sure Anonymous doesnt know how widely accepted a phrase it is because essentially that is what I/we are. I am the mother-who-gave-birth. Plus, you definitely know who you are referring to with a title like bmom, instaed of just another first name, it is less confusing.

I have really enjoyed reading your blog and am glad i stumbled accross it. Your family is beautiful! i wish you all the luck and love in the world! I know how much love and pain goes into a decision like adoption, esspecially for me, knowing that I could be a good mom right now, but refusing to be a single parent because i KNOW the value of a good father in any childs life. Your blog has meant something to me. Thankyou for being a good daddy to your babies!
Annie

 
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At 8:25 PM, Anonymous youth with adhd said...

Hi Sam,

Thanks for the post, looking forward to more great stuff.

 
At 9:05 AM, Anonymous youth adhd said...

Hi Sam,

Love the fun blog, came across it while having a break. Ta.

 
At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I agree that there are several scenerios of adoptions. There are those that chose to place their children for adoption , there are those that may have had their child adopted against their wishes ( especially in years past) , and then of course there are those adoptions that come about when the child is taken into custody because of abuse,neglect, abandonment, or other situations. I think that resentment and attitudes can arise when one confuses one circumstance of adoption with another. It is wrong to try to judge one circumstance of adoption because of one's own biased opinion which is formed from a personal negative experience with adoption. I think that what Sam's family has done is a very beautiful thing.
I have a similar circumstance. I am an adoptive mother to 2 1/2 siblings that have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and were also exposed to illegal drugs. My children have servere mental and physical issues because of that. They were abused and neglected both before and after birth... The woman that gave birth to my children is their birth mother.. but I am their mother. I take care of them and all of their special needs and will do so for the rest of their lives. I am thankful that the birthmother for not aborting them as she could have legally done but I am not thankful for what she put my kids through.

Ami

 
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At 7:17 AM, Anonymous BabbyMomma said...

Sam, wow, I'm sorry you had to endure so many comments from people! I guess that is the risk you take when blogging! You u are doing the right thing by making Emma apart of your family, your culture and your heritage. That is the way kids should be raised! As you know from your childhood and I from mine, bad parents are the problem. Not names, race, origin. Because you acknowledge that experience and have chosen a different way Emma will be fine! What kids need are GOOD parents who love them....not just with feelings or ideas but with practical non-sensical hard work. People make things way to complicated!

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger Deborah said...

Birthmother is okay (I am one). Adoptive mom or mom is okay (I am one).
I admire anyone puttin themselves out there to discuss this topic. Too many people attack, based on their own experiences, anger, etc. I admire and support everyone here.
Only one thing - this sentence:

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.

Parent can be good enough but any hole or ache will never be small. It's part of their life journey. You have to recognize that. There is a lot of love you can give, but you cannot dismiss the child's "hole". My kids are older and have been in counseling for a while. It is still difficult to see them in that pain about it. Yet, I am from a family that split up when I was 5 and I never saw my dad, so there is a permanent hole there that I can somewhat relate to. It never goes away. Doesn't have anything to do with you, except you can just honor it.

Thank you to all who blog about this.

 

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