I don’t blog much about my adoption and the ups and downs of it, but I am at a bit of a loss right now and have no clue what to do. I warn you this will be fairly long but if you can read it and offer some advice I would greatly appreciate it!!
Elizabeth’s birth mother [we’ll call her Jane for the purpose of this post to protect her identity] is very young, very naive, and very alone. She’s in foster care with no family support. We didn’t go through an adoption agency because of time constraints and I really wish we had. I believe she needs some counseling and I’m not sure what to do about it. Also, to be perfectly honest I’m not sure we couldn’t have used to some counseling to prepare us for what we would be facing. There was just no way to do that with the time constraints. If we’d known a little earlier we could have avoided a lot of this I think, but we had so little time to get through the legal side of it, the emotional side just wasn’t a priority.
Before anyone says it, I know it’s not my problem. She’s not my concern and I can’t “fix” her problems and I know that. This is purely selfish, I am sorry for her, but more so I am concerned about what I think is an unhealthy understanding she has of this situation and the possible implications for my daughter.
She seems to have a skewed idea of what “adoption” means. A couple of times now she’s made the comment “I’m so glad you’re taking care of my baby”. The first time she said it was prior to Elizabeth’s birth. I was highly uncomfortable with the comment and had a very firm discussion with her about it. I nicely but firmly tried to make sure she understood she was giving her baby up to us. We aren’t just borrowing her. We won’t be giving her back at some point. She said she understood but I wasn’t convinced. So I called an adoption social worker for the state of California that I’d become friendly with and spoke with her about it. It was well beyond her scope. Her job was simply to speak to Jane for the state of CA and make sure she knew her options and didn’t need to sign Elizabeth over to the state. Once she spoke to her and discovered we intended to adopt Elizabeth she called me to be sure we were actual people who were actually interested and that we had attorneys, etc… She basically wanted to be sure she wasn’t needed. She was super nice to speak with, very excited at the prospect of not having to make Elizabeth a ward of the state (Elizabeth wasn’t born yet just to be clear here), and offered any further assistance she could provide even though officially her job was done. So, when this came up I called her and spoke to her. She decided to go out and have a talk with Jane. She did so the next day. She spoke with her and then called me to let me know she felt Jane had some level of understanding but was young and naive. She felt reality would set in and she’d be fine. She again stressed the permanence of the situation to Jane.
I think a large part of this can be blamed on Jane’s state appointed social worker. Early on she had a social worker who opposed adoption based on her personal religious beliefs. She was a real pain in the butt. She bullied Jane relentlessly. She kept attorneys for the state and the adoption social worker from being able to speak with Jane. She even tried to block Jane’s own family from speaking to her. Being as she’s a ward of the state her family has to have permission to contact her. Many of them do but she threatened to revoke their privileges. I called upon the above mentioned adoption social worker at that point as well. She sprung in to action immediately and removed the court appointed social worker from the case. Everyone from Jane’s court appointed attorney to her foster parents to her birth family to Jane herself knew she shouldn’t raise Elizabeth, but this social worker really, really, pushed her. Once the social worker was removed from the case things went a lot more smoothly but I believe she’d done some damage and given Jane some false information.
So, while in California to gain custody of Elizabeth, we worked well as a team, Jane and I. But I again was sure to point out to her that this situation was very permanent. I also was quick to correct her when she’d say “I wish I could keep my baby but I can’t”. Of course she could have kept her. It would have been difficult and it was probably not the best option for Elizabeth or Jane, but it could have been done. I made sure she understood it “could” be done, and tried to give her as much thinking time as possible to be sure she was very sure of what she was doing. On top of that, in California we had to hire a state approved social worker to be an advocate for Jane. She was responsible for getting the consents signed and making sure Jane was comfortable signing them and understood what she was signing. She’s a state social worker but she is approved by the state to do this job as well. We were required to hire her and pay her fees, but she was there to advocate for Jane. When she brought the consents to us at our hotel along with the paperwork granting us our temporary custody, she told me Jane was all about “me, me, me” she said she only mentioned Elizabeth once and was very in to the self centered attitude that seems to accompany teenage girls. I was comforted by that and was sure she’d be OK once she settled back in to her routine, her schoolwork, her church, her life, etc…
I must point out here, the decision to place Elizabeth was never a question. From the second Jane found herself pregnant she knew she would not keep her. She briefly considered abortion before deciding adoption was the best route. So, I’m not questioning her choice to place Elizabeth or her choice to place her with us, but rather her understanding of the permanency of adoption and the circumstances surrounding adoption itself. She was a 15 year old with a tumultuous family situation who herself was born addicted to cocaine and has suffered greatly in her life. She wants a better life for herself than her parents chose for themselves. It’s important to her that she be the first to graduate highschool and then college and not become an addict, so the choice to place was an easy one for her (if it’s ever easy).
