One of the reasons I love the Internet is the role it can play in connecting people with each other. I have met some wonderful friends through this mysterious connection of wires, servers, keyboards and screens - moms parenting biological children, adoptive moms, and some wonderful first moms, and adoptees(some of whom are also moms). A few of these people I have had the privilege of meeting in person, some I just dream about one day adding the label "Friend IRL" to our shared experiences.
A lot of these connections, especially in the adoption world, were made through Heather at productionnotreproduction.com and her open adoption blogroll. That blogroll is one year old and to celebrate many of us are participating in an Interview Project. Heather has randomly assigned us a partner to interview/be interviewed by and today's the day we post those interviews on our respective blogs.
It would be hard for me to adequately express how stoked I was when I got my assignment and it was Thanksgiving Mom (TG, for short.) I've been reading her blog for over a year now, and it's a good one. TG is a first mom who relinquished her daughter using California's Safe Haven laws around Thanksgiving in 2006 and ended up in an open adoption. For blogging purposes she calls her daughter Cupcake, and her daughter's adoptive mom is Dee. Her boyfriend's call-sign is LongBoard (LB). If you're considering domestic open adoption, or are in one, I highly recommend trolling through her archives. I could talk more about how much I like her writing, her ability to speak from her own experience without assuming it's like other people's and much more, but I'd rather let her talk. So, here are her answers to my interview questions! (You can find my answers to her questions over at her place.)
In the title of your blog you describe yourself as a "Safe Haven Mom." I'd love to hear more about what role, if any, you think the way in which your daughter was placed plays in your current open adoption now.
I'm not sure how much of a role the method of placement plays in my open adoption as it relates directly to Dee and Cupcake in the present. But I think it will someday, because I'm sure there are questions that Cupcake might have relating to that. Which is a conversation that I'll save for the two of us when that time comes.
It has, however, influenced our relationship in the past. Dee and I have had our conversations about using Safe Haven, we've addressed those issues, and while they may certainly be readdressed as necessary, I don't think it affects how she sees me or interacts with me on a day to day (well, I suppose I should say on an "update to update" or "visit to visit") basis.
However, to tangent a little bit from your question (tangent-ing already?? This is gonna be a LONG interview! haha) - I think that the Safe Haven element plays a part, and always will, in my identity in the adoption community. It colors the way some people look at me, hear me, react to me, approach me. I suppose I could gently remove that portion of the subtitle, but to do so now would be to hide part of the path that brought me to where I am today.
In the past month, has there been a certain topic/forum post/theme out in the adoption blogosphere that has really annoyed or enraged you as a first mom? Can you tell us about it?
Without getting into the whole thing, there was a thread about teen pregnancy and what we should do about it. And it was said (okay, insinuated) that the old days of shaming pregnant girls was good because it taught other girls a lesson.
It made me sick. And I couldn't get over it. I'm still not over that statement. I will never, ever accept that shame should be a tactic to lower teen pregnancy rates. As a first Mom, I know how many of us placed because of shaming. And I know what it did to my dear friends. In turn, to their children.
I've been working on a whole post about this, but I'm not ready.
One of the things I really admire about your writing is that you are good (really good) at telling your story and not other people's stories. That is, you don't tend to make generalizations about adoption - like adoption is good or bad. So, speaking out of your experience, what do you think needs to change about domestic infant adoption? Feel free to write about one thing or a few things. (or none!)
I've been mulling over this question for a few days, and one of the things that bothers me most in AdoptionLand is when I hear of folks flocking to places like Utah so they can avoid having to search for a Father to sign TPR. Or wanting to adopt from a state where TPR is irrevocable immediately. Or, the worst, where a Mother (or Father!) can sign TPR before the baby is even born.
I hate the idea of these, often called, "Adoption Friendly" states. I would love, love, love to see standardized practices developed at a Federal level. I would love for the amount of time required as a minimum before TPR to be standardized - and fair! Before birth is barbaric. 24 hours doesn't seem much better to me. I'd like to see TPR's not being signed in hospitals at all...I'd like for new Mother's to not be on pain medication, possibly recovering from surgery, and experiencing huge hormonal changes when they make the most important decision of their lives. And then I'd like that signature to be revocable for an adequate amount of time. (Which I haven't yet determined, so I'm being vague on purpose here). I'd like to see something done about this Putative Father Registry, because it's a joke. Most men don't even know it exists, so how would they know that they need to be on it? There's a LOT that needs to be done, if you ask me - which you did! - regarding ethical domestic infant adoption.
I could write about this for days, and I'm leaving bunches out, but these are just some initial ideas on what really rubs me wrong...
Who do you think you'll tell about Cupcake first, your family or LB?
Absolutely, no question about it.
I know I haven't spoken about this recently, but that doesn't mean I don't think about it often.
I've seen you write about your degree in passing, but I'd love to hear more about it..it's a Masters in...Education? See. I need to pay more attention. I'd also love to hear more about the type of work you do.
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies with a double emphasis on Interpersonal and Organizational Communication and General Public Speaking. I then got my Masters Degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Social Scientific Research. I've been published in a peer review journal, which I thought was pretty cool, but regrettably don't get to do much of that anymore.
BUT - spoiler alert - I've been secretly working on developing a research study focusing on perceptions of first and adoptive Moms. I'm pretty psyched about it, now I just have to actually start writing it. Then I've got to find people that can help to gather date...so if you're a college teacher, then expect a call for help from me someday!
