Air Date: 3.7.17 You read the transcript below or listen to it here.
Jennifer: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I am a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates premiere talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates and its staff are trusted leaders in adoption, and we have placed well over 5,000 children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families. Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Our pregnancy and adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan.
One of Adoption Associate’s commitments is to this weekly radio show, so thank you very much for listening in today. We hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought provoking. If you’d like to call in during the show with a question or comment, we would encourage that at 347-850-1100.
Today I am very excited to welcome to the show an adoptive mother who’s going to talk about her experience. Her name is Susie. Susie, are you with us?
Susie: Yes, good morning.
Jennifer: Good morning. Thank you so much for taking time to be on Adoption Focus today. You have a very unique story to share, and I just want to take a second to preface it by saying that the circumstances that you’re going to share with us today are certainly not typical and not a requirement of adoptive parents with Adoption Associates. It has always been the recommendation of adoption professionals, including Adoption Associates, for adoptees to be at least 18 years old before searching for birth parents, or meeting if there had not previously been ongoing contact between the child and the birth parent.
In your case, you did assist your son in meeting his birth mother when he was only 12 years old. I need you to set that up for us, please. Tell us what was happening in his life, in your life, and just in general, that led to this particular decision.
Susie: Sure. Thanks for having me on the show. I really appreciate it. My son’s name is Alex, and last year around this time, he was 12 years old. My son has ADHD. When he entered the 6th grade, he went to a middle school, and it was a really big adjustment for him. He had a lot of different teachers, and there were different websites and different learning styles per teacher. They would change classes. Just a lot of change from elementary school, and it was quite overwhelming for him. He started to fall behind. Although he really wanted to learn, he just said that the pace of the learning was too fast for him. With at least 30 kids in his classes, the teachers couldn’t just stop and focus their attention on him.
As the year progressed, he just kept getting more and more frustrated and somewhat depressed, and angry. His grades were suffering, and he just changed as a child. Going from a happy-go-lucky kid, just wakes up with a smile on his face every day, to being very stressed out. It created a lot of stress in our home as well, because when he would come home from school, he didn’t want to do homework. Homework created anxiety for him. He was arguing with us a lot, with my husband and I. It was just really changing the dynamics in our family, from being a happy place to just it really being stressful, in the evenings especially after school.
Alex has always, we say that Alex is like an old soul. He’s very mature in some ways, in some of his thought processes. We’ve always been very open with our children about adoption. He just always wanted to meet his birth parents. The common answer, or response, would be, “That’s not a problem at all, and you can meet them when you turn 18.” He’s just always really curious, and just wouldn’t stop asking if he could meet them. Because he was struggling so much, I really gave it some extra thought about making this happen for him. Working with Adoption Associates, and working with the case worker, and just exploring it to see what the risks were going to be and if it was a good decision. I just wanted my son to be happy again, and I thought that this might provide some happiness and some [calmness 00:05:08] during this time when he was really struggling.
Jennifer: What were your initial reservations or concerns whenever you contacted the agency, or when you first really began seriously considering it?
Susie: Well, I think fear of the unknown. Fear of, is this the right decision? Is he mature enough to handle whatever the situation would bring? You don’t know. There’s a lot of unknowns. Although we’ve had an open adoption with the birth parents ever since Alex was born, and we send lots of pictures and exchange letters, we hadn’t seen them in quite some time. We, meaning my husband and I, hadn’t seen the birth mom in a long time. Just not knowing what to expect and how Alex would be able to handle it. Because of his ADHD, his maturity level is about two years behind. Last year, his maturity level emotionally was about a 4th grader as opposed to a 6th grader. Although he was 12, he was really behaving more like a 10 year old. That played into our reservations as well. Could he handle it? Could he handle whatever this situation was going to bring?
Jennifer: Definitely. Those are definite considerations. Were all the family members on board with the plan to meet the birth mother?
Susie: My husband was really not on board with the idea. He had quite a few reservations about it. He’d never said no, because if he would have said no, then of course, I wouldn’t have pursued it. I could tell that he wasn’t very comfortable with it, for a couple of reasons. One of them is just, could Alex handle it emotionally? Then, I think the other thing is, because Alex was taking his anger out on us. His situation at school, and he was taking his anger out on us. I would say that his relationship with us was suffering a bit last year. I think there’s that fear of … I think this is natural for adoptive parents, but how, if he goes and sees his birth parents … Originally, it was going to be his birth mom and his birth father, who are married. If he sees them, like because he was so taking his anger out on us, would he want to be with them? Would it create just this internal struggle for Alex?
I think those are really normal fears of adoptive parents. Just normal reservations, right, because we hadn’t been down this path before.
Jennifer: Sure. It was definitely uncharted territory.
