Meeting my son??!!!

It’s really nice to be posting some good news and not to be posting some high drama about my marriage for once… but I got this email from my birthson last night…. (part of it here).  We are on each other’s Facebook and through me, he’s hooked up with his birthfather and birthfather’s nieces and nephews (who were little kids last time I saw them).  From an adoptee’s point of view (which I am as well) I am excited for him to have these connections, but from a birthmom’s pov, I’m a little possessive towards him and have felt a little, frankly, jealous about seeing strings of basketball banter between he, his birthdad and his cousins when I’ve never met him.  

Of course, I have to bite my tongue because these are my own issues to deal with, BUT… I got this email from him last night – a long email, this is just part of it.  Needless to say, I’m over the moon, we’ve had a couple of emails back and forth overnight and he’s making plans to come to Portland!!!!!!  I said Austin or Portland – whichever one is your preference – and he chose Portland.  yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

So – fingers crossed… as I was going to bed last night (ooh, boy, I can feel that pre-cry nose tingle now) I just imagined myself hugging him when I saw him again – he’s 6’2″ now! – and remembered holding him in my arms that one and only time when he was a few days old.  I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m really, really excited!

Also, I’ve recently been talking to some of (birthfather’s)’ nieces and nephews that are my cousins. (Cousin’s) girlfriend’s brother recently just moved to Austin and they were telling me they were going to be visiting him soon and would really like to meet me at the same time. This has been sounding really cool to me, but the whole time I’ve been thinking it would be so weird to meet them when I still haven’t even met you yet, and so I think I’d really like to do that soon. It’s weird from the little bit I’ve talked to (Cousin) on facebook how similar he and I seem to be.


Does Pregnancy Change Your Body Forever?

Let’s call this the “body image” open thread.

Trainer Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser has created quite a stir in the blogosphere for comments she made to Women’s Health magazine. The magazine did not include the article in its entirety so I will quote from the Huffington Post:

Michaels, 36, tells Women’s Health she is unwilling to become pregnant because of the way it would change her body.

“I’m going to adopt. I can’t handle doing that to my body,” she told the magazine. “Also, when you rescue something, it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.”

I was more offended at her comments about adoption because you “rescue” dogs and not children. But what created a maelstrom in the blogosphere was her not wanting to “do that” her body with pregnancy. To that I say “meh,” although commenters in the Huffington Post and this blog said otherwise. From a blogger named Juniper Russo Tarascio:

I support adoption whole-heartedly; I have two adopted siblings and my husband and I are considering adoption in the relatively near future. However, body-image issues have no place in that decision. I have no fears regarding the physical effects of pregnancy, because I know that these supposed “damages” are easily erased by fitness efforts.

Some moms in Tarascio’s blog and the Huffington Post disagreed with her assessment that a mom’s body is “easily erased by fitness efforts.” As someone who runs up to 9 miles every other morning, I can attest to this. By the way, I spotted all of this in Laurie Puhn’s Expecting Words blog and I agree with her take on Jillian’s comment:

My opinion is that Jillian’s comment should be put in context.  First, we live in a culture that idealizes thinness.  She admits to being overweight as a child and it’s possible that weight is a defining part of her identity.  I can understand how someone who already has body image issues and anxieties would become increasingly stressed and depressed by pregnancy weight gain.  I feel pretty good about my body, but even so, I remember when I stepped on the scale and saw a weight that was nearly 25 pounds more than I had ever seen before.  My eyes bulged out!

At this point my body is back to what it used to be, but even if it wasn’t, my body is not how I make my living.  For Jillian, it is.  And this brings me to my second point.  Jillian is an individual and she should make the choice that’s best for her.  Pregnancy would force her to alter her intense workouts.  If she can’t handle changing her fitness routine, then she should not get pregnant.  At least she knows her limits and admits them.  For that, I give her credit.

Also, what offended readers was the shallowness of her comments. My take is if Jillian is that concerned about body image and “rescuing” children then perhaps she is not ready to be a mother. I say let Jillian live her life the way she wants. But I do think she used a poor choice of words, especially since she helps so many obese mothers on her show. If I weighed 300 pounds after having a couple babies, the last thing I would want to hear from my fitness trainer is that I somehow permanently ruined my body. Yeah, that’ll get me to haul ass on the treadmill!

That said, I also agree with Laurie that not all bodies are permanently “ruined” following pregnancy. No, my body is not exactly the same, but I am very proud of it and what it can do. Despite gaining 50 pounds with each of my kids during pregnancy, I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, physically fit and toned, and can wear a size 2, including skinny jeans. I did not resort to diet pills or crazy diets. I simply eat healthy and at scheduled times during the day and exercise for an hour to an hour and a half every other morning.

