Five years into our first adoption I'm just starting to question a lot about the adoption process. I'm definitely starting to question what we've been told about contact and how difficult the lack of it being a two way event actually is.
In adoption terms contact can mean letterbox contact or direct contact. In our family we have both. We have letterbox contact with the children's Birth Mother (BM) and Paternal Grandmother (PGM) and direct contact with their joint sibling and his family and also with both sets of Foster Carers (FC). It's a lot of contact to coordinate and for me it's a constant pressure to balance everything and everyone. So far in five years of writing we've received no communication from BM but we receive letters from BGM who writes for herself and her son who is Katie's Birth Father. We have no letterbox contact arrangements as yet for Pip, which considering they share a BM is strange, to say the least. I have raised the lack of contact arrangements for Pip with our Social Worker (SW) but nothing has ever materialised, for reasons as yet unknown.
I'll be honest, contact raises a lot of different emotions in me. I am delighted that BGM writes to us and gives us a lot of information about their daily lives but equally frustrated that her letters stop at any time her life is more complicated and she is unable to cope with it. I agonise over what to include in my contact letters. Do I create a positive picture or do I present a more truthful picture? I feel guilty that her letters are filed away for a time when Katie is old enough to handle the contents. I'm frustrated for Katie and Pip that BM has never written although understanding of why she might find it difficult. I feel anxious about the trust that we've given to the Birth Father of the children's sibling to not divulge our whereabouts. I worry that we dutifully maintain letterbox contact because we've been told it's in our children's interests whilst I question the benefits of pulling the plaster off an emotional wound twice a year. As a result I have not given Katie any details of the letters I send and receive. I feel happy to see the relationship between the three siblings and know we've made that possible although worry about Katie's recent indifference and desire to not go along to see him and wonder whether I should push her or let her take a step back. Hearing her telling her friends at school about her brother who lives with another family recently was interesting and positive that she felt able to speak openly but I quickly became aware that she felt ill equipped to deal with the questions from her friends that followed and this is something I will be approaching with her over the school holidays. It also made me wonder how she would handle the information that she has a paternal sister.
More recently I really am concerned about the impact of being adopted on my children and query whether being so open about it is beneficial. I always wanted my children to know that they were adopted and that we were positive about that. We have lots of friends with adopted children so it's quite the norm in our house to be adopted. I wanted them to feel that it wasn't a secret they should feel ashamed of and that we were proud of them. More and more I am realising that this approach is a balancing act that can easily tip over to being a reminder of being different from their school friends or feel like a bit of overkill. Katie particularly is currently very angry and unsettled, a feeling exacerbated by the end of school term and a transition to a new school and hopefully back to our old home. I am noticing a pattern of tantrums when we leave a place or event where she is feeling happy and have realised that this is triggering feelings of loss in her from when she moved to us. There is a big part of me that doesn't really want to add more pressure onto her plate about this period of her life by revisiting it, whilst the counsellor in me wonders if experiencing those emotions during periods of transition will help her resilience to them with time and support. She's only 7 though. How much is she expected to handle and isn't it my job as her mum to out the brakes on if it's all getting a bit too intense? Add into the mix contact with her brother and I can see why she's not keen to see him currently. Although she knows she and Pip share the same BM with their middle sibling I know she identifies differently with Pip than she does their other brother. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you view it, their brother's family live literally around the corner from us. We bump into them often at our local Costa so Katie can't really control the contact there. She could be confronted by a situation she's not in the mood for at any time. We're now so embedded into the lives of their brother and his family that this situation will be forced to rumble. Pip loves seeing his big brother although is currently too young to understand who he is. Sometimes I just take Pip along to see him and blame Katie's absence on a birthday party but I'm acutely aware that this contact is also for the benefit of their brother as well. The wellbeing of another individual rests in my decisions. It's a minefield that I do not feel the adoption preparation course or subsequent training has really prepared us for.
A lot of thoughts and emotions within the subject of contact and I realise that I'm not sure we are always given the best advice for our children. The advice adopters are given is the current thinking on an issue and contact can also be very important for the birth families but I'm not always so sure it is in our children's best interests to have their identity constantly challenged, especially for children who were adopted very young. I'm not saying say nothing, I'm just starting to wonder whether sometimes less might actually be more until the child is old enough to emotionally hold the fact that they sit in two worlds or ask to be involved. It's a hard enough concept for an adult to handle, let alone a child. What do you think?