As part of the Open Adoption Interview project, this week bloggers who talk about adoption are interviewing each other. Here’s my interview of Meg, who writes FourWildBlueberries.com. She and her husband adopted two adorable kids at birth, and they maintain a relationship with the birth mom. Meg writes about adoption, family life, and amazing cooking and craft projects she gets up to (and takes fun photos of).
Q: Reading your posts about home arts I’m jealous: you’re the kind of mom I’ve got a secret fantasy of being! Of course I’m not even a mom but a dad, but you know what I mean. You’re sewing adorable Halloween candy baskets and costumes, knitting sweaters, cooking healthy gorgeous meals, making soap, etc. Over time, have you felt pressure to have the projects turn out, or edit out the bloopers, or is it really just a natural easy thing for you? What’s that like (either way)?
I guess the answer to this, really, is “neither”—I don’t consciously self-edit but it’s also not entirely a natural, easy thing. I think I always wanted to be very creative but there always seemed to be this huge gap between the conception and the execution of my ideas; my parents and my siblings could tell you all about some of the…interesting…homemade gifts they’ve received over the years. In the last few years I definitely seem to have hit my stride—I think I’ve found out which things I’m good at and which I’m not, and I leave the “not” ones to other people!—and my successes are beginning to outnumber my failures. It’s definitely a work in progress, and it’s really not at all as lovely as you paint it here—there’s a lot more cursing under my breath and probably more tears than you imagine—but I keep re-reading the question because I’m loving the way you describe it!
I don’t usually write about the failures because, honestly, they’re mostly really boring. I secretly hope to someday have some project fail so spectacularly it ends up on CraftFail. I’m not necessarily editing out bloopers or worrying about projects not turning out well, I just don’t think anyone wants to read about this one thing that almost turned out the way I planned, or this other one that I gave up on midway through because I could tell already it wasn’t going to end well.
Q: In your blog recently your family is settled and formed. Of course adoption is always a background theme, but it seems family and home life is more your subject. Was there a given point where you made this turn, or did it happen gradually?
I think it did happen all at once, and that was at the point when I realized it’s a lot easier to write about adoption before you adopt. I was a blogger long before I was a parent—I started writing online in 2000, and I wrote in a number of different spaces over those years; unfortunately I only recently had the foresight to preserve my archives, so all that is left is what I’ve written since Asher was born. (On the other hand, I wonder how embarrassed I might be to read now things I wrote about adoption before I knew anything about it, so maybe it’s for the best that those archives were lost!) I had a lot to say, before I adopted about adoption in a hypothetical sense. I found it so different—and difficult—trying to write about it once it became my reality: trying to respect the feelings and the privacy of everyone involved limits how detailed I can be about our specific circumstances, and even writing about it in an abstract way is hard without bringing the details of our story into it.
Q: How self-conscious are you when you write about others (friends, your husband) in your posts. Does anyone comment on how they’re included or not? Has your approach to including real people in your stories changed over time?
Oh, I’m very self-conscious about that. Not so much about my husband; he knows he’s one of the main players in this story and he is fine with that. If he weren’t, I wouldn’t write about our family online.
I tend not to write about friends by name, and I never include identifiable pictures of other people (or their children) without permission. Of course, if I’m writing about something we did with friends or a conversation I had with a friend, the people involved know who I’m talking about. I’ve never had any negative comments, but it is something I worry about. I am more aware now, I think, than I was when I started blogging, that people have varying degrees of comfort with the Internet, and I try to be sensitive to that when I include other people in telling our story.
Q: Do you have an audience in mind when you write, and does that affect how you write things or what you include or don’t? Specifically I’m wondering if you think Asher and Julia will read your blog one day, and how having your children as a potential future audience affects you.
This is a tough question. I don’t know that I necessarily have an audience in mind, at least not in the way that I used to, when I wrote specifically about adoption and my audience was people who were involved in adoption or interested in it in some way. Now, my audience is more diverse—other adoptive parents, yes, and adoptees and first parents, but also knitters and crafters and plain-old-parents, so I can’t really write for a particular sort of audience. I like this; I think it makes it easier for me to find my true voice when I’m not thinking I’m writing to a particular sort of audience.
As far as my children…yes, I do try to keep in mind as I write that Julia & Asher might one day read what I’ve written, and I am sometimes conflicted by the fact that because of me, hundreds of people they don’t know (and most of whom are unlikely to ever meet) are regularly watching them grow up, and anyone who stumbles onto my site can read whatever they’d like. I try to think about what sorts of things would have bothered me if my mother had shared them, and I keep those private. I don’t share embarrassing stories about them and I also keep the details of their adoption stories private. As they get older they may desire more privacy, and if that happens I suppose I’ll have to find something else to write about. (Right now, they think it’s really neat to see pictures of themselves “on the computer.”)