Yes, I have that little flap of skin around the belly that jiggles when I run, but I am totally fine with it. Every time I see my kids run around — and they were BIG babies, people! — I think, “I did that.” It is an amazing feeling so I like having proof that I made them. In that sense, I take no offense to Jillian’s comments.

What do you think? How has pregnancy — and parenthood! — changed your body for the good and bad? What do you love about your body? You know what I would like to see on the Biggest Loser? The trainers remain trimmed even after holding down a non-fitness-related job and raising children. Now that’s a reality show I would tune into!  


Adoption is Forever?! The Russian Adoptee Sent Back

Last week, the unthinkable happened to a child. You may have heard about the 7 year old boy (Artyem Saviliev) whose adoptive family “sent him back” to Russia, the country of his birth, 6 months after he was brought home by his “forever family.” Alone. From Tennessee to Russia by himself. The boy is now under the protection of the Russian government.

To level set, once an adoption, any adoption in the US, is finalized the adoptive parents are the legal parents. That is, if it’s illegal to abandon or abuse your biological child, it’s illegal to do so to your adoptive child. Parents, all of ’em, are responsible for their children (regardless of how difficult)

Naturally, the Russian government is also outraged and it is very likely that adoptions from Russia will slow or halt — temporarily or permanently. According to Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode column

Russian Foreign Minister Sergev Lavrov responded this morning by demanding that all Russia-to-United States adoptions be frozen. That chill will likely affect hundreds of American families; there were 1,600 Russian children adopted in the U.S. last year.

NowDepartment of State officials are off to Russia to convince the Russians not to stop international adoptions. Thousands of adoptions from the US alone are likely in progress. (This is a personal irony for me because the same US Department of State was silent when the Guatemalan government closed adoptions while a thousand adoptions were still in progress back in 2007.)

The adoption, especially the international adoption, community is in an uproar about this news. The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCIC) released a statement:

It should be recognized that this tragedy is an isolated incident of abuse and not representative of the more than 100,000 adoptions completed each year by American citizens. Further, we must also note that all children residing in the United States, regardless of their country of birth or adopted status are provided with the same protections and rights.

It is our understanding that these right and protections are being enforced by the appropriate elements of the United States and Russian governments, including the U.S. Dept of State, Tennessee Child Protection, and Law Enforcement. Joint Council fully supports the actions of the Russian and United States governments to ensure the safety of the child and that aggressive action against the individuals involved is taken.

So what are the concerns? Well, as many of you know, adoption is always is a process of adjustment – one of loss and joy – for the child (the family too, but the child is the focus here).  Adopting a child older than 1 year is very different from adopting an infant or an older baby. Adopting a child who has language and perhaps years of memories (of family life, trauma, etc), reads, and writes is very different from adopting a toddler. And, a child who has spent time in an orphanage has different challenges than a child who has not spent time in an institution.  All of these things were true in the case of this 7 year old Russian boy who was adopted 6 months ago.

One of the key challenges is the disruption (maybe multiple disruptions) to the attachment cycle — the way by which we learn to bond and trust our caretakers.  Though kids are resilient, the disruption of this cycle, in their birth family, in relatives homes and foster care and then in state care/orphanages can take its toll.

During the process of adopting my kids, I learned that the age that a child comes home to you is the length of time that it will take that child to adjust to living with you. Not to catch up developmentally or emotionally. Just to get used to living in his new adoptive family. I saw this happen in my own family. For baby R, who was 13 months old, it took about 1 year for her to adjust to us. After 2 years, she is now really comfortable and attached to everyone. My son on the other hand, came to us when he was 7 months old. His adjustment time was less than a year. I think the age of their adoption affects how each of them experiences change. My son is very easy going; baby R, not so much.

So, six months in and the family was ready to give up?  Why did they not expect the process of bonding with this child and him to them to take longer, much longer? Why didn’t they have support to help them in this challenging process. These questions are typically addressed by the adoptive family’s adoption agency and social worker (the person who performs the home study). This isn’t easy stuff and one has to learn how to parent a child who has experienced attachment issues, to teach them how to trust, to attach. I recently read Parenting the Hurt Child by an expert in the field of adoption and attachment, Gregory Keck, that explains, in great detail, about how parents can implement parenting methods to address a child’s attachment issues.

Etta Lappen Davis, another child welfare professional, expressed her concerns about the family’s adoption process which summarizes the questions that the Henson case raises:

Here are some questions whose answers would help to identify how this tragic outcome might have been averted:

·  What was Ms. Hansen’s motivation to adopt?

