Welcome to my interview suite. Today, we have Camille from Embracing the Odyssey (http://www.embracingtheodyssey.com) . She is the newly adoptive mother of Ellie, a beautiful little girl. She and her hubby reside in Tennessee. Camille is a former teacher and it reflects in the way she writes about and interacts with Ellie. I look forward to following their journey as parents and also learning many things from them. Without further ado, Camille!
(Also, many thanks to Heather from Production, not Reproduction for putting this on for all of us!)
You mention in one of your 'notes' posts that you 'planned to adopt kids after we had a few of our own and could say, “Hey! Look! We have kids, and we kept them alive! Wanna give me one of yours? ” ' What would you go back and say to that version of yourself now, if you could?
I’m not entirely sure. I think that version of myself had this perfect plan for how life would proceed: marriage, pregnancy, baby….then adoption. My husband and I discussed adoption early in our relationship as a way to build a family, but I wanted to experience pregnancy first. Also, I think I wanted to somehow feel “qualified” to adopt. In a way, I needed to prove (maybe more to myself than anyone else) that I could be a good mother before asking someone else to trust me with her child.
At this point, I think I’d tell myself that no one is ever completely ready to be a parent. Certainly, circumstances and support systems can make parenthood more feasible for some than others, but it still comes down to just jumping in and learning as you go. As I’ve gotten to know more birth mothers, I’ve learned that most aren’t looking for parents who are perfect…just parents who are real and ready to love and raise a child as their own.
Also, I’d use my stern teacher-voice and tell myself that life does not follow a perfect plan, and the unexpected things are often the most beautiful. (My teacher voice is scary!)
2. What has lead you to the openness on your blog -- with pictures, names, locations, etc? I am not quite as open out of respect for Monkey's family, and am amazed at the openness you feel comfortable with.
I struggle constantly with how open to be on my blog. On one hand, I know how much I appreciate the honesty I find on other blogs, and I hope that by being open, I can share something real with others in the adoption world. I want Ellie to be able to read her story and see how much her birth family and her Daddy and I loved her from the start. I want her to be proud and never view her adoption as something secretive.
However, I also know I need to be careful with the information I share, because this isn’t just my story; there are others involved. I would never want to be disrespectful to Ellie’s birth family or intrude in their lives by sharing things they view as private. Also, I realize that Ellie may not appreciate my writing about her life one day. Thus, I take it day-by-day, post-by-post.
As of now, I try to refer to Ellie’s birth family only with initials, and I don’t have any pictures of them posted. And even though I mention living in Memphis, I guess I feel a certain degree of anonymity living in a metropolitan area of more than a million people. I do identify our social worker and adoption counselor by first names and do have pictures of them, and obviously, I have hundreds of pictures of Ellie. I’m glad that my blog seems open, but honestly, there are many details I don’t share. There are difficult things I’m going to have to explain to Ellie one day, and it will be up to her whether or not we share those conversations with others.
3. I know that going in, most people have an idealized view of parenthood. Becoming a parent changes that view quite a lot, and I imagine adoption does as well. What ways has adoption changed your view of parenthood, for the better or worse? What has surprised you the most about motherhood? What about adoption?
Hmmm…..yes, well…you know logically that there’s going to be lots of poo and not so much sleep, but I don’t think anyone really gets that until you’ve been puked on for the third time in one night. J I think a lot of Moms have this image of a peaceful Gerber baby complete with a shining halo. They see hair bows and peaceful strolls. They don’t really envision those 2 a.m. moments with the baby screaming for no discernible reason where you wonder, “Where is the darn halo?!” But I think all moms, adoptive or natural, have those moments.
For me, I guess one difference is that most moms have 8+ months to mentally prepare for the massive life change of becoming a mom. I had a couple of days. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but we jumped in and it worked. Also, I think being an adoptive mom can add extra stress…especially to someone who is also a first-time mom. For six months, I had to write incredibly detailed reports about Ellie’s health, milestones, bonding, my adjustment, etc. I read all the bulleted points in the What to Expect book like a hawk, secretly terrified that she’d miss something and they’d decide I was unfit because she wasn’t saying “ooh or ahhh” appropriately. Ridiculous thinking…I know, but learning to parent with someone looking over your shoulder, while a necessary safeguard, can be tiresome.
This is so clichéd, I know, but I think what has surprised me most about motherhood is how quickly it moves. I feel like I’m running a marathon most days. She changes SO quickly, and about the time I feel I master one “Mom” skill, she presents me with a dozen new challenges. Motherhood is a learning experience, and I thank God for Facebook friends full of advice, Google, and Puffs (ultimate baby pacifier).
About adoption, I’ve been surprised by how many people I’ve met who are a part of the triad since I’ve adopted Ellie. I’m sure they were all there before, but it’s amazing how people will open up and share their stories and experiences when they realize you have a connection to adoption too. I’ve met adoptees ranging from a high-school freshman to a middle-aged hairdresser. A close friend is in the process of adopting from Honduras, and another friend is in the process of finishing her home study to adopt an infant domestically. Through blogs, I’ve met birth moms, and they’ve challenged me to expand my understanding of the other side of this relationship. In other words, while we felt rather alone and “different” when we started this process, I’m beginning to understand that we’re part of a large community of people sharing a unique bond; adoption is everywhere.
