The First Thing We Ever Had In Common

I’m not quite sure why I get so nervous before a meeting with The Kiddo’s parents. Maybe it’s the fact that it doesn’t happen often. Maybe it’s the fact that I am unsure of what might happen, or the direction it could take. Maybe it’s my own seemingly “normal” anxiety peaking. Maybe it’s just a regular part of the open adoption concept.

However, in order to cope, I focus on the menial things. Like my hair. Or my nails. Or my shoes. Do I dress up, casual or down? What if I overdress? What if I under dress? I obsess to the point of planning multiple outfits based on weather. Based on how I’ll feel that day, based on my hair being up or down. I always make sure I pick the right colors, only the ones that look good on me. I always take much longer with my makeup, hoping to accentuate my very brown eyes. I repack my purse. I talk about when we’ll leave, which roads will get us there the fastest. I worry about being there too early, or not early enough. Everything goes through my mind, and I honestly, by the end of the visits feel neurotic and exhausted from all my over worrying.

I’ve done this routine since adoption came into play. I did it the very first time I met them, on the day I relinquished, on the day of finalization. His second birthday. Last year. It’s become part of the ritual of seeing them, I guess.

In some regard, I believe it helps me cope with the fact that so much is out of my control. It helps me from free-falling into the pit of complete overwhelming anxiety. It helps me feel like I can still impress them. Because I still desperately want to make sure that they adore me, that they love me and that they are impressed with who I am. They are an important part of my life, of The Kiddo’s life, and I want them to love me, as I do love them.

As if an outfit can do all of that for me, right? Try telling that to me pre-meeting.

I figured naively, that perhaps I was the only one who would obsess or worry about silly things like this. There was no way in my mind that they would possibly be even remotely concerned about impressing me, because really, what is there to impress? I am, afterall the lowly birth mother, and they are the perfect adoptive couple. I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever, as I resort to that sort of thinking when it comes to our relationship. Which is a sad confession for me, but it is unfortunately, the truth.

I would have never guessed that we would have nervousness in common. I think the idea that they could be human was a foreign idea; like they would always been above these normal behaviors in stressful situations.

When I arrived on Sunday, The Hubby and I were greeted by a fabulous house. I managed not to turn a shade of green as I saw their beautiful kitchen, the kind that is perfect for a family. When The Kiddo’s Mom admitted that she had been in a mad dash to make sure the house was perfect for me, I smiled and reassured her that it wasn’t necessary but the house looked great. I have kids, I know how hard it is to keep a house clean in preparation for visitors- it’s an admirable feat. Later, as we discussed some of The Kiddo’s habits, another confession came in the form of her worrying about what I would think if his room was in it’s usual pack rat state.

Simple things to outsiders, but a small realization that we have much more in common then I have been believing for years. When Heather posted the tweets from the open adoption seminar she attended, it really hit me how similar our fears were. Generically speaking, we were both afraid of judgment, of rejection, and of not being heard. As the tweets continued almost all of the fears began to show the same common thread. Taking pause, I wondered how it was possible that all of us involved in the adoption constellation could feel such similar emotions, yet be in such different places and astronomically different roles.

Fear seems to be a big part of adoption, especially open adoption. The more open you are in an adoption, the greater the risk there is to be hurt or to lose. Yet, where there is a great risk, there is a great gain. The gain should always be the focus; what can we gain from being here, from being open with one another? We are all wrapped up in this relationship, meaning we do stand to lose, especially if things don’t go to plan. However, the wanting to be important to each other seems to be at the forefront of the fears; being wanted and appreciated would eliminate the fear of judgment, of not being heard, and of being rejected.

The lack of communication about even these smaller, yet telling fears is one of the reasons we are unable to come together as equals in this relationship. When all parties are able to admit that there is some fear, and some nervousness, even if it’s not necessarily warranted, it helps to bring some real perspective to the table. No longer are we second guessing ourselves, and each other; the admission that we all have fears can open up a door to acknowledge that they are reasonable, but unfounded. In the beginning, the fears can revolve around trust, around respect, or boundaries. As the relationship grows, the fears can remain similar, or they can grow into insecurities about not being enough, or bigger worries of acceptance from both the adoptive family and your own child. How we choose to acknowledge these fears within ourselves, and in this open adoption relationship can really set the tone for how we view and interact with one another.

