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Adoption Blog: Improv Mom

The Brave Ones

Has anyone ever called you "brave" after you mentioned that you have an open relationship with your child's birth mother? Well, it's happened to me, on more than one occasion, and I'm doing my best here to sort out my feelings.

"Oh. Wow…." the unknowing friend or acquaintance usually begins, a note of fear creeping into his or her voice, "You are so brave."

My initial reaction is always the same – complete surprise. Someone thinks I'm brave for having my child's birth mother involved in my child's life? In my life? Then, I feel annoyed. Is it really that hard for an outsider to see what I see – a woman who loves her daughter as deeply as I do? Then I feel protective – Watch what you say about my child's birth mom. Don't be messing with my family now.

Then, of course, I do my best to shake off these inner thoughts and focus on dispelling some open adoption myths.  I know it's hard to understand something if you aren't living it. And those who aren't living it do view it as something extraordinary. After all, I've had the same kind of "You're so brave" thought about other moms, too. 

I've never said it out loud to them (the way I'm about to right now), and I'm sure they're going to feel anything from annoyance to wanting to kick me – hard – possibly in the face, but here goes.... Moms I think are brave include (in no particular order of bravery, mind you):

Moms who are raising kids with disabilities; moms who are raising kids after the death of a child; moms who are single; and moms who have relinquished their children for adoption.

They are brave because I imagine their life is harder than mine in many respects. I imagine they face an ever-present extra layer of pressure, or effort, or heartache – something I can't truly comprehend  – and I stand in awe of their fortitude, resilience, and energy.  

Often, when a person is called brave, their response, aside from annoyance or worse, is, "If that's what I need to do, well, that's what I'm going to do." But isn't that what brave people do? The brave ones aren't stepping outside of themselves. They're in their world getting done what needs to be done. Try calling a firefighter brave and he'll fire back, "Just doing my job." I mean, here's a person who runs into burning buildings and even he won't admit to being brave. 

As mothers, we all face our challenges; we're all just doing our jobs. And, yes, if I was in your position (or you were in mine), it's a no-brainer: If it's what best for my kid, fear or no fear, I'm doing it. So, see…there is always a certain amount of courage and fearlessness that comes along with having children.  

Have you noticed there's an overabundance of top 10 lists out there entitled THINGS NOT TO SAY TO A (BLANK) MOM? You can bet "Don't Call Me Brave" (aka "I Could Never Do That") ranks high on any of those lists. But here's a thought: What if we all embrace the word "brave"? What if I really am brave? And what if you are too? 

How about we lose all the adjectives that could be placed before "mom" and replace them with "brave" instead? Brave Mom. Yup, that works for me.


P.S. I'm excited to announce that I was brave enough to audition for the Listen to Your Mother: NYC 2014 show, and will be appearing in it! Join me on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at Symphony Space for an evening of inspiring, hilarious, and thought-provoking stories about motherhood.

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I love that you feel protective of your baby’s birth mom. Because you’re right - she’s family. Sometimes family can drive you crazy, but they’re an important part of our lives.

By JNC on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 12:25 am.

Thanks JNC. So very true.

By Barbara Herel on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm.

You are brave. My husband and I embraced the open adoption because that was what the experts told us was best for her. We got my daughter at age 8 1/2. Her grandmother told us we were a gift from god. Well my daughter turned 17 and was struggling. She called her grandmother up and soon ranaway. Grandmother announced she was staying with her now and there was nothing we could do. No help from police ,nothing because she was 17. She enrolled in an alternative school and graduated high school. She now 18 and having a baby with a boy she met who has problems with Heroin. His family enables. My daughter was lent money to buy a car, and has now moved in with his family. We have not seen her in a year and the best we can get from her is a text occasionally. She left a loving stable family,

When I have disclosed to people what happened almost everyone I gave spoke to who has had family touched by adoption have shared that they had a similar horror story and some kids came around after four or six years. You are very BRAVE. This is hell for my husband and I. It has been so isolating as well. People don’t know what to say so they avoid you. I am lucky I have family. It has been 2 years and the pain is still so deep. I continue to reAch out and hope things will change someday. Nobody ever shared that this possibility was out there and yet it is so common. We truly embraced all the literature to do right by her. I am not sure the cost to me was worth it.

By Harrysue on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 2:49 pm.

Big, big hug to you HarrySue. I hope your daughter will be able to reach out to you soon and you can all begin to heal. Regarding the openness… I know you are absolutely heartbroken, yet do you really feel that having no contact with your daughter’s birth family would have yielded a different outcome for your daughter? It seems much more likely that cutting off contact would only make a person want it that much more… Do you remember a specific turning point? Looking back, what would you have done differently?