Jennifer: Once you made the decision to move forward with the birth mother meeting, and after you had spoken with the agency, could you share some of the things that you did to prepare yourself and to help prepare your son to meet his birth mother?
Susie: Sure. One of the employees at Adoption Associates, in the Farmington Hills area, her name is Paula. She sent me a few articles to read about the topic of children meeting their birth parents. I took the time to read those, and I also put together, or she put together a list of questions for me of things to just think about, to internalize, and to be prepared to talk to the birth mom about. Just some considerations, like be thinking of all these things, even though we’d already made the decision and it was 100%, we’re moving forward with the meeting. I think it just gave me time to reflect on some of the things that we might discuss in the meeting. That’s what I spent the majority of my time on, is just thinking about those types of questions that she posed to me as thought starters.
Also, I really didn’t make a big deal out of it with my son. We talked about some things that were appropriate and inappropriate to ask his birth mom. Just talked to him about how he was feeling, you know? It was all really just excitement and happiness, so we didn’t make a big deal out of it.
Jennifer: Do you feel like he was pretty receptive to the ground rules that you were … It sounds like you were trying to set up some ground rules, some things to not be brought up or not to be shared. Did he understand that concept?
Susie: Absolutely. I trusted him. I really did. I really trusted that the things that we were talking about, in regards to what to stay away from, he’s like, “Of course, Mom.” He just respected that, and I trusted that he would not cross those boundaries. He was great about it.
Jennifer: Good. Tell us about the meeting. What took place, and how did it go?
Susie: The meeting was fabulous. The case worker stayed in touch with the birth mom and has been in touch with her on a regular basis for many years. She picked her up and brought her to a restaurant, which was our meeting place. We had booked a private room in the back of the restaurant. The birth mom and the case worker got there a little bit before we did, so when we walked into the room, the birth mom was sitting at a table. She turned around and just gave my son the biggest smile. It was just heartwarming. She didn’t stand up, so I told her it was okay. I said, “It’s fine if you want to give him a hug.” My son ran over to her and gave her a big, huge hug. Then I was taking some pictures of them.
It was just really amazing. His birth mom brought some photo albums of their family, because my children, I have three adopted children. They all have the same birth parents. The birth mom, her name’s Brandy. Brandy has four children also, four biological children with her husband. She brought pictures of all the kids, and we had lunch. Mostly we just talked. We talked fast and furiously about their lives and just very open, and it was really … I don’t know. It just gave Alex an opportunity to ask a lot of questions about his siblings. It went great. We were there for about an hour and a half. It was very comfortable. It was just like meeting an old friend and just having a great time.
Jennifer: That’s nice to hear. What were Alex’s questions? What did he ask his birth mother?
Susie: He was so funny. He wanted to know about his birth parents hobbies, and he wanted to know about all of his siblings hobbies. Then he would try to link those up with the things that he liked to do. He has a brother that’s a year older than him, and he wanted to know if he liked to play video games. Then, what types of video games? He’d say, “Oh, that’s my favorite one too.” He was really linking himself to their lives and talked about what types of things they liked to eat. Anything she would say that he would share, like that they were his favorite things or one of his younger siblings favorite things. He was sharing information about his little younger brother and sister that live with us. Sharing that information with his birth mom.
He wanted to know if his brother spent a lot of time with his birth father. She said that he really didn’t spend a lot of time with him, that he really, and he didn’t have a lot of friends. He just played a lot of video games. Alex is super empathetic, and kind, and loving. That just made him sad, so he was just saying he really wished that they could be friends, so he could help his brother come out of his shell. Alex is super outgoing, and so he’s like, “I would introduce him to everybody. He’d have lots of friends. I’d include him in everything.” He was just really sweet.
Then they talked about school. He just wanted to know if his siblings liked school, and he wanted to know who else had ADHD. They talked about cub scouts and brownies, because the birth mom used to be a cub scout leader, and Alex had been in cub scouts. My daughter, Olivia, was in brownies. He was just kind of asking her questions about both of those, like what was her involvement. The birth mom was asking him about his experiences with both of those. She wanted to know if they played any sports, and what they liked to do in their free time. Just anything and everything, I guess, about their lives, and how they spent their time, and how they were doing.
Jennifer: It sounds like he was really looking for a connection, particularly listening to you talk about the aspect of hobbies, and favorite foods, and things of that nature. He was looking for that connection with his birth family. It sounds like he did get it, actually. Did the birth mother say anything that made you uncomfortable, or was she at all intrusive?
Susie: No, and I really knew that she wouldn’t be. I mean, we’ve been conversing via letters for such a long time, and when she gave birth to all three of my children, we spent a bit of time with her in the hospital. She has a really going, lovely personality. I wasn’t concerned about that whatsoever.
Susie: It was never a concern.
Jennifer: What was it like for you to see her after so much time had passed?
