This guest post is by Hal Kaufman, an adoptive parent and the Founder of My Adoption Advisor.
I remember like it was yesterday…
…meeting our oldest son’s birth parents at a local restaurant, having slightly less awkward conversations than we had at our match meeting at the agency, in hopes of continuing to build our relationship. Maybe, just maybe, they’d ask us to parent their child.
…feeling inadequate as a new father because my son’s birth parents knew him better than I did during the first month or two.
…visiting my youngest son in the NICU and leaving little notes on yellow stickies for his birth mother – trying to balance seeing him whenever I could with respecting his birth mother’s desire to do the same while coping with her grief and need for privacy.
Those are just a few examples of how my relationships with our kids’ birth mothers began, but as our crying infants matured into tall, hairy(ier), inappropriate-joke-telling tweens and teens, my relationships with their birth mothers matured, as well.
This isn’t a relationship guide. It’s simply one person’s view of his evolving relationships with his children’s birth mothers. Every relationship and perspective of that relationship is different.
The description of my relationships with my kids’ birth mothers is different than how my wife might describe her relationship with them, as well as how my kids’ birth mothers may experience and describe their relationship with me.
The Awkward Guarded Stage
This is how I describe the first month or so of our post-placement relationship. I was still afraid to say the wrong thing, so I thought extra hard before I said anything, and I probably kept a lot inside.
The legal risk period was over, but I was still trying to figure out how to navigate through this unique relationship.
For my oldest son, I remember feeling jealous that his birth parents and extended family “knew” him better than I did. During visits, they talked about who he looked like and they oohed and aahed over him.
They did exactly what they were supposed to do, of course. I was the insecure, new father in this story. I felt awkward and was guarded because of how I felt, not because of what anyone did.
The Slow-Build Stage
This stage started after my confidence as a father grew – when I knew what every sound, smell, and movement meant. I was my son’s dad, even with his birth parents sitting in front of me.
This stage started after the first month or two and lasted several years. Each visit, which probably occurred every 4-6 months, built on the previous visit in terms of me getting to know my kids’ birth families better and them getting to know me better.
More important than the investment in time together was my ability to increasingly be at ease and be “myself.” THAT’S how they got to know the real me.
My kids’ birth parents were going through some stuff, too. Adoption is difficult. How they felt, walking into the hospital pregnant and leaving without their baby, is unimaginable to me.
They needed time to process and overcome the pain before they could become “themselves” and allow me to see and get to know the real them.
The Friendship Stage
At some point, I’m not sure when exactly, I felt like we became friends. Real friends.
We put in the time; we each took small, trust-building steps that are essential to building a friendship; and both sides started sharing more personal and private stories that you don’t share with everyone you know – just with good friends.
I looked forward to visits like I would with any friend that I don’t see often enough.
One of the cool parts about this stage is that we get to ask each other questions that we wouldn’t have been comfortable asking, or answering, during the earlier stages.
Now I can casually, yet always respectfully ask them personal questions about when they got pregnant, what they were thinking during such-and-such a time, and some of the struggles they faced after the adoption.
They answered my questions and then asked me questions that they had often wondered. We were our authentic selves with each other. Comfortable. Trusting.
In a way, perhaps in every way, our relationships have changed and matured like any other relationship might.
Whether on the playground, in your dorm, or at the office – you meet people and hang out with them; you build memories and increasingly share more personal, intimate details with each other; and if you’re lucky, you develop a caring, loving relationship. Damn, we’re lucky.
I appreciate how our kids look like their birth mothers, tilt their head similarly, and have facial expressions and make comments that I can imagine their birth mothers making when they were younger.
Thirteen years in, all I feel is pride and love. No jealousy. No what-ifs. Family.
Hal Kaufman is an adoptive parent and the Founder of My Adoption Advisor, an adoption consultancy. My Adoption Advisor has a unique expertise and breadth of services that focus on Millennial expectant parents and personal networking and advertising by adopting parents. The company, founded in 2008, offers interactive eLearning courses and adoption profile, adoption website, and online advertising services for adopting parents.
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