Fast forward almost 8 months (wow, has it been that long??!!)… We agreed Jane could phone us occasionally for updates and we’d send photographs. We also agreed should she ever find herself in our area we could arrange a visit in a public setting. This is an agreement everyone was comfortable with. The phone calls are few and far between at this point and that’s fine with me. I expected her to get on with her life and find it un-necessary to continually check in. I didn’t expect her to forget by any means, but I did expect her to move on and not let this forever be in the forefront of her mind and she seems to be doing exactly that.
However, her aunt has been an issue. A few months ago her aunt popped in to town and called us to tell us she was leaving town in an hour and she wanted to see Elizabeth. I was annoyed with the lack of prior notice and really wanted to refuse the visit.
I am not fond of this aunt. I was originally going to delve in to the subject of this aunt but I changed my mind. I will simply say, she’s apparently quite self centered and decided a married man was more important than Jane so she packed up and moved to Illinois leaving Jane a ward of the state of California.
Her aunt seems to feel like we owe her something. Because my mother-in-law befriended them when they lived here, thus giving us the connection we shared that allowed us to adopt Elizabeth, she seems to feel like we are one big family. We’re not. I don’t owe her anything. Jane doesn’t owe her anything. She continually lets Jane down and hurts her and she’s not someone I want actively participating in my daughter’s life. I feel I can make that choice for Elizabeth to protect her. I can’t choose to delete Jane from her life past or future, but I can choose to delete this aunt.
So… last week we get a call from Jane. She’s just checking on Elizabeth and mentions two things that seriously concerned me and one that angered me greatly. First of all, the afore mentioned aunt was supposed to send me Jane’s e-mail address so I could send Jane pictures. She didn’t follow through, so I sent pictures to the aunt and specifically asked that she forward them to Jane. Apparently she didn’t. Jane hasn’t gotten any of them!! I was quite upset about this. I got Jane’s e-mail address and told her I would be sending pictures ONLY to her from now on.
Now comes the very uncomfortable part. She mentioned several times, “I’m so glad you are caring for MY baby”. Then she goes on to say how she’ll be visiting the afore mentioned aunt this Summer and she’ll be out of the foster care system herself in August, and could she possibly “stop by for a visit”. First of all, the aunt doesn’t live here, she’s in Illinois a good 16 hours away. So I quickly said “your aunt isn’t here is she?” She said “oh no, she’s still in Illinois!” I said “then how are you going to ‘stop by’?” She said “well it’s only 16 hours!” Ummm… OK The aunt hates Gillette, she complained about having to come here to finalize her own divorce. Needless to say I doubt they’ll be “stopping by” but her apparent naivety has me uncomfortable & concerned for her and for Elizabeth. I let it all slide with her, I didn’t mention any of it to her, but I think I am going to have to do something different here.
On top of all of this, she keeps asking me when we’ll be having professional pictures done of Elizabeth so we can send them to her. I had pictures done at Christmas but they’re of Elizabeth and Joey so I didn’t send them to her and frankly I don’t feel it’s right for her to ask me to have portraits done just for her. First of all, she has NO concept of what the adoption cost in the first place, when we were in California and she made reference to the costs, I outlined what we’d spent that far. At that point we weren’t even close to half done. Her comment at the time? “Wow, you must be rich”. Ummm… OK Joe and I’s simultaneous response to her? “Not anymore!” Again this just outlines her immaturity and naivety. As my blog has surely shown, my husband takes very good photographs so I really think they’re more than adequate and I have sent her copies, so for her to seek more than what she’s been sent seems wrong to me.
I spoke to my lawyer the other day about the finalization of our adoption and while I was on the phone with him we discussed the situation and my concerns. He and his wife are adoptive parents themselves. Two of their children come from Vietnam and one was adopted privately from California. Their adoption is also open but the birth mother doesn’t call or write them. He told me his wife sends photos and a letter quarterly but they send them through his office. He thinks this is a good option for us as well. I am just not sure what to do here. What I do know is I don’t want to parent Jane as well. I don’t want to have to be the one to counsel her and I don’t want to have to worry about her emotional well being and right now I am very concerned about it. I am concerned about it because it’s not good for her, but more so because I don’t want to have feelings of unrest surrounding Elizabeth.
What I do know is, I made it clear twice during the recent conversation, if anyone wants to come visit we HAVE to have advance notice and an hour or even a day doesn’t cut it, and we will meet in a public place. I feel very strongly that our home should be free of the feelings and emotion that accompany these meetings. I just don’t know how to make it clear to Jane and her family that we aren’t “borrowing” Elizabeth and we aren’t all going to be one big happy family one day, that Elizabeth won’t be some day returning to them.
I don’t want to have to get “formal” about this, but it’s concerning and I am afraid the situation is going to explode if we don’t do something. I really, really, will welcome any and all ideas here.