4. As an offshoot to the last question, as a parent through adoption, what would you have the world know about adoption?
Ummm…..that it’s awesome. It can also be painful, scary, complicated, awkward, and labor-intensive. Adoption isn’t some Hallmark card where you bring home a shiny baby and give yourself a gold star. It’s also not a Lifetime movie where some draconian social worker comes in the night to steal away your child. It’s a process that requires you to be educated, to learn a new language, and in many cases, to open your mind to a new understanding of family.
Now, for some random things I’d like to say about adoption:
1. Don’t even think about adoption if you haven’t done your research. You can’t just go pick out a kid at the store. Read books. Read blogs. Make appointments with adoption counselors. Talk to people who were adopted. Talk to adoptive parents. Talk to birthmoms. LISTEN. Then, realize that you still don’t know anything, and keep actively seeking out opportunities to learn.
2. Adoption does not cure infertility. I did not adopt my daughter with secret hopes that my reproductive system would suddenly say, “Oh! Now I get it!” Please stop asking me if I’m pregnant or telling me about the person you know who got pregnant after they adopted. It makes me doubt your intelligence, and it makes me think you somehow view my daughter as secondary to a “real” baby. She’s not, and I will squish you if you ever make her feel that way.
3. I did not adopt to earn special “good-person” points. I wanted a child for the same reasons most people do. She’s not “so lucky” to have me. I’m SO blessed by God to have her.
4. That said, there are lots of kids living in foster care and orphanages that could use some loving, stable parents. If you want a large family, why not consider adoption? Are you listening Michelle Duggar???
5. Your sense of humor has me smiling quite a bit as I read about your life, and the things you have taken through the drive thru at Starbucks. The battery powered boogie sucker kind of tops that list. Where'd you come up with the idea to even look for one? What DID you plan to do with the EVIL baby spoons of doom at the courthouse?
Thanks. J Well, about the boogie sucker, I was getting carpal tunnel syndrome using the old-fashioned bulb syringe (I mean, this kid produces Niagara Falls-like snot when she’s sick), and since she started fighting us like a ninja-style Velociraptor, I thought the motorized version might speed the process. But her boogers just laughed in the face of Graco’s fancy equipment.
Obviously, the spoons of doom were to be used, MacGyver-style, to fashion a protective shield should any of the more unsavory courthouse visitors get rowdy anywhere near my daughter. I take the “be prepared” thing to the extreme.
6. When do you first remember the feeling of "I really AM a mom'? Does remembering that moment still give you butterflies?
I’m one of those Moms who recorded pretty much every time my child sneezed, blinked, yawned, or hiccupped on my Facebook, and I love going back to read old posts to remember the little moments and see how much she’s changed. I fell in love with her almost immediately, but I think the first time I really felt like “Mom” was a couple of nights after we brought her home. I got up to feed her around 2 a.m., and I had her on my shoulder, rocking her back to sleep. She turned her head into my neck and sighed this little contented “Ahhhh.” With just the two of us in the quiet, her little heart beating against my chest, I felt…right. I experienced this kind of protective rush of maternal emotion, knowing that I would be the one providing for her needs, her comfort, and her security for years to come. And then, you know, when she later spit-up the entire bottle and it ran down between my boobs….definitely felt like a Mom then.
7. What lead you to believe open adoption was the correct answer for your family? What have you struggled with the most? What has been the most joyous aspect of the open-ness?
At first, like many adoptive parents, I was hesitant about open adoption. After reading dozens of books and blogs, my husband and I agreed that maintaining a relationship with our birth family would be best for our daughter (and for us), but as every relationship is different, we didn’t know what to expect. My husband and I were nervous about how much involvement our birth family would want in our lives, and we weren’t sure to what degree we’d be comfortable sharing. Also, the circumstances of our adoption happened so quickly that we only met our birth mother once before she went into labor, so we really didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her or discuss in much detail how things would proceed in the future.
To be honest, we were painfully nervous and unsure during the revocation period. We sent e-mail updates and photos through our social worker and wrote a letter to our birth mother in an attempt to offer reassurance and gratitude. Once the period passed and we felt more secure, we found it became easier to be more and more open with each contact. We met Ellie’s birth mom, grandmother, and aunt in a park for a visit about a month after she was born. We soon decided to cut out the middle-man (the adoption agency) and simply exchanged e-mails and phone numbers. After that, we started scheduling our own visits.
Without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of the process has been that while we have an extremely open relationship with Ellie’s grandmother and aunt (L & L), we’ve been unable to form the same bond with her mother. Ellie’s birth mom, C., is incapable of being in her life right now, but we have hopes for the future. We continue to send pictures and letters whenever possible, and we will make sure Ellie knows about C. in a positive way. Our hope is that C. will reach a place where she will want the same type of relationship with Ellie as L & L, and we will continue to strive to be open to the degree that is best for our daughter.
Our relationship with L & L is by far the most amazing aspect of our openness. We’ve reached a point where they truly feel like family…as they are. We e-mail every other week or so, and we meet for visits every month. I share links to my Facebook albums of Ellie pictures, and they send links to pictures of kids and cousins in cheerleading competitions and prom dresses. We talk about schools, jobs, doctors, etc. Aunt L. came to our house for a reception after Ellie’s baptism, and they’ve invited us to their homes this month to see Ellie crawl. Yes, I suppose it’s awkward that this relationship is with her extended birth family rather than her birth mother, but I’m exceedingly grateful for their support. I think it’s important for her to have a positive connection to her origins, and I’m glad they’re providing that until C. is ready to be in our lives. The Ls are amazing people, and their love for Ellie is a blessing