For the Adoption Interview Project I was paired with Kate at Sweet Ridge Sisters . Kate blogs there with her 3 sisters (who also graciously agreed to be interviewed as well even though they are not directly involved in adoption) about life on the farm and in the city. Kate has two daughters, Brigid and Olympia, the oldest of whom she placed for open adoption 10 years ago. She writes often about parenting and being a mother and birthmother. Please hop on over to Sweet Ridge Sisters and give Kate and her sisters a little blog love! So, without further ado, here is my interview with Kate.
1. Tell me about your relationship with Brigid. How has it changed as she has grown older?
Let me begin by telling you that when I first read about open adoption while I was pregnant with Brigid, I was completely turned off by the concept. The biggest reason for this was that I couldn't fathom having a casual relationship with my child. I felt that it had to be all or nothing, or at least nothing until some far off hazy day in the future when she was grown. I am the eldest of 9 siblings, and have lived in far off states for years. I know exactly what it is like to visit and be the glamorous older sister who comes bearing gifts and takes long walks and lots of pictures. That kind of relationship seemed like too much and too little to have with my child. Chris and Michelle, the adoptive parents, have always been very open and totally respectful. In the beginning, I just wanted to see pictures and have the occasional phone call or email, and they were great about that. They also made it clear that I would be welcome to visit them and spend time with Brigid if I changed my mind about seeing her. I did visit them on the weekend that Brigid turned 4- on her birthday, which is also the weekend of Mother's Day. It was amazing, and I am glad I did. It definitely changed the relationship to meet Brigid as a little girl, as opposed to the memory of the infant that I lost. I am so glad I have memories of her as a four year old, and of taking walks and spending time with her family. I visited again a couple years later with Brigid's birth dad, which was also an important visit. Chris and Michelle have visited my family as well. They live on the other side of the country, so the visits are rare, but then it is rare enough that I get home to see my parents and siblings. I would say that my relationship with Brigid has been very much a relationship with her whole family. When I am visiting, much of my time is spent talking to Chris and Michelle, who have become great friends and very much family to me. They have adopted five kids now, so a lot of time is also spent playing with whole bunches of kids. When I call the family, I talk to Michelle or to Chris, but rarely to Brigid. I feel like so much of the relationship that has developed has been with the family as a whole- and that has been totally healthy. I occasionally send Brigid a package or a letter, but we have not had an intense one-on-one relationship. I fundamentally relate to her as a four year old or seven year old or ten year old relative- in fact, it is similar to the relationship I've had with my younger siblings in some ways after all. And that has been more of a good thing than I could have imagined ten years ago.
2. Have you been accepted into Brigid's parents' extended family or does your relationship stay pretty much within those who live in the household? Also, does your extended family have a relationship with Brigid?
I love Brigid's extended family, and have definitely been accepted by them. The first time I met Chris and Michelle I went to stay with Chris's parents overnight. He is from a huge Irish Catholic family that is very similar to mine in many ways, and the family was incredibly gracious and welcoming and fun. After the visit I got a letter from Chris's sister that was full of love and compassion, and meant a great deal to me. A year after Brigid was born Michelle's sister wrote me a letter, and again it appeared at the exact right time and brought me a great deal of healing and peace. During my first visit to see Chris and Michelle there was a huge Mother's Day Party with Michelle's entire extended family in attendance- grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. It was great to meet the family, and I cannot express how kind and welcoming and interesting her family is. Chris and Michelle came and stayed for a week when Brigid was born, and we sort of all took care of her for a week. There are pictures of a big family gathering with dozens and dozens of Mother's Day roses for all the mothers. They were great with my siblings, who were little at the time, and they left an amazing impression. After I visited Chris and Michelle, they came to see my family at Christmas the next year. They drove through a blizzard with three little kids to get there, and it was a wonderful visit. Some time after that, Chris's parents visited the farm and me my parents, and got along remarkably well. The grandparents have a great deal in common, from raising big Catholic families (Chris's parents) to farming and raising pigs and chickens and fermenting anything they can get their hands on (Michelle's Dad). Chris and Michelle, their five kids, and Chris's younger sister all attended my wedding a couple years ago. I had invited both sets of grandparents, who were unable to come and very much wished they could have. I spent a lot of time with Brigid at the wedding. The picture at the top of our blog, of all the girls in ballgowns on top of a silo silhouetted against the sky- Brigid is at the foot of that silo, and I am so glad. My grandmothers were both able to meet her, and I know that meant a great great deal to them, as they have been longing to meet her for a long time. There were 250 people at the wedding, so I am pretty sure that they met as much of our extended family as they possibly could- at least until the next great big Slattery wedding.