By Barbara Herel on Sunday, June 01, 2014 at 3:51 pm.

Perhaps my daughter would have still gone. We are upset with the grandmother who clearly was deceptive with us and the birth mother not respectful of us sneaking around on facebook contacting my daughter.i reminded the grandmother of the access that we gave to her and expected she would do the same. She has completely cut us off. . The mistake I made was thinking she was playing on the same field as we were. The grandmother herself is damaged. She admitted she could not say no to my daughter and she said she had the same problem with her daughter when she acted out as a teen. She did not make the right decisions when it was hard and repeated it with her granddaughter. She herself is damaged so if we had not given her as much access maybe my daughter would not have been influenced as much by them. We brought my daughters cousin on holidays and vacations and paid for everything.this kid had nothing and we embraced her in every way. We never spoke negatively about any of them just said her mother and father were not able to take care of her. When it comes right down to it the mother couldn’t clean up her act to keep my daughter and the grandmother let her go into the hands of the state because it was I convent. She took my daughter this time to ease her conscience not what was best for my daughter. After this all happened,my daughter’s therapist said she had just spoke to a group and said she has never seen an open adoption benefit the child. I still text my daughter and every once in a while get a response. Trying to keep the door opened. My daughter has just created a situation that is almost exactly where she came from. The one thing I can say is that I understand how my daughter felt being abandoned because she has done it to us. The only difference is that we are adults and she was a child when she was abandoned. I happen to have major health issues and am bedridden. My daughter was informed and she says she will call but does not. I am trying to accept that my daughter does not have the capacity to love us right now. She is conflicted. Maybe later on we will be able to have a relationship in the meantime there is nothing. Yes I am heart broken but I guess I’ll adjust. I have too.

By Harrysue on Monday, June 02, 2014 at 12:09 am.

Harrysue, I am not really surprised that things have gone the way they have with the attitude that you yourself are showing.  All I hear through your posts is “what an ungrateful little bastard my daughter is - after everything I did for her”. 

“After this all happened,my daughter’s therapist said she had just spoke to a group and said she has never seen an open adoption benefit the child.”

Open adoption won’t work if the aparents aren’t secure in themselves.  One can tell on the main forums and other forums whether an open adoption is going to work or not - when the APs talk like they are martyrs for allowing contact at all, one knows the OA is going to go south.

And of course the bfamily’s attitude is important but one seems to find that the bfamily feel more secure when the afamily is secure.

By catherinenz on Friday, June 06, 2014 at 9:34 pm.

Wow! You are absolutely wrong about what you have read into the post and quite frankly pretty rude of you. You obviously don’t know us. If you did you would never say it. All I am doing is warning people that we made the mistake of allowing access to someone who truly did not have my daughter’s best interest in mind when making decisions.We read all the books and respectfully did everything all the experts told us us to do.

We did not act like martyrs. We were always respectful of everyone involved.

People who are in the same position we were in should think long and hard about granting access to their biological family. We were fooled.

By Harrysue on Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 1:56 am.

No I don’t know you.  And the bmother and family may well be dreadful individuals. Again, I don’t know them from a bar of soap.  However, your adult daughter living her own life is not abandoning you or betraying you.  You may not like her choices but they are her choices.  Just ask yourself whether you would consider her to be abandoning or betraying you if she was your biological child? 
I know it is hard seeing her make these bad choices but you need to talk to her about the actual choices rather than how it is all affecting you.

By catherinenz on Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 2:52 am.

. You are commenting on things you have no knowledge. I was commenting on the fact that people who take on and adopt children are.BRAVE, taking on the baggage kids come with.My adult daughter left when she was not an adult. She was a child and the way things work we could not get any support based on her age to get help. Her grandmother called us and said “We decided she is staying” and shortly after called and asked why we had not sent her money to which we replied,“WE did not decide and we do not support bad decisions.”

Wow! Once again you are commenting on things you know nothing about. We talked to professionals throughout the whole process to make sure we always did what was in her best interest.

We have never talked to her about how it was affecting us that was what I was sharing to the board.

I only mentioned how it affected us on this board to let others be aware and think long and hard when they decide what to do with contact. Every situation is different but adoptive parents should be aware that situations like ours are more common than you can imagine and it is difficult and heartbreaking.

By Harrysue on Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 7:10 am.

Don’t worry Catherinez is a troll full of emotional baggage who only makes super nasty comments on this site, check out her posts and see what I mean.

Open adoption is full of risks. I’m so sorry this happened to you Harrysue.

By calledtoadopt222 on Thursday, August 07, 2014 at 8:21 pm.
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Barbara Herel

Barbara Herel

New York

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn

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