Monday, March 22, 2010
"Production, Not Reproduction" is a blog written by Heather about her life as a mother of two children through domestic, open adoptions. Heather also organized a group of Open Adoption Bloggers, of which I am a member. In order to commemorate the first anniversary of the Open Adoption Bloggers, members were voluntarily paired with others and asked to interview their partner. (To read those interviews and Heathr's blog, go to http://www.productionnotreproduction.com.) I had the pleasure of being paired with Thorn who, with her partner Lee, has been a foster parent to children in respite care. They have also hoped to become adoptive parents of a child in foster care, as Tim and I are.
Thorn writes her blog "Mother Issues" at http://motherissues.wordpress.com. Her blog is very well written and evidences the thought processes of a contemplative person. In it, we read about the frustrations of wanting to be a parent to a child in need and being pressed upon by the very bureaucracy that is supposed to find adoptive homes for children. We are introduced to Thorn's partner, Lee, who also wants very much to have a child but feels beaten down by the system. Thorn tells their compelling story, including tales about the trials of an inter-racial lesbian couple. But Thorn doesn't complain about their life. Instead, she ponders and tries to think her way out of the problems they face. Her thinking is so clearly set forth that the reader can relate. Thorn is full of thoughts and thoughtful about everyone: Lee, the children they have cared for, and even me. (She interviewed me, showing effort with her questions and genuine caring. The interview is posted on her blog.) So, without further adieu, below is the interview between Thorn and me:
> 1. Tell me about your family growing up. What were their attitudes on
> race, religion, adoption?
My parents are politically conservative Catholics, but they've always
had friends of many different races and backgrounds. While there's no
adoption in my immediate family, my parents and especially my mother
are strongly pro-adoption as part of their anti-abortion views. Only
the youngest of their children has remained Catholic (and he's only
18) but they seem to be okay with that and just hope that like them we
eventually come back to the fold, which I don't see happening. As I
get older, we get along better.
> 2. Are there some aspects of your family of origin that you would like to
> continue with a child? Are there some that you would like to leave
We always had family dinners and a lot of lively conversation, which I
think is an important way for kids to learn. We didn't have a tv while
I was growing up and while that won't be an option in our house (Lee
would DIE!) I hope we'll be able to foster an interest in books and
the outdoors and other things besides being passive consumers.
I don't think my parents did a good job handling the mental health
problems one brother and I had, though they eventually got better
about it. My mother has a lot of behaviors and attitudes that I really
don't want to perpetuate, because I know how they've messed me up and
left me feeling insufficient. I hope to be more open and less rigid
than my parents were, but I do appreciate a lot of what they did.
> 3. How do you think your (you and Lee) being gay will affect your roles
> as parents, if at all?
I worry about this more than Lee does, I think, and I'm very
conflicted about how I'll play a lot of the more stereotypically "mom"
roles, cleaning and having the emotional conversations and checking
homework and so on, while she's the one who's into sports and joking
around and grilling and watching tv. I hate that it breaks down that
way (though there are other ways to read the relationship that aren't
so gendered and I just get hung up on this because it's a hangup of
mine!) and yet it's important for us both to play to our strengths
while simultaneously learning to stretch. I'm sure we'll be able to
find a good balance.
I do think that our being gay and an interracial couple affects how
self-conscious or self-aware we are when we're out in the community as
a family. When we've had respite teens staying with us for the
weekend, that's been something I've noticed, that I'm very carefully
gauging their reactions to make sure they're comfortable with how we
present as a group. It's really hard to guess ahead of time how this
will work out.
> 4. What would you say to people who might say to you that you shouldn't
> raise children in a same sex couple? Or that a child should have a
The good thing about the kind of adoption we're trying to do is that
it's very hard for people to say, "You know, I don't think gays should
be parents. I think kids should have to wait longer in foster care so
that they don't have to have gay parents." That's just not an argument
most people make. The one child we got close to adopting (Rowan) is
probably gay himself and is not comfortable having a father figure
because at this point that's a role that causes him too much stress.
So I think we have specific benefits we can give as a family without a
father, though we do have many men in our lives who will be actively
involved if we parent.
> 5. What would you say to people who might say to you that you shouldn't
> have an open adoption?
A lot of people do have a preconception that open adoption isn't
healthy, especially in the situation of a child who's been in the
foster care system. I think, though, that children who have actually
known and lived with their first families may have more need to
maintain contact. That might not be contact with parents (though it
might!) but certainly could involve siblings, grandparents, and so
on. These kids have lost a lot in their lives and I hope even people
who are skeptical about open adoption can see that any healthy and
supportive connections can be a major plus.
Because Lee was adopted by her biological grandparents, her adoption
was always open and she knew who her biological parents were and was
involved in their lives although they didn't raise her. Even though
her biodad went through some rough times, seeing his experiences and
recognizing his addiction (for instance) as what it was let her deal
with that in a healthy way as a child, while some of his other
children have had to deal with it as adults after growing up with a
fantasy of what their dad must have been like.
> 6. What if your child doesn't want to see their biological/first parent(s)?
That's fine! There are many factors at play in adoption from foster
care. Especially in the case of a child who's been neglected or
abused, contact may not be welcome or healthy. I think openness is to
some degree the job of the parents. I'd want to make sure we knew
where first family was so that if the child was interested in contact
we could facilitate that in a safe manner, but I certainly wouldn't
want to push a child to spend time with his abuser or anything like
that. And yet we're always going to be open in the sense of
acknowledging that a child has other families (by birth and perhaps
through foster care or as in Rowan's case a previous adoption) and
that those are part of the story of who this child is. We can and
should keep that story alive (in therapeutic contexts for the
bad/hard/sad parts and in positive ways for the good stuff) as part
of creating our own story and life as a family.
> 7. What would a child of your dreams be like?
Ooh, this is a tough one! I do sometimes dream of babies, little
girls. And yet it's very unlikely that we'll end up in a situation
where I'll actually parent a young child. I think going through the
process of being trained and then looking at hundreds (thousands?) of
child profiles has pretty much robbed me of any dreams I might have,
but I also think that's a good thing. I hope that I'll have a spark
with a child, that I'll get to see a personality grow and flourish.
I'm really excited about what the reality of a child would be, but not
so invested in dreams.
> 8. Anything else that you want to tell people?
It was actually very hard for me to answer a lot of these questions
because Lee and I have been having a lot of difficult conversations
and I'm starting to have less faith that we will in fact end up
parenting. It's hard to talk about what I'd like us to do when I'm no
longer all that sure we'll actually get to do it, so I think you'd
have gotten a more lively interview if we'd done this a month ago. I
love my partner and I love the life we have. I think we'd make great
parents and I hope we'll get to find that out, but even if it doesn't
work out I'm glad we're trying to adopt (and now, I guess, become a
foster home). This process has been harder -- mostly bureaucratically
and emotionally, but also in other ways -- than I had expected, but
the real reason I'm sad and frustrated and annoyed by that is not that
we can't get a kid but that there are so many kids who need homes and
permanency and stability and aren't finding them. I hope we'll be able
to push hard enough to end up being one of those homes, but I also
know that's not enough.
Even though it may sound weird given that we've had so much
frustration Lee is ready to quit, I would really recommend this
process to others who are hoping to build families. My life has been
enriched by what I've learned and from the children I've met and I
absolutely think it's been worthwhile. Lee and I are a stronger couple
now and I hope we'll be able to be good parents. I'm glad we've been
able to have some impact, but I'll go ahead and acknowledge the cliché
that the biggest positive changes have probably been in us. I'm so
grateful for that.
And thanks, Michelle, for these great questions!