This is the first time I've joined in an Open-Adoption Roundtable prompt, but when Rebecca let me know what it was, I couldn't resist! After a visit, is the perfect topic for me, because I have two completely different open-adoption relationships, one with Ashley, one with Hannah.
Let me start with Ashley. As many of you know, Rebecca and I have been able to develop a close, comfortable relationship with each other, one in which we basically have decided to co-parent our daughter Ashley. Rebecca and her husband do the bulk of the parenting, but have graciously included me in just about every aspect of Ashley's upbringing. So, naturally, visits are a non-event, they happen regularly, and barring nothing major happens, like Ashley asking if I wanted her, there isn't much visit backlash anymore. That being said, the best way I could describe how I feel after a visit with Ashley, is similar to the way I felt when I was a child, after a visit with my grandmother. I always had a good time, I had that warm, fuzzy feeling, only a close loved one can give you, and I knew that next week, I'd be back and get to do it all over again. This is exactly how I feel after a visit with Ashley, like I just left grandma's house.
And then there's Hannah. I wish I could say I was as close with her adoptive parents as I am with Rebecca and her husband. I think about it often, and it pains me to know that there is potential for a blissful relationship via open-adoption, and I'm not even close when it comes to this family. In fact, bliss is the furthest thing from my mind when I think of a visit with Hannah. Not that the visit itself was all bad, I've only had one in the past three years, but it was awkward and scripted, so far from what I have with Ashley, it hurt. I went in to the visit with high hopes, nervous as hell, but willing to give it my best. We all, both parents, myself, and Hannah had dinner together, in a very public restaurant, far from either one of our homes. I understood their fear, and just took what I could get, anything to see my daughter. We had, what only could be referred to as interesting conversation, they paid for my meal, (which was very nice of them) I repeatedly hugged my sweet child, I hugged both her parents, I whispered my love for her in her ear as we embraced one final time, while she spoke her true feelings, only through her eyes, and like she was almost instructed to do so, she excused herself to the restroom, and followed me with her gaze, wearily out of the restaurant.
That is when the horror began. I walked sobbing to my car, I sat in it for a moment trying to regain my composure, but knew I had to move, for they would probably freak if I saw them leave the restaurant. As I drove away I felt a wide range of emotions, but the one that stood out the most was guilt, guilt and fear. Guilt that I had put my child in this position, she clearly has hidden, or maybe not so hidden, desires to be with me, and I created a situation where that's just not possible. This guilt is sometimes, and at that moment, extremely overwhelming, so much so that I had to stop at the nearest Dunkin Donuts to throw up. The fear, the fear was from a couple things, first and foremost, I was scared I'd never, ever see her again, which is entirely possible, and the second was fear over what is really happening in her life. I couldn't shake the feeling, that gut feeling every mother gets, that something just isn't right. I guess, I might never really know.
I had over an hour drive home, and on the way my emotions flowed like a roller coaster. I was angry, sad, helpless, happy that I got to see her, devastated that I got to see her, sick, scared, disgusted with myself, worried about her, I was pretty much a big mess. I felt bad, that I was so happy with Ashley's placement and so upset about Hannah's. I felt like a monster because I didn't want to fight to get Ashley back, but wanted to dive head first in to the law library to try and find some loop-hole that could get Hannah home to me. I can only compare the way I felt after this visit to the way I felt the day I had to sign over my parental rights. I felt like a failure, I wanted to die, only difference was this time I had Recovery, and Rebecca.
I immediately brought my thoughts and feelings to Rebecca. At this time we were still in the beginning months of our relationship, but it was already strong enough for me to share my true feelings with her. I told her exactly how I felt, and my guilt over wanting to fight for Hannah. I wasn't sure what kind of response I would get, but it was exactly the one I needed. She reassured me that I was NORMAL for feeling that way, that she was crying for me, and she sent me a hug via text, along with some other amazing words of wisdom, only Rebecca could come up with. She is such an amazingly insightful, and caring woman, I'd be lost in the adoption world without her. Her kind words, respect for my feelings, and thoughtfulness helped me see the good in this experience, and somehow managed to change my feelings, just enough, to truly appreciate the time I spent with my daughter, Hannah, and she gave me a glimmer, a small one, but a glimmer of hope that maybe I will see her again, and if I didn't, 18 isn't that far away.
I know someday I will look back on these painful years separated from Hannah, and these joyful times with my adopted family, well Ashley's adopted family (it's mine too!) and I will smile, because the contrast between the two won't matter anymore. I am confident all my children will come find me, whether they already know where I am, or they have to come looking, we'll be together. How I felt after the visit, will just be a a part of the past, a short stop on my journey through open-adoption, a journey that has reshaped my life in so many ways, no matter what the cost may have been, I'm grateful to be on this road. How does it feel? There are no words.