3. How has Brigid processed the fact that you are now parenting Olympia? How did you explain it to her? Does this fact trouble her? How will you explain it later on to Olympia?
A month after Olympia was born a package came from Brigid's family. Michelle had all of her kids pick out little presents for Olympia. Brigid, who was around 9 at the time, sent three books. Two of them were little Dr. Seuss books, and the third was entitled "Guess How Much I Love You." Brigid wrote a letter, and slipped it into that book. The letter said: Dear Olympia,The top two books you see used to be my favorite books when I was a baby. The third and biggest book expresses my feelings for you even though I've never met you. I hope you look upon these books for the rest of your life as love in disguise from your big sis,Brigid I think that sums up the way that Brigid feels about Olympia. I know that she has pictures of me with Olympia hanging in her room. She definitely is not troubled by the fact that I am parenting Olympia. She is very secure, because she is well loved by secure parents. I believe this will be the case with Olympia as well. I plan on following Michelle's lead in being open and honest and down to earth about the facts of the situation- in fact, I was just talking to Michelle about it at length on the phone last night. Olympia has so many cousins and second cousins and aunts and uncles and Grandparents who live far away, and I think that her relationship with Brigid will naturally follow a similar pattern to the ones she has with the rest of the family. As Michelle pointed out, having a huge and close family living all over the country makes the adoption relationship seem pretty normal to kids.
4. Now that Brigid is older, has she come to you looking for answers as to why you placed her for adoption or have her parents taken care of all of those questions?
She has not come to me looking for answers at all. She hasn't asked a whole lot of questions of Chris and Michelle either- I think because adoption is really normal for her, and because the questions she has have been answered. I am happy to have Chris and Michelle answer her questions, and if she has them for me I'd love to answer them as well. I look forward to having a dialogue some day- and I know that Brigid's birth dad does as well.
5. How difficult has it been for you seeing Brigid's parents parent her differently than you would have chosen? (I'm assuming this happens since everyone parents differently.)
Parenting differences have not been an issue for me at all. I think that Chris and Michelle are amazing parents, and I would love to be as much like them as possible. They have a very similar approach to faith, discipline, family size, and life in general. I've totally taken parenting tips from them.
6. Has your extended family supported you in your decision to place Brigid for adoption or did they try to talk you out of it? If they were completely supportive, do you wish they would have tried to talk you out of it?
My family was supportive of me in my decision to place. My mother in particular felt strongly that adoption was the best option for me, and expressed this opinion. However, I came to the decision very much on my own along with Brigid's birth dad. We did a great deal of research and contemplation and talked about it for many many hours before concluding that it was the best possible thing to do for our child. I am a very strong willed person, and I took total responsibility for becoming pregnant, and for deciding that adoption was the right choice. There is no way anyone could have talked me into adoption- the decision was mine.
7. Do you regret your decision?
I do not. I have sobbed until I couldn't breathe, and struggled with intense guilt, and grieved greatly- but I have never regretted my decision. I knew that I could be a good mother, but there was no way that I could be with her father, or be her father. I wanted my child to be secure and loved by two parents. Adoption was the only way that I could give her that. There have been many times in the past year and a half of raising my daughter Olympia that I have been caught by a moment of joy with my husband and the baby, and every time I have stopped to be grateful that Brigid was raised by two happy, loving, faith filled parents. The experience of adoption has been unbelievably painful at many times, but it has also been full of grace. There has been more grace and love poured out than I could ever have imagined.