Q: I was very moved by your scenes with the birth mother, in the hospital, developing and navigating the relationship over time. Can you talk about that relationship that’s so central to your family? Does she read your blog–is she part of the audience?
Our relationship is all at once nothing like I expected and everything I ever hoped for. D and I have talked about how much we lucked out, that we get along so well on a personal basis & so we don’t have too many of those awkward moments where no one knows what to say. (This was different in the beginning, of course; our first conversation was so painfully awkward I was convinced she was going to decide she didn’t want to place her baby with such odd people!) I think if we’d met under different circumstances—if we went to school together, or lived in the same neighborhood—we would have been great friends, which I think makes it easier for us to build a relationship under these circumstances. It’s still hard…I’m always conscious of how much she has lost, and I never want to lose sight of that, but at the same time I don’t want to be over-sensitive to it and have that stunt our relationship, and I probably worry about her too much, because fussing over people is what I do.
We don’t have as much face-to-face contact with D as George and I hoped we would—the children have never had an actual “visit” with her, although Julia did get to spend time with her the day we brought Asher home from the hospital. There are a number of reasons for this, all almost completely out of any of our control; we’ve planned to get together a few times but extenuating circumstances have always seemed to get in the way, which is really a bummer. We’re hoping that will change now that we are living again in the area where the children were born.
As far as whether she reads my blog—honestly, I don’t know. I know she has read it, and commented, in the past, but I don’t know whether she reads it now. I used to be anxious about the possibility of her reading, worrying about what she would think of it all, but now I kind of hope she reads because we don’t talk nearly often enough & I like the idea that she can keep up with the children whenever she wants by just clicking over to my site.
Q: What do you most wish you knew going into the adoption process? How would you compare your journey so far with what you expected?
I wish I had taken the time to really hear the voices of first parents and adult adoptees before we adopted. I sought out these voices, wanting to learn about adoption from their perspective, but looking back I don’t think I paid enough attention to the things that made me uncomfortable. There are so many problems with adoption as an institution, and I wish we had understood this before we went into it. We chose an agency that is very child-centered and education-oriented; it was at the forefront of the shift toward openness in adoption and its practices are ethical, but there are still so many agencies and adoption professionals out there who don’t practice ethically, and we as a society really push adoption on women in unplanned or “crisis” pregnancies rather than figuring out how to support women who want to parent—financially, medically, psychologically, we collectively have failed miserably at this. Sometimes I feel guilty—even though I know we went out of our way to do everything “right”—for being a part of it. We have become more activist in adoptee rights and adoption reform than I ever thought we would be; we knew we would always advocate for our children, but I don’t know that I imagined we would feel so strongly about reform, because we didn’t understand how badly it is needed.
I don’t even know how to compare all of this to what I expected! Every day is a new adventure—no matter how you become a parent—and a new challenge. Our open adoption doesn’t look anything like what I imagined beforehand, because my earlier imaginings were so abstract. I don’t even remember how I pictured my future-hypothetical-family back in the days before Julia and Asher came to us; they are so much a part of me that I can’t imagine I ever pictured children any different than these two. I didn’t ever expect we would adopt two children so close in age, or children who were biological siblings. Going into it, we thought we would probably adopt only one child—which made me a little sad, because I always wanted a large family, but then I met Julia and I remember thinking that if she were our only child I was perfectly OK with that—so sitting here with my toddler and my preschooler is definitely a little different from how I thought it would be—but now I can’t imagine it any other way.
Q: Is there a sense that you’re in a “post-adoption” phase of life–that it’s one of the things about your family, but maybe not a most important piece?
I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about it that way, but yes, I think that’s probably so. I suppose it also relates to your earlier question, about writing more about family and home life rather than specifically about adoption. As time has gone on—and we are nearly four years into it, with Julia’s birthday just around the corner—our lives have stopped being all adoption, all the time. When you’re waiting, you know, it’s just always there: When are we going to get the call? Is it ever going to happen? And you spend so much time thinking about what it will be like, what your child will be like, what open adoption will be like… And then, after placement, it’s still there. You have to navigate these waters, figuring out who to tell about the adoption, and how much to tell—and a part of you feeling like you really aren’t supposed to be doing this, like you really aren’t this child’s parent. And then somewhere along the line you realize you’re just a family, like everyone else. Adoption is a part of who we are—a huge part of who we are, and one we talk about very often, both with the children and just between the adults—but it isn’t all of who we are; it’s an important part but probably not the most important part. I imagine this will ebb and flow as the children grow: sometimes it will be a bigger piece of the puzzle to one or the other of them and at those times it will move into the foreground for us all.
Thank you so much Meg! This was a fun project and I really enjoyed our back-and-forth. Thanks also to all the Open Adoption bloggers. You can read Meg’s interview of me at FourWildBlueberries or see the full list of Open Adoption Interviews at ProductionNotReproduction.