It's Friday, so it must be Weekly Adoption Shout Out time! And this week we have a theme: contact. A bit of a thorny subject for me, if I'm honest.
You see, as far as OB goes, I have worn multiple hats, and with these different hats on, my feelings about contact with his birth family veer wildly from one extreme to the other.
OB first came to me when he was only 4 months old. For the first period of his placement with me, I was purely a foster carer. I not only took him to contacts with his birth mother, but also supervised some of those contacts and even arranged extra contacts at special times, such as buying his first shoes. As the plan for him was rehabilitation with birth family, we worked together to make that become a reality. I supported Mum, helped her draw up lists of routines and meal plans, and collaborated with her over Christmas and birthday times.
When the rehabilitation broke down after just a few weeks, and OB came back into my care, things gradually began to change. Birth relatives came and went, and I organised and supervised contacts with a few different people. In the end, when it became clear that there was nobody in OB's family who was able to take him, then I approached the social worker about adopting him myself.
From the moment I broached that subject, I gradually began to lose my foster carer's hat, and take on my mummy's hat. Contacts with birth family were reduced and then brought to a close with final contacts arranged. OB only saw his birth mother twice after he came back into my care. I felt as though I was part of a process of closure, cutting off those birth family links one by one. As I write, OB has not seen or had any kind of contact with anybody in his birth family for over 8 months.
The past year has been a strange limbo land where I know that I will be OB's mummy, and he even calls me by that name, but none of it is actually real until some judge says it is. That day will come soon, and OB will formally leave his birth family behind and become my family. And yet on that same day, we will enter into a bizarre reconnection with that same family, through the letterbox contact agreement.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I signed the agreement. So, just as OB is about to become my son, I have, once again, to begin to consider a family that has lost theirs. Such mixed feelings.
Honestly, if it was up to my emotions alone, I'd never mention or refer to OB's 'other family' again. Every fibre of my being wants to gather him to me, hold him tight, and pretend that the way it is now is the way it's always been. But all the wishing in the world won't make that true. And it's not about my emotions; it's about what OB needs now and will need as he grows older. After all, a big part of being a Mum is about being able to put your own wishes and feelings aside for your child's benefit, playing with them even though you are tired, cooking healthy meals even though you'd rather have burgers, and telling them gently about their birth family even though you'd rather never think about them again.
I know that we all want to know where we've come from. I know that all children go through a phase of being fascinated about their early childhoods. I know that OB will probably be no different to any other child, and he will be told the truth about it. Unlike many other adopters, I not only met his birth mother, but got to know her quite well. I will be able to tell him truthfully that he was loved - we all need to know that we have been loved.
All that, I am fine with. But letterbox contact is another thing entirely. I feel extremely conflicted about it, and I really resent the fact that, just at this moment, just as OB and I become a family, I'm required to consider the needs of his birth family.
For instance, when we will write the letters? Apparently a lot of people do that in September. That seems fine with me. But then, if the birth family delay picking it up, and then delay in replying, the reply might come too close to Christmas. Wouldn't it be better to do it in July? It has to be a neutral time of year, not near birthday or Christmas. Nothing identifying written in the letter. And so on, and so on.
And the whole time we're having this conversation, I'm raging inwardly at the intrusion of it all.
Well, I suppose I'd better get used to it! If I think signing the contact agreement is painful, then what am I going to do when it comes to letter-writing time?!
Yet, as unpleasant as I might be finding it, my main objections to the letterbox contact are on OB's behalf. He is too young to have any say in what this contact will consist of, or whether it will even happen. I will write to his birth family on his behalf, telling them things about him, and it will be some years before he is able to have any say in what they are told, and what is left out.
I have family members that I am estranged from and, believe me, I'd be pretty annoyed if I found out that somebody was writing to them on my behalf and telling them all about me! I know that the collective wisdom states that this contact is a Good Thing, and I will dutifully do as I'm told, because that's what I do, but at the same time I can't help feeling that a process that doesn't involve the child, that the child hasn't even consented to, doesn't really make me feel as though we are putting the child at the heart of things.
Anyway, ours will be in September. My brain still works on an academic calendar after all these years, so I thought it would make it easier to remember. What a fool I was! There's no chance of me forgetting - I'm already stressing about what I'll write and it's only March!