R: Well, first the basics. I understand that your journey to adoption was a long one and that your adoptive situation is a bit atypical because it is a kinship adoption, but I’m wondering if you can briefly sum up your journey for my readers. How did you come to be an adoptive mom and an adoption blogger?
J: The story on how I became an adoptive mom starts very similarly to others... infertility. My husband and I started trying to get pregnant in the end of 2006, 3 1/2 years after we got married. In April, 2007 we succeeded in getting pregnant. We were beyond excited and completely naive so we started telling everyone. Unfortunately, two weeks after we got the good news I started bleeding. Blood tests confirmed I was losing the pregnancy. I was devastated but also convinced that once we started trying again we would get pregnant and be fine next time. 90% of women who miscarry go on to have a normal pregnancy afterward (or so I was told). The second time we started trying, though, we didn't have the same luck. Almost a year passed and no pregnancy. Despite our fertility issues we hadn't yet started considering adoption. That all changed the first week of February, 2008 when my sister-in-law Angie (the nick-name I use for her on my blog) came to visit for a family baptism. While she was here she let us know that she was expecting, considering adoption and wanted to place her child with us if that is the route she ultimately chose. Cory and I both felt the same... we were honored that she was considering us.
I became an adoption blogger when Angie was 5 months pregnant with River. After my miscarriage in 2007, I joined an online infertility discussion board. This site also had an adoption discussion board that I switched to once we started the process of adoption. Many of the AMAZING women I met on that board had blogs and I felt such a great comfort reading their words. Being someone who admittedly likes to talk openly as a form of processing and healing I figured I would try it out myself. Though I spend far more time reading the blogs of others I still do find great comfort in sharing my thoughts and feelings on my blog as well.
R: You have an actual kinship adoption whereas my daughter’s first mom and I sometimes joke that we have “a reverse kinship adoption,” in that we weren’t a family before the adoption but became one because of it. I consider Erica to be one of my closest friends and love her dearly, so I loved reading that you and River’s other mom have “spent countless nights on the phone laughing, crying and healing together.” Can you tell us a bit more about your relationship with River’s mom and why she’s so important to you, personally?
J: Angie is my husband's sister and was the first member of his family that I met. At our wedding reception Angie and her older sister Jodi told me that I was not their sister-in-law, I was their sister and truly that has been an accurate description of my relationship with Angie. We were close from the beginning. During the adoption process we became even closer and developed traditions that not only helped us both get through really tough times but permanently fixed each of us as the other’s “go to” person during difficult times.
I freely admit it hasn’t always been smooth and easy. I don’t mean to paint us as perfect angels that swallowed our pain and pride to always get along. :-)
R: Reading through your blog posts, I’ve noticed that you often refer to other people’s blogs and build your own posts in response to things others have written. I tend to do that a lot, too. Are you surprised at how interactive blogging can be? What are some of the advantages and challenges of being part of the adoption blogging community?
J: I am very grateful for how interactive blogging can be. That said there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to it. Thankfully I’ve mostly experienced the advantages. I've met so many people whom I love and respect through blogging. Most important I've met people from all sides of the adoption triad with a variety of opinions on adoption. As a result I've found my perspective on adoption, and adoptive parenting has changed dramatically since first beginning the adoption process. I feel that this has helped me and will continue to help me be the best possible adoptive parent to my son.
The major disadvantage of blogging, in my opinion, is the limited capacity of written word alone to communicate the wide range of emotions experienced by everyone affected by adoption. When the reader is limited to only the words of the writer the ability to empathize is limited unless the reader has had a similar experience to relate to. In the absence of that there is a greater chance for misunderstanding and polarization amongst differing opinions.
R: You’ve endured a lot of loss. As an adult adoptee, I tend to read and write a lot about loss as experienced by adoptees and birth parents, but I firmly believe that loss is loss. What would you like me and others to understand about the losses of infertility and miscarriage?
J: I very much agree with you that loss is loss. I want others in adoption to understand that while I have never experienced the loss of a first parent or an adoptee many times as I have read their words describing their emotions, feelings and methods for healing I have seen my own thoughts and feelings on the loss of multiple pregnancies reflected back to me.
Our losses may not be the same but I truly believe that the best way for us to come together as a community and move forward with much needed changes in the adoption industry and adoption law is to find those similarities so we can mourn with each other instead of against each other. That said, I acknowledge that much of this responsibility resides with adoptive parents.
R: I recently participated in a discussion about “stereotypes of adoption” at Lost Daughters, and I’m wondering if you’d like to weigh in on that topic as well. Have you encountered adoption stereotypes during your time as an adoptive mom, and how do you cope with these?
J: The funny thing about stereotypes is that they really are equal opportunity! Almost as unavoidable as death and taxes. :-) Adoptive parent stereotypes run the gamut from the well-intentioned but still malignant,
- Adoptive parents are saving angels that “rescue” the children they adopt.
to the more personally attacking
- Adoptive parents are selfish and do not care about the feelings of adoptees or first parents.
I haven’t always coped well with adoptive parent stereotypes. Oddly it is the well-intentioned yet malignant or ignorant ones like,
- Adoptive parenting is no different than parenting a biological child.
that irritate me the most. Perhaps because I feel they are the impetus for the more personally attacking stereotypes. In my more lucid moments I realize that the best way to handle the well-intentioned stereotypes is to be open and honest about the reality of adoption. River has a sippy cup that says, “Adoption, it’s about love.” I took a sharpy marker and added, “It is also about loss.” My hope was that it would spur conversations with other adults about the reality of adoption. As for the personally attacking stereotypes, I try to ignore the anger associated with them and get to their root so that I can learn what areas I need to work on most to make sure I am acknowledging the concerns of everyone in the adoption community.
R: As an adoptee, my understanding of what it means to be adopted has changed a lot over the years. How do you talk to River about being adopted? How do you think he understands it currently and how do you think it will change over time?
J: Right now, talking to River about adoption is a challenge. First off, at age 4 his understanding of the concept is very small. I've tried to make adoption a regular part of his vocabulary through books, kids shows that discuss adoption, etc. My goal is to make sure he feels safe asking questions and talking about his feelings as he starts to process his own adoptedness. At first I tried to anticipate what he may question and feel. No surprise, that just backfired! Since then I've tried to back off and focus on providing resources for him to learn about adoption and then let him ask questions to take the conversation from there.
My second challenge to discussing adoption with River is my husband, Cory. Cory is an "adoptee lite" having been raised by his biological mother and stepfather who adopted him and his 3 other siblings shortly after his parents were married. His opinion of adoption and how it should be discussed is greatly influenced by the anger he felt toward his adoptive father as a child. While he and his dad are now very close he initially rejected his adoptive father and he is afraid that River will do the same to him.
Please click here to read Rebecca's answers to Jill's questions.