Monday, July 20, 2009

Dear Birth Mom - From Joshua

I have debated internally about this post for a few days, and finally came to the conclusion that I would go ahead and share. Over the years I have had hundreds of emails from parents who are struggling somewhere on the attachment continuum with their children and they have somehow found us and drawn comfort and understanding from this blog and other online posts I have made in group settings.

But what I want you each to understand, before going any further, is that this is my treasured son's heart I am exposing here...and he has been given no choice in the matter. I have let God lead in all of this, in keeping our blog public with real names, in openly sharing what goes on in our lives that is adoption or faith oriented (how can I possibly separate the two?). It seems that having a real name and real faces somehow makes this blog more powerful. We are not hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, despite my reservations at moments. But I think of the moms and dads out there whose tears fall on their pillows at night as they feel utterly alone and rejected by the child they so desperately wanted and I hope something that we discuss here is helpful, if only to keep those parents "in the game" and feeling less alone. It can be terribly hard to go back hour after hour to face an angry, screaming child who wants nothing to do with you. Hearts on both sides of the relationship are battered and bruised. If even one parent will continue to hang in there with their broken child because of us being open here about how hard it can be...and how healing can occur, then any public ridicule or judgment about our decision to post the more intimate side of our family life is worth it.

I don't have the answers, I have tried a million things that have failed to find one or two that work. We are in the midst right now of a regression of sorts, or maybe a "re-processing" of attachment issues is more appropriate to call it. Josh seems conflicted and extremely insecure right now, but it is far easier to handle in some ways than in infancy because there words for emotions now, there is the ability to think things through and to share them, if only his heart will allow it.

I tried something new the other day. We have done some writing projects over the summer and I throw out a topic and have them write about it. I wanted to try something with Josh and decided not to single him out, so I asked all 3 boys to write a letter to their birth parents. I told them to say anything they wanted to, to feel free to ask anything they were curious about, and to remember that they could say whatever they wanted without fear of hurting someones feelings because their birth parents would never read it.

All three were surprised at the topic but started writing more quickly than they ever had on any other project. I did not help or offer suggestions, I just told them to write and we'd correct it later. Here was Joshie's:

I know you can not read it, so I asked him to read it to me and I wrote down what he said:

Dear Birth Mom and Dad,

Were you too young to take care of a baby? Why did you leave me behind a building? What did you look like Birth Mom? My life is good with my new mom and dad. Did I have any brothers or sisters? Did I?

I love you from Alem Bulatovich Sahtanov

When I asked Josh "Are you mad at her?" he said calmly and kindly "No, because I know she didn't do it on purpose and she had a reason."

There were a couple of things that surprised me...

1) He signed with his birth name with no prompting from me...he recognizes at 6 years old that he was known by another name, that he had another life, that his birth parents would only know him by that name.

2) He understands that there are logical, rational reasons his birth parents may not have been able to keep him, regardless of how right or wrong that may be in his mind.

3) I thought it was an interesting use of words to say "new parents", as if all of this was still fresh and happened weeks ago rather than 5 years ago. Does that speak to not knowing exactly how to frame his two lives with words? Or does it instead indicate that his internal pain feels as if all of this was still recent, that he has not sufficiently put enough distance between then and now?

4) "I love you...". I am not at all surprised that my dear, sweet son would express love to his birth parents, regardless of how he has felt wronged by their actions. That is the epitome of forgiveness, and I think that he probably really does love them in his heart, even if that love is mixed with anger and heartbreak at times. Many of us have experienced love/hate relationships in our lives and often those are the relationships that provoke the strongest emotional response from us.

I have let the letters sit quietly on the coffee table for several days, it seemed to help a lot that all 3 wrote to their birth parents and so Josh didn't feel the spotlight was suddenly on him. I think our next step will be making little books about what we think our early life was like, with words and pictures.

