Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In the best interest of the child

You often here this phrase tossed about in adoption discussions – “In the best interest of the child” . It’s generally agreed that adoption should be about the child and not about the adults. I recently made this very statement when commenting on a post on Open Adoption Support. The poster was asking about how to NOT have contact with her child’s birth grandparents, because she was uncomfortable with them. My comment was along the lines that it didn’t matter if she was uncomfortable, the decision needed to be made “in the child’s best interests”.

And then it hit me. I’m the “child” in the adoption relationship that I have with Iris, my birthmother. For too long now I have not put my interests first, but have allowed the “adult” in the relationship to call the shots and do what makes them comfortable. So I’ve decided it’s time for this kid to stand up and be heard.

I have not had any contact from Iris for more than 2 years now. The “rule” had been that I was not allowed to call/email/write her in case her other daughter Madelaine, who still lives at home, were to intercept the communication. Iris has always insisted that I remain a secret and that Madelaine should never know about my existence because Iris was concerned that Madelaine would not be able to handle it.

I don’t want to cause either Iris or Madelaine any stress, but I’ve come to the point where I want to shout out “But what about me? Why aren’t my feelings just as important as everyone else’s?” So I did. Not exactly shout, but I sent an email. The first email I sent was on Mother’s day and was very plain and generic: “Happy Mother’s Day Iris, Love Andy”. There was never a reply, not that I really expected one. So after some time had passed, I sent another one, with more detail, letting Iris know that I would be in the neighbourhood at the end of June and that I would love to get together with her for a visit. Again, no reply. As I thought about it (because really? This is the kind of thing that you end up thinking about 24x7 while it’s going on) I realized that maybe the 2 year old email address that I have is no longer valid.

Onwards to the next step. As fate would have it, we are in the middle of a postal strike. So I couldn’t be sure that a letter would get there in a timely fashion before my trip home in 3 weeks. So I called up a friend who lives in the area and asked her if she would print of the letter and drop it by the house. I have some pretty awesome friends, so of course she said yes. Which was great, till we hit the next snag. The only address I had was an R.R# for mail and I didn’t have a house number. Google maps got me a bit closer, but I didn’t think my friend was going to be very successful with my directions: you cross a little bridge, and there is a huge house on the left and then a bend in the road and I think it’s the next house over, with a double garage. And I’m pretty sure the street is called XXXX.

What oh what to do?

I knew that my Mom knows where Iris’ house is, as she has mentioned before that she drives by it on her way to a friend’s house each week. My Mom has been a great advocate all my life of my searching for my birth parents. She’s been ready to drive over to Iris’s house with a basket of muffins ever since I found her. Given Iris’s need for secrecy, I’ve had to hold my Mom back, lest she push Iris completely over the edge! So I told Mom what I wanted to do, and that I didn’t think her taking the letter to the house would be a good idea. Iris has seen pictures of my mom and I didn’t want to risk them encountering each other out of the blue like that. I got better directions for my friend and she’s going to be dropping off the letter any time now.

There was a very weird coincidence when I called my Mom to get directions. She had been thinking of calling Iris on my behalf! Her planned speech sounded almost word for word to my letter…. My father just died unexpectedly, life is short, haven’t heard from you in a long time, coming to visit soon…. Mom was going to call me and get my okey dokey before she called, but I found it very weird that we were both thinking the same thing at the same time!

So the “child” has stood up and said “this is not in my best interest”. I don’t know what the outcome of all of this will be, but it’s much better than not doing anything at all and leaving my fate in the hands of others.


Heather said...

Good for you! I'm proud of you, and wish I had the same guts to contact my birthfather, who I have never reached out to because my birthmother has requested I never do since it could cause "trouble" for her. I've been honoring her wishes without any thought to my own best interest as the adoptee. Sigh.

I hope that Iris responds and you get to visit with her on your next visit. I also hope your mom is doing okay. ((hugs))

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Standing ovation and cheering you on!

"For too long now I have not put my interests first, but have allowed the “adult” in the relationship to call the shots and do what makes them comfortable."

Yay, you!

No matter the outcome, it can only be a good thing that you've found your voice in this.

luna said...

echoing lori luz's comment. bravo to you for finding your voice and speaking up for YOU, regardless of the outcome. glad you decided to write about this too.