Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A Time To Mourn
We've made it through to the other side of the mediation conference. It wasn't easy and I felt so apprehensive walking into that room. We had to wait for over 30 minutes before getting Boo's bio mom on the phone (it's tricky getting an inmate to a court ordered conference call, apparently).
We weren't sure what to expect. We expected that IF Boo's bio mom was considering relinquishment, she'd want much more post adoptive contact that we were willing to offer. We were preparing for the worst, that the negotiation attempt would end miserably and we'd be waiting for the second severance trial court date to press on.
The mediation did not go as expected! When Boo's bio mom got on the phone, the mediator started it out by asking her, "What do you feel is in your child's best interest?" or something to that affect.
There was a long pause and then we heard Boo's bio mom begin weeping. Through her tears she said, "This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do! I love my little girl so much, but as much as it pains me I know it's in her best interest to be adopted by her foster family."
We were shocked! We weren't expected to hear those words from her. We sat in stunned silence.
Then Boo's bio mom said that she did not agree with amount of contact that was written in the draft post adoptive agreement, that she wanted much more than that. As my mind churned, trying to process everything and trying to figure out a way to tactfully tell her that the amount of contact she wanted was not going to happen at this point in time, the mediator took over.
The mediator told Boo's bio mom that before the specifics of the post adoptive agreement could be formalized, she needed to understand that her decision as to whether or not to relinquish her parental rights had to be made entirely independent of what we might or might not offer her in the way of a post adoptive agreement, otherwise it could be construed as an attempt at coercion on our part and the mediator was not going to allow that to happen. She told everyone that she was going to ask us to leave the room (along with our lawyer and the CPS case manager) so that she could speak in private with Boo's bio mom and her lawyer before this went any further.
We left the room and sat waiting, mostly in stunned silence. Eventually the mediator came out and said that Boo's bio mom had made the decision to relinquish and would accept the terms of our post adoptive agreement. She told us that we were free to go, unless we wanted to say anything further to Boo's bio mom.
Tears welled in my eyes and I said, "Saying thank you seems so inadequate in this situation." The mediator encouraged us to come back in and talk a bit more with Boo's bio mom.
We went back in and I told Boo's bio mom, "I want to thank you for trusting us with raising Boo and being her family. You know how much we love her already." Boo's mom said, "I know. I just hope that you'll make sure she knows how much I love her." I assured her that we'd be raising Boo with the knowledge that she was adopted and that her bio mom loves her very much. I reiterated that we would share age-appropriate information about her to Boo as Boo grew older. I encouraged her to write Boo a letter for us to give to her later.
I asked Boo's bio mom if she'd be willing to provide us with her family medical history, a picture of herself, and a baby picture of Boo (since we only have pictures of Boo from 12 months on). I explained that I thought these things would be very important to Boo as she got older. She said that she would get those things to us.
The mediator said something to the effect that she was sure we realized that Boo's bio mom was disappointed that we weren't offering her more frequent contact but that she explained to Boo's bio mom that she would need to lead a healthy, crime-free, sober life-style after she was released from prison and maybe that would help build trust between us and later change the frequency of our contact with her. We said we would keep an open mind about that.
So, now we wait. We wait for the lawyers to gather the necessary documents and get them faxed to Boo's bio mom in prison. We wait for her to sign the relinquishment papers. And while we wait, we mourn.
Yes, as strange as that sounds, we are mourning in some respects.
Of course, we're relieved and thankful that Boo's bio mom has made the decision to do what she feels is in her daughter's best interest, to allow her to be adopted by us.
But we're also experiencing sadness. It was difficult hearing the pain and tears in Boo's bio mom's voice as she told us of her decision. It was bittersweet to finally hear her admit that she was not able to provide her daughter with the stability that she deserves and that she wanted us to adopt her.
Boo's bio mom has fought so hard and for so long (over 2 1/2 years) to maintain her parental rights and to get her daughter back and in the end she couldn't overcome her personal demons and do what is necessary to make that happen.
But in the final hour, she put her child's needs first. She made it very clear that she loves her daughter and that this decision is the hardest she'll ever make. I believe that to be true. And, as a mother, it pains me. Her loss pains me.
That's the thing about adoption that many don't truly understand. As an adoptive mother, it's very hard to reconcile that my happiness has to come at the expense of another mother's pain and sadness. My gain is another mother's loss. No matter how brave or noble that mother is trying to be, that loss will always be with her. And it will always be with me as well. I will always be conscious of that loss.
And there will come a time when my children will be old enough to understand the sacrifice that was made and they will feel a sense of loss too, I'm certain. If I, as an adoptive mom, feel it then certainly my children will feel it at some level as well. I just hope that I can have a solid enough relationship with my children that when they reach that level of understanding and begin to mourn that loss, that they will come to me and I will be able to at least offer to listen and empathize and support them. And maybe we'll be at a place in our relationship with their bio moms that they can speak directly to them about their feelings as well.
This is not a done deal yet by any means, and it's certainly pre-mature to be celebrating. Right now, for me personally, this is a time to mourn for Boo's bio mom. It could've been different for her but it's not, so right now she's making what she feels is the right choice for her daughter. She's placing her trust in us and I'm determined to be trustworthy.