I find it kind of odd that with all 3 of my sons, I have never really pictured in my mind what their birth parents look like. I have had very little angst over the whole issue, and would welcome the chance to meet any of them although odds are slim to none that would ever happen. I am not much of a dreamer, I have always approached things quite matter of factly, even my faith is...for me...a logical conclusion to have come to. God exists, I can't deny it, I have seen and felt and heard God for far too long to pretend that is not true. I may not have all the answers, I may intellectually struggle with certain issues, but the existence of God is fact. Just as the existence of birth parents is fact, and sadly we will likely never know anything about them. Accept what is fact and move on, I guess is how I have approached many things in my life.

But each of my son's emotional make up is different, Josh can not seem to move on although he understands the facts. Somehow we need to come up with ways he can live with it all and feel whole and safe. I have no idea right now how we might accomplish this, but as we always have we will try many things...most of which will not work...and find the one or two that do work.

No matter what anyone says, you can not "love them out of it". Love does not conquer all. I have to laugh at moments as parenting these unique boys of ours has been the single greatest intellectual challenge of my life. I never imagined the thousands of hours of adoption and parenting research that would go into bringing our kids home and learning how to best help them as they sort out their lives and take the steps towards becoming the people they are today. Prior to actually becoming a parent, I never envisioned the education necessary, I too was of the mindset that love was what it was all about. Well, in our case, REAL love means putting that love into action and pursuing every avenue to parent as well as we can. Sometimes, admittedly, that is not all that great...but we do the best we can with the skills we have and the circumstances we find ourselves in. Surely 20 years from now we will see many, many things we could have done differently and might end up kicking ourselves several times over for mistakes we are unknowingly making.

And maybe, even taking all those mistakes into account, Josh will one day write in his letters to me "I love you Mom", showering me with his incredible forgiveness and repeating again "...I know she didn't do it on purpose and she had a reason.".


Heather said...

Cindy, he seems to truly understand so clearly. You've done a great job helping him understand so well. Grant is 6 too and either doesn't completely get it or doesn't want to. He seems to understand that other adopted kids had "first parents" but doesn't totally accept that his situation is the same. I think at some point, I will have him write this letter too. What a great idea. I hope this helps Josh tremendously.

Lori said...

It must be the teacher in me, but I could understand it all, perfectly (except the end part where he signed his birth name), and it was just so genuine. It's always amazing to me that kids as young as 5, 6, 7...they get it in a way that *I* don't get, and can make some sense of it, even if on a basic level. His thought process is amazing--and his ability to rationalize is surely what allows him to still love, though he still questions.

Kudos for a real and honest way of having them express their feelings in safety and security, while getting a shot of what their hearts are saying. I can't even pretend to imagine what it must be like for you or for any of your boys, but I have no doubt that you are all going to get through it and be better for it. That seems to be the LaJoy way.

Please tell Josh I was very impressed with his writing!

Dee said...

What a wonderful idea! I know this much be therapeutic for all the boys, and what courage and love Josh shows! You must be proud.

Carrie DeLille said...

It's so much like God's pursuit of us, isn't it? Thank you for sharing-

mid-life rookie said...

Hi, a friend from RevGalBlogPals pointed me to your blog. Our son age 16 came to us through open adoption, so our experience with birth parents is a bit different. I thought you might appreciate a poem he wrote almost 3 years ago for an eighth grade assignment. You can find it hereI will pray for Josh and your family as you work through these issues. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job- hang in there! I look forward to reading more of your entries.

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asunda said...

I am a birthmom who just stumbled onto your blog. I am of the baby scoop era generation. I had the love of a one year reunion before the agony of renewed silence.
As a person who campaigns against adoption unless under extraordinary circumstances, I am here to express how touched I am by your story.
You are right, you will like all parents someday see mistakes that you are making. But, the one mistake you are not making is in denying that your children are those of another mother. Giving them the freedom to not have to replace the children you might have borne, giving them the freedom to explore who they are as individuals is the most loving gift you can give them. I applaud you for having the extraordinary strength and wisdom to be their adoptive parents.