·  What education and training did she receive?

·  What were the qualifications of the home study worker?  How many home study visits and meetings occurred?  What questions were asked and issues explored?  Were any difficulties identified?

·  What did Ms. Hansen understand about the inherent risks of adopting an older child? Did she understand the challenges of being a single adoptive mother?

·  What was her understanding of the losses that a child of Artyom’s age experiences when leaving his country of birth and everything familiar to him? What did her placement agency and home study provider teach her about the expected adjustment difficulties a child would experience and what she could do to mitigate them?

·  What information did Ms. Hansen receive about Artyom?  Was the information honest and complete?  Was there a history of abuse?  Did she have ample time to consider the referral?  Did she have the opportunity to seek consultation with medical and mental health professionals about the referral?

·  Did Ms. Hansen have plans for support and for seeking assistance, if needed,  after placement?

·  Did she understand cultural identity?  Did she understand the ramifications of changing Artyom’s name?  Were translators available during Artyom’s first months in the US?  What opportunities did he have to be with Russian speakers and role models?

·  What was the nature of the post-adoption visit in January?  What questions were asked?  What supports were offered?  Did Ms. Hansen have an opportunity to discuss concerns and ask questions?  Did the worker meet with Artyom alone? Was there any indication during that visit that things were not going well?

·  What were the first signs of difficulties?  When did they occur?  To whom, if anyone, did Ms. Hansen reach out for assistance?  What did she do to try to avoid dissolution of the adoption?

These are just a few of the questions that must be answered.

The conflict for many people in the adoption world is that this is one incident. Horrific, yes, but indicative of all adoptions? Probably not. Does it mean adoption agencies need to do a better job of evaluating and educating prospective parents? Yes. Does it mean the thousands of children who waiting for their adoptions to complete be left in orphanages — anywhere?  I hope not.


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teen suing her high school over a ban on same-sex couples attending the prom, may have been led to a sham prom, her attorney told MSNBC. McMillen and her female date arrived at a school-sponsored prom at a country club on Friday night only to find seven other students. They suspect that the “real” prom was held somewhere else, but they were not invited.

I chuckled at a Facebook Circle of Moms column — more like a rant — by a woman who was married and became a mom at 20. She said she would receive a “look” and not be invited anywhere by older mothers who thought she was a teen mom. I had Ari at 26, but looked young for my age. You’d be surprised, but I received all kinds of comments. One waitress complained, “What is the world coming to? Children having children!” Well-meaning people would ask me if I planned to “go back to school?” They meant high school. After a Mexican clerk asked me this in Spanish, I replied, “I don’t know if they will have me since I graduated from COLLEGE four years ago.” “Really? You look so young! Your husband looks young, too.” We laughed. No harm done. Did you get grief for being a young mom?

In another Circle of Moms column, a mom asked whether giving her child her last name — rather than the father’s — was the right thing to do. We have discussed this issue before so chat away!

From the what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-mom file: a mother in Dublin, California, has been arrested for harassing his son’s 15-year-old ex-girlfriend, including spray-painting personal information about her on school property and sending her menacing text messages, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver blogged about the low nutritional standards of school lunches at the MomsRising blog. He even included a recipe for “classic tomato spaghetti.”

Actress Jessica Alba plans to adopt, according to People magazine.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Email from my son!

Hi all,

I know I seem to jump on here just to complain about something – I guess I’ve just been mired in my own stuff lately – but I am on here to read every day and it’s nice to finally have some GOOD news to share.  I just got my first email from my son yesterday after 15 months!  Unfortunately we didn’t see each other when I was in Austin at Christmas.  Weirdly, though, it didn’t upset me.  I guess I just knew in my heart that all was not lost and when the time was right, it would be right.

So, last night I am laying on the couch finally finishing Season One of Dexter (ALMOST finished – one episode to go), I had this feeling I would get an email from TJ.  I checked my email and there it was!  I never knew four sentences could make me feel so happy.

I’m really really sorry I don’t get around to responding to your emails as much as I should. I read all of them. I usually just don’t know what to say and then don’t get back on my email again until a few weeks (or even sometimes months) later. I do alway enjoy reading the emails though.