I currently work for a major non-profit health organization that I don't like to name publicly because of the venting that I'm apt to do here. (Though if folks have paid attention I'm sure they can figure it out, I still just don't want to be the one that says it outright). For them, I am responsible for all the fundraising in my area. I organize and execute a Gala that's a 500 person event with Silent and Live Auction, dinner, dancing, live entertainment, etc. It's coming up next month and I'm crazy stressed about it! I do other fundraisers as well, but they're on a smaller scale.
I also implement programs and services in the community, focusing on our advocacy, education, and patient service efforts - and I LOVE this part of my job.
When you dream about what it might be like to have even more openness in your relationship with Dee and Cupcake, and think about the future, what is something you can't wait for Cupcake to ask/to tell her?
In some ways the thing that I'm most afraid of her asking is the thing that I'm most looking forward to as well. I have kept the story of her birth fairly close to the vest. Sure, I've shared the factual portions as they pertain to me: labor, delivery, etc. But I've never put into words, the right words, what it was like when I first saw her. When I first touched her. The joy and pride that I have that I was the first person on the planet to do those things. I can't wait to tell her about those first moments we had together. That time when the rest of the world didn't exist because it was just the two of us.
Of course, the hard part is the next part. Where the world came into such extreme focus that it was hard to see anything. Where the two of us seemed like a distant memory because o fall the commotion and all the other people that were now, and would forever be, ingrained in our story.
Is there anything you're dreading her asking/telling her someday?
Uh, see above?
But also....I dread talking to her about her biological father. I don't know what the right amount of honesty is. I haven't even come to terms with my feelings about him, let alone begun to figure out the way to talk to my child about him.
Do you want to get together for coffee next time you hit up Seattle? I could make a good case for how fun it is to live here!!
It's practically on the books already if you ask me!
Cake or Pie?
Can I get away with being UBER cheesy and say (cup)cake???
Aw come on! You ASKED for it! Haha!
Okay, brushing away my desire to be corny....depends. I do LOVE cake sometimes. And not just like, "BAM - chocolate cake - easy answer." But we're talking Red Velvet, Lemon, Spice, Carrot, (no Angel Food though, thank you), Funfetti, Strawberry, plain ol' white, you name it!
Buut then....ooooh, pies! Strawberry rhubarb, chocolate cream, banana cream, pumpkin, homemade apple!
And let's not get me started on cheesecake, okay??? I'll never shut up!
Why do you love football so much? It is purely familial, or is there something integral to the sport itself that really appeals to you as an individual?
Football definitely started as a family thing. Pops is into it, my Mom is into it, and I have four older brothers....that all helps. But I'm definitely the biggest fanatic in the family. My Mom would challenge that statement, but I maintain that I'm a football fanatic, while she's a football lunatic. And yes Mom, there is a difference!
I don't know...my love for football is really this crazy gut thing. I just LOVE it! I love the whole atmosphere of the sport - the tailgating, the school spirit at college ball, the band, the cheerleaders, the music pumped into the stadium at pro games, and all the amazing memories that I've made at games. Part of it, I suppose, is that I can't separate the sport from my experience of the game. I've been going to college games since I was a little girl - tailgating with my family, shaking pom-poms, being allowed to scream in public! And now I travel to games - to San Diego, Notre Dame, Indianapolis, New York, Boston - taking in games with friends, making new friends, these lasting memories that I'll never forget.
I can accept that a lot of people see football as this barbaric sport where men basically beat the crap out of each other, but it will always be so much more to me.
You read a LOT of adoption blogs if your blogroll is any indication. Many of them are written by adoptive moms. I would imagine that there are some who you like, some you really like, and others whose perspectives you're not so fond of. Thinking of the adoptive moms you know (Internet or otherwise) and really like, what are some of the qualities they have in common? What about the ones whose approach to adoption makes you feel more of a not-like sensation?
When I first read this question, one adoptive Mom jumped out in my mind - and the first thing I found myself thinking was, "What do all the other women that I appreciate and respect have in common with her?" And then I thought of one common bond she has with one woman, and then that woman connects to the next, but there isn't this one thing, you know? Leading me to conclude that there's no recipe for "Favorite Adoptive Moms" in the TG Cookbook of Awesome People. (Bonus points for weird corniness!)
I love and respect many different adoptive Moms for just as many different reasons.
For believing in me and making me believe that I deserve the title "Mom." For always taking the high road in her reunion, when her child's birthparent makes that as challenging as possible. For maintaining an open adoption when many people would have shut down ages ago. For being able to see that all first parents aren't the enemy, even when their personal experience would completely validate that perception. For putting in the time, effort, and the passion to prepare for their child and be able to better understand their culture, race, and all the things that they could lose because of adoption if not for such diligence. (That one's YOU by the way!)(aww!thanks!) For really, truly putting the child first. For admitting they don't know everything, and for being open to engage in dialogue. For a million different reasons, that I could never finish compiling. I'm honored to know, either in person or through blogs and forums, so many of these amazing adoptive parents.
The ones that I don't respect?
The ones that make me feel like I'll never deserve the title "Mom." The ones that tell me that open adoption is a gift to me - and one for which I should shut up and be grateful. The ones that assume the worst about their child's birthparents and jump to conclusions at a moments notice. The ones that say, "It's what's best for my child," when behind the thin veil it's apparent that phrase is the way to say "It's what's best for me." The ones that say "birthmother" like it's a bad word.
And with that I've ended this interview on a bad/sad note!!! Which is icky!!! SO, back to that coffee....fingers crossed for August!!!
Don't worry fair readers, when TG and I finally do get to add "friends IRL" to our credentials, I'll be sure to blog about it!
To read more interviews, head on over to Heather's blog where she's linking to all of them.