In all honesty, when The Kiddo’s parents sheepishly admitted their nerves, I felt myself relax. Knowing that they were worried, if even for different reasons than mine, it was a small bit of confidence. They still had shown trust by willingly sharing their home with us, which can seem like a small and meaningless action. It shows that there is respect, and understanding. As our conversations wore on, I found myself being more open, sharing more than I ever had, and never once did I feel the urge to hold back, or to hide. We were all sharing freely, they were sharing their own experiences and feelings. It all felt like a big step forward in our relationship.

With no mediator there to guide us, the conversation was fluid, and open. Honest and easy. Comforting and familiar. Just as I have always wished it could be.

I’ll likely never stop obsessing before visits, and will always need a friend to take me and my neurosis shopping. However, there is some solace in the knowledge, in their own way, in their own form, they are worrying about similar things, about impressing me, leading up to our meetings. It makes them seem less like the “perfect adoptive couple” that I was sold, and more of the wonderful people who have parented and raised my son, who is their son.

A commonality we will share for life, the first thing we ever had in common.

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7 thoughts on “The First Thing We Ever Had In Common

  1. I remember when I took M&J off the pedestal and started seeing them as real human people. In my case it wasn’t necessarily about commonality, but it was still a turning point in the relationship…even if it only (or mostly) happened in my head.

  2. I agree with Katja. When I took my T&C off my own pedestal and realized they had worries about this relationship too, that’s when some of the relaxation about our relationship started to take hold. I’m SO happy the visit went well!

  3. “The lack of communication about even these smaller, yet telling fears is one of the reasons we are unable to come together as equals in this relationship.” I love this. I realized this recently too. Communication is huge…especially in the relationship between birth mom and adoptive couples. It’s hard to express your feelings, but when you do? Miracles happen.

  4. This is so well-said. I am on the adoptive-parent side of the equation, and play out my nerves the same way as you do before every visit with each of my kids’ parents. Because my outfit and my toenail polish is really what’s important in those moments? I love what you say about how openness shows a respect for the other person. So glad your time with them went well.

  5. I love this post, Danielle.

    The first time I talked to D on the phone – the evening of the day she chose us, and five days before Julia was born – one of the first things I said was that I was so nervous. George was sitting next to me & he kind of nudged me, like I shouldn’t have said that, but D said she was nervous too, and we both laughed, and the conversation was incredibly awkward but having both admitted to being nervous made it more comfortable. I always think it was the most comfortable awkward conversation I’ve ever had…

    I always worry about what D will think. Until recently we hadn’t talked at all in about a year – I’d been sending letters & pictures but never heard anything except the occasional “like” on a Facebook post – but our life is out there for her to see, on Facebook, on my blog, etc. I’m always a little afraid she’s secretly wishing she hadn’t chosen a family that would end up homeschooling, or thinking that Asher really needs a haircut, or wondering where that cut under Julia’s nose came from. Of course, she’s probably just as anxious about what we think of her, but it doesn’t stop me worrying… xo

  6. What a sweet picture, Danielle! (And a wonderful post, too, though I have no experience with ever “meeting” my child’s adoptive family other than the initial time.)

  7. I agree too, though coming from the other side as an adoptive mama. I always worry before a visit about the dust bunnies under the table, the messy room, dishes in the sink, even magazines in the bathroom, etc. it’s true, I think we all worry about judgment.

    the very first time we met our daughter’s birthmom, our nerves helped us bond instantly. as we waited for her to join us at a cafe of her choosing, we were early and I asked my husband if he thought she was as nervous as we were. probably, he said. then she walked in and headed straight to us (she knew what we looked like but we didn’t know what she looked like). I stood up to give her a hug and the very first thing she said to me after introducing herself was “I’m so nervous!” I laughed and said we were too, then told her about our conversation 5 mins earlier. it seemed to really ease the tension.

    even though our relationships are so complex, sometimes it helps to remember that we’re all human and no one is perfect.

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