BTW – I don’t think I have ever shared a photo – this is a picture of TJ with the sister of his best friend.…

Anyway, I am just so glad.  A friend of mine who also placed a son for adoption (we met at the agency when were were pregnant) just found her son through Facebook.  They have had a flurry of heartfelt emails back and forth, plus he friended her on FB, so I was kind of jealous – although his initial emails reminded so much of TJ’s and then TJ just dropped off the face of the earth (a couple of times).  So you never know what will happen but losing him left such a hole in me.  Finding him – even in these tenuous first stages of reunion – has made me feel like a whole person.  Like this lost part of me is here and I’m ‘complete’…  I have always been this ‘mother without a child’ and I finally feel like I am a mother – which makes the ‘so close, yet so far’ aspect of this seem so maddening.

So, I just thought I would share some GOOD news!  :)


Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Daily Kos’s Navajo posted pictures from the SF Kossacks holiday party this past Sunday.

George Stephanopoulos will co-host ABC’s Good Morning America starting this Monday, according to the Washington Post. Also in the Washington Post: Due to the recession and limited state funds, 30 states saw their prison population decrease last year.

One last story from the Washington Post: Facebook introduced new privacy settings.

The Gay Family Values blog had a very touching adoption story. I am glad the website is airing the stories of gay families.

If you can stand one more essay about Tiger Woods, Terence Samuel over at the Root used Woods’s fall from grace as a good reason why children should not wish to become rich and famous.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Thanksgiving is coming up, which for many families means hanging out with family members you don’t get along with or even rarely know. My friend Peggy over at the Berkeley Community Examiner succinctly captured this.

In somewhat related, but depressing news: 49 million Americans do not have dependable access to adequate food, the largest number since the government started tracking it in 1995, according to the Washington Post.

The Love Isn’t Enough blog is covering research by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute on how to “promote healthy identity formation in adoption.” Also, Love Isn’t Enough ran a fascinating column about the lack of African-American mommy memoirs and blogs on the Internet — as well as the absence of black mothers in the media-concocted mommy wars.

Consumer Reports just put out a list of the most reliable cars.

The Washington Post had an article on how smoking marijuana has gained public acceptance, even among straight-laced baby boomers. What do you think? Do you smoke??

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Best Expectant Moments Edition

This one is for Erika.

Reading this piece by Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog, brought back so many memories of when I was pregnant with Ari.

In “What’s Your First Best Pregnancy Moment?”, Puhn talked about the impending anxiety and then joy upon seeing a live embryo at her first ultrasound. As someone who miscarried twice, I too, was relieved to see that pulsating embryo and eventually somersaulting fetus.

But for me, the “aha!” moment was when the baby first moved. Initially, it felt like a little tickle. Then it happened repeatedly like fish nibbling on bait. That’s when it dawned on me that it was the baby kicking. I could not contain myself, telling everyone about it from my husband to my co-workers. Because I had had a miscarriage, I tried to keep my pregnancy under wraps. But feeling the baby made it more real for me.

Eventually, I would grow anxious when I did not feel the baby move. But those kicks always brought me reassurance — and joy.

What about you? What were your best expectant moments? Of course, this is an open thread so talk about you want!


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

MomsRising ran a trove of healthcare stories by moms. It was a good mixture of anecdote — wow, there are many uninsured moms out there! — and analysis of healthcare systems across the world.

The Associated Press ran a blurb comparing what Americans pay for healthcare compared to other nations. In somewhat related news: Oprah Winfrey said she will not get involved in the healthcare debate or any politics even though she thinks President Obama is doing “a great job,” according to AP.  

Anne Fitten Glenn, aka “Edgy Mama,” wrote a heart-warming story about a 13-year-old girl with autism.

The California State Assembly passed AB 30, a bill that would lower the age to register to vote to 16, according to the think tank New America Foundation. Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar has to sign it for it to become law.

Contrary to right-wing rhetoric of “illegals” and “you lie!,” applications for American citizenship are actually down by 62 percent, according to an article in the Washington Post. The plunge is due to stiff application fees and the souring economy.

Singer Elton John will not be allowed to adopt an Ukrainian orphan with HIV because he is considered too old and not married, according to a story in Salon Wires. John is 62. While he is technically married to film producer David Furnish, the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex marriage.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Birthson Blues

Hi all,

It’s been a long time since I’ve looked around here.  My work schedule here in France shot up from about 18 hours per week to about 38, plus a two-hour daily commute, my business in Portland and a hubby who needs two squares a day (thank god the French don’t do much for breakfast!).  So I have been busy, in a frazzled sort of way.  Now things are winding down to about a 7-week vacation period, so I am really looking forward to that (and coming to the States for the first time in 18 months!).

So, as some of you may remember, I wrote a diary entry about placing my son, TJ, for adoption.  I would never change that decision (at the expense of him not existing on this planet) but it is something that still makes me emotional to this day.