Here are Clare, Mary, and Colleen's responses to your questions:
1)Could you have them tell me what they thought when you first told them you were considering adoption and what they thought about open adoption in particular?
2)What do they think of it now? Have their opinions changed?
3)Do they have a relationship with Brigid?4)Do they feel like/treat her like she is their niece just like they do Olympia or does it feel different to them?
1.) I was only 8 when all of this was happening, so I guess I didn't even know that it was an open adoption. I remember knowing that Kate was giving away her baby and she was going to meet the parents. I guess I supposed that all adoptions were that way. It didn't seem strange; it just was what an adoption was to me.
2.) I am very much in favor of open adoption now. Personally, I know that I would never have gotten to meet Brigid had Kate not done an open adoption, and that would have been so sad. My life has been so much more enriched by the whole situation. I now know that it is not the way all adoptions work, but I would prefer it if all adoptions could go as well as Kate's seemed to.
3.)I've met Brigid twice now, and I love her so much! I don't have a personal relationship with her because of the distance she lives away, but I would like to eventually get closer to her. My little sister, Clare, is writing to her, and I might follow suite.
4.)I feel like she is as much my niece as Olympia. It does feel a little bit different just because I do not know her parents extraordinarily well, but I can see the fact that she is a Slattery girl from her very face. I'm so glad that I know her!
1. When Kate first got pregnant, I was just a little four year old, so she obviously did not come up to me and say, "Well, Clare, I'm strongly considering adoption." As it was, I didn't even realize that my oldest sister was going to have a baby until she was about 8 months pregnant. I didn't really understand the concept of adoption until the couple who adopted Brigid came to our farm to pick her up.
2. Now that I'm older and I can better understand the situation, I"m just fine with it. Brigid's parents are a great, loving couple. Although sometimes it makes me sad that Brigid lives so far away and I don't get to see her often, I know that the best thing for both Brigid and Kate was for Brigid to be given up for adoption.
3. I have only seen Brigid two times in my life since she was born, and I haven't really kept in contact with her at all until now. Just recently I actually started writing letters to her, because I realized just how little I've connected with her. We are only four years apart, so I'm hoping by our letter writing we will be able to connect much more that we have before.
4. I don't know nearly as much about Brigid as I do my other nieces and as I mentioned before I've hardly ever seen her in person, but I don't think I like any one of my nieces more than her. It's definitely a different kind of relationship, because Brigid lives all the way in California with her adopted family and is the closest in age to me out of all of my nieces, but I love Brigid just as much as them, because whether she's adopted or not, she's still a part of our family. Whenever I tell people my nieces names you can be sure she'll be included in the list, and I have just as many pictures of her on my walls as I do my other nieces. Whether I get to see her every week or not, she'll always be loved just as much as the others in my family. :)
Adoption was not an option in my mind. At the time of Kate's pregnancy, I was 14 years old and considered that Kate was all grown up. I was appalled at her choice and kept telling myself that if I were the one expecting, I would never choose adoption. I didn't really have many formed thoughts on adoption at that point, it wasn't something that I knew much about.
2) Well, I spent a year working with teenage girls at a treatment center, a lot of these clients were dealing with adoption issues. I have volunteered at a orphanage in Russia too, so I have seen a wide array of cases on the adoption spectrum. I am highly cynical of adoption being a super positive experience for all parties involved because I have worked with so many kids with attachment disorders. HOWEVER, I consider Kate's situation to be overwhelmingly beautiful and sacred.
3) No I do not
4) Not really, I am super close to my two oldest nieces here in Wisconsin who are actually adopted into my family. I know she must have an aunt somewhere out there who loves her like I love my nieces here. Building a relationship with someone takes time. Someday, I think I will get to know her, but right now I am just happy to know that she has a beautiful family and is healthy, happy and ever so blessed.
If you are intested in reading other pairs of interviews, hop on over to Production, Not Reproduction for the full list of participants. Enjoy!
2 weeks ago