Susie: You know, it really didn’t seem like very much time had passed, maybe because she sends pictures, and … I don’t know. It didn’t seem like that long. It’s kind of like when you meet an old friend, somebody you haven’t seen for a long time. Then you just pick up where you left off. It was just like that. It was just really nice, and it was … because she’d only held Alex in her arms when she was in the hospital, twelve years prior, it was the only time that she spent any time with him. It was just really, it was just great. It was like no time had passed at all. Really special.
Jennifer: That is very special. That’s exactly the word I was going to use. How did the meeting with his birth mother change your son, in your opinion? How did it change your family dynamic?
Susie: When we got in the car after we left the restaurant, my son turned to me and he told me that it was the second best day of his life. He said that the day he was born was the best day of his life, and meeting his birth mom was his second best day of his life. He just said he had like this missing piece, this whole in his heart, and then he said it was gone. He said, “I don’t have to wonder about my birth mom anymore. I had a lot of questions, and she answered all of them.” He just seemed really calm and at peace, lik ein the weeks and the months that followed. Even now, he doesn’t ask about meeting her all the time. He just seems very comfortable, and it’s just I think because it answered so many questions that he had. He doesn’t just lay in bed every single night thinking about it and wondering. You know?
Then, as far as like our family dynamics, it didn’t change them very much. I do think that it helped Alex, when he was struggling in a really, a pretty difficult time of his life.
Jennifer: For me, Susie, in listening to your story today, the message here that I am hearing is that finding the answers for Alex was just enough. He wasn’t asking or seeking necessarily ongoing contact, nor were you, or in some way for the relationship to be changed. He just really needed answers, and that was just enough for what he needed at this time in his life.
Susie: Absolutely. I mean, you just hit the nail on the head. It just answered, like you said, all those questions for him, and really put him at peace. I think that life is short, and you never know what’s going to happen. I always think if my children didn’t have the opportunity to meet their birth parents, for one reason or another, if something happened, that I would feel terrible about that. That was another reason that, although he’s younger, he’s not 18 yet, but knowing the situation. Knowing my son, knowing the birth mom, feeling comfortable about it. I thought that the time was right, and it worked out perfect.
Jennifer: I think you touched on this just a little bit, but as we’re nearing the end of the show, I did want to take a few minutes here and have you talk about what your takeaway was in reference to this experience. I know you touched on that a little bit, but I think that there might be more here for us to talk about in retrospect, now that you’ve been through this. What do you feel about it now?
Susie: I really feel that adoption is not about me at all. Adoption is really about the child and making sure that a child whose birth mom makes an adoption plan for him, that that child’s well taken care of and loved. Then, it’s about the birth parent, the birth mom or both birth parents. Really assuring them that their child is being well cared for, and that they made the right decision. To me, seeing this, seeing Alex and seeing his birth mom, and bringing back that connection of when he was first born, and reconnecting with each other. Just making them both feel so happy about it, just for both of them. She knows that he’s well cared for, and he knows that she loves him and that she made this decision to make an adoption plan for him. It was like the perfect experience. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than the fact that it’s just, it’s a gift. That’s how I view it. It’s a gift. It was like the least that I could do for my son, and I also think that the birth mom thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
Jennifer: That was very, very well said. I think that part of what I don’t want to be missed in today’s show is that you took the time and attention at the front end of this to really think about the choices that you were making, to think about the potential repercussions of the decision that you were making. To weigh out the positive and the negative of that, and to seek some support of adoption professionals. I have no doubt that the work that you did at the front end is what led to the success of your meeting, and I think it’s very gracious of you to be open in sharing your story today for our listening audience. It has been a pleasure,
For those of you that are listening in to today’s show, we would love to connect with you by phone, email, or on the web. You can reach adoption associates in a variety of ways. The number is 800-677-2367. AdoptionAssociates.net. Continue with your support of Adoption Focus podcast. We do very much appreciate all of our listeners and would like to hear from you if there are any particular topics you’d like us to address. I’d also like to remind everyone that next week, that would be Tuesday, March the 14th at 6:30PM in Midland, Michigan. We are having an explore adoption event. Anyone in the tri-cities area, we would welcome you and encourage you to attend, to learn more about adoption and about Adoption Associates, as we will be having a panel of adoptive family members share their experiences.
If you’d like more information, certainly give us a call. A local number to call for information about explore adoption night is 989-497-5437. We do hope that you’ll also tune in next week when we hear from a mom by adoption, Amanda, who will talk about her experiences adopting a child who had some prenatal substance exposure, and the adoption roller coaster that their family went through to come where they are now. Susie, again, thank you very much for your time today.
Susie: Thanks for having me.
Jennifer: For now, this is Jennifer. Everyone, I hope you have a wonderful day. Bye bye.
Susie: Bye now.