About three years ago (when he was 20) we became reunited through an online registry (  He had put in his information, I had put in mine and our profiles were matched.  We started email communication right away, but three years later, it’s still at that.  No phone calls and no plans for a visit.  He wrote me some very thoughtful and touching emails, but his first email asked “Why did you put me up for adoption?” and it just broke my heart.  For me (as an adopted person as well) it just seem so obvious:  Because I wanted to give him a better start in life (and, ergo, the shot at a better life) than I could do as an unmarried, uneducated 17 year old.  Fortunately, I will still in good contact with his father so I was able to provide him email info plus other information and they started a relationship.  (I can remember, though, feeling very possessive over TJ when it came to his bdad, but I certainly didn’t let that be known.)

Over the last 3.5 years, communication has been intermittent – often months or more without an email.  He has always said he wants to meet me, but then never follows through on suggestions to at least even talk on the phone.  He talked about coming to France in 2008 and then I didn’t hear from him for a year-and-a-half.  As you can imagine, it makes me sad t the very least – like he is “so close, yet so far” or “What wrong with me that he doesn’t want to meet me?”.  Trying to separate logical from emotional thoughts is very difficult.

Last September, I received an email from him – breaking this 18-month silence.  While previous emails had told me about his good upbringing with his parents, this one painted a more distressing picture.  He said his parents were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, that he was estranged from his mother (who he said had “destroyed everything that was inside of him” since he was a small child) and that he was falling apart.  He was lost and alone and had been depressed since he was a child and just didn’t know who he was.   Now, having been 22 myself, I can remember my teens and 20’s as being a time of real existential angst and at that age, we can certainly be a little prone to a “Chicken Little” mindset – you are growing up and trying to find your direction and place and for a lot of people, that’s not always an easy course.  Things can feel overwhelming and being adopted can add an extra “Who am I?” element to an already difficult time.

Of course I responded to his email and again on his birthday this year , May 9th.  I probably send a “long” email every six to nine months and then a short “check in” ever two or so and he has told me he like reading them.  

Flashing forward, I was chatting on Facebook with my bio-sister (my bmom’s daughter) and she says “TJ lives in some apartments about 10 minutes from me”.  I said “How do you know this??” Her response was that because he is in the Austin network and so is she, she can see his profile.  She told me to change my network to Austin and I did.  Boy, the things we can learn!  It turns out he has just spent three weeks in jail (that’s where he was when I sent his birthday email) and from the sounds of all his ‘getting high’ emails, I would guess it’s drug related.  He’s unemployed, I don’t know where he’s living (I think with a friend) and he’s having drug/legal problems.  It just makes me want to rush there and take care of him but I can’t because he’s not in contact with me.

I know, too, that people can have legal tangles and drug issues early in life go on to normal, productive lives.  I was a chronic shoplifter in my teens, had some serious legal issues and spent a couple of days in jail and experimented with heavy drugs – heroin, cocaine, acid, etc in my late teens, early 20s.  (Fortunately, the night in jail showed me how much I valued my freedom to ever get in trouble again and I am far too much of a cheapskate and pharmaceutically inept to ever use drugs on a regular basis.) Then I went on in my late 20s to go to university, get an MBA, start a business, buy a house, get married and all the other things that make one “look good” on paper.  I just have this fear that at 23, 24 you should be kind of shedding those bad habits because if it becomes a regular way of life, three weeks in jail could turn into three years in jail.

Knowing this information also brings out a huge, huge, huge amount of guilt for giving him away.  All families, parents and kids – bio or not – have problems at some point, so it’s not that I expected him to have this charmed Pollyanna life.   But when I hear about his troubles, my un-rational mind says “Man, I could have raise pot-head jail bird myself!” and maybe saved both of us the at least the pain surrounding the adoption process.  You go through all this sadness and pain for all of these years thinking you did the right thing, and even when you know in your heart you did, you just want your child to be happy.  It simply tears me apart that he has spent the last 20 years sad, depressed, alone and wondering.

Rambling aside, I guess all of this brings me to this incredible sadness and longing – thinking that either he’s not contacting me because he’s angry with me or that maybe he’s embarrassed or overwhelmed about the state of his life at the moment.  I can remember when I was about to meet my bmom for the first time and, of course, I wanted to present my best self – I wanted here to see I had direction in my life, not knowing negative aspects. (Of course now as a mom, I know none of that matters – they’re your kid!)  The fact is, I just don’t know what’s going on in his head and as Tom Petty said “the waiting is the hardest part”.  I just want to be there for him and it breaks my heart that I’m not.  I’ve been where he’s at and I know what it feels like.

I know I’m not a woman of few words.