Written in response to OA Roundtable #35
My mother came to stay last weekend. Baby Spouse has in the way of grandparents: my mother, my father (not at the same address for many a year), my mother-in-law (who had just we think grasped that there is a baby but where and whose baby may not have sunk in, when she was admitted to hospital following a stroke), and Nella's parents who I have already blogged about, plus we know of at least a grandfather on his birth father's side. As we are pretty certain he will not have long with Mr Spouse's mother, and as there is as many people say, no such thing as too many loving relatives, we are very happy that we look to be getting some kind of long term relationship with Nella's parents. We suspect that our next monthly phone call with Nella will be via them.
My mother had already bagsied Granny as that's what she is called by my nieces, which wouldn't have been my choice but she got in first, so MIL is Grandma. I had feared the worst with my mother, that she would work on the assumption that Baby Spouse was not a "real" grandchild, but she is besotted with him, and does exactly what every other grandmother seems to do, i.e. pick him up every 5 seconds "because he's crying" when he's actually fussing himself to sleep. I was quite proud of myself that I gritted my teeth and told myself "it's just for the weekend" and didn't pick her up on it. It should get easier when he is older and on more of a schedule, anyway. My father, despite initial apparent lukewarmness, responded to a pointed hint that he only has ONE grandson and that not making a plan to come and visit will lead to him not seeing Baby Spouse before he is huge, and also that we'd really like X gift thank you, has purchased the gift and promised a visit in about a month.
I had two very contrasting comments recently about adoption, one from my mother, and one from a friend.
My work friends and their connections (at least, those who know he is adopted, as the friends of friends don't all) have been mildly curious but restrained while being positive. These are all polite, well-educated, and restrained people. Unlike my family...
My mother has been incredibly nosy, and I am afraid I react badly to that. She has asked various questions which are either a) no-one's business but ours and Baby Spouse's (e.g. medical issues) or b) something I could speculate about and will do with Mr Spouse but not with anyone else (e.g. why he was premature) or c) something we could share in limited amounts but we will do ourselves at a point when Baby Spouse has already been given the information (e.g. birth siblings). Her excuse for asking some of the questions was "but N1 and N2 will ask". My nieces, like other children, will not even dream that a baby living with us could have a complicated set of birth siblings living elsewhere. If she wants to satisfy her own curiosity, I wish she'd just say so. I am planning to tell my brother, though, that if they have questions, please to ask me directly, not via my mother. But the comment that I know all adoptive parents hear, which my mother made, was "oh he's so lucky to have you". I pointed out (again, I'm afraid, very forcefully) that it is never lucky to need to be adopted, and that we are lucky to have him.
We say this a lot, and some people hear this as "he's such a quiet baby", some as "it's great that we could have him placed with us while he's so young" and only some as "we are blessed to have a child". If she says this again, I know I'll need to ask whether she'd say it to my nieces, and point out we don't want him to grow up hearing this and thinking he needs to be grateful. The other point she tried to labour and did not seem to understand at all, even though we tried to explain, was that we want him to meet his birth family again and grow up knowing them. She has already asked "what's the latest thinking" on this and I have told her it is that contact is good, but she doesn't seem able to accept this, she seems to think that he'll be confused and worry that he'll go back to live with them.
The other friend is not originally British and in her religion adoption does not work the same as it does under many European countries' laws. She said something which I think will be uncommon for comments I would get here, as voluntary placement of babies is so rare here - that she couldn't understand how someone could "give up their baby". I'm not sure if she didn't realise at all that children cannot always stay with their birth parents even if the parents wish that, or if she assumed this would not apply to a newborn. But I think she understood when I said "there was no way Baby Spouse could stay with his birth parents, so that's very sad, but we are very lucky to have him".
I am much more able to be understanding about unhelpful attitudes and terminology in friends than in family - family push your buttons, and you can't get rid of them so easily. My friend asked if we'd met "his mother" but I think this was just because she could not work out how to refer to Nella, and when we said we'd met birth mother and birth grandparents, this seemed to make sense to her, and I think partly because of her religious concept of adoption, she seemed to understand more than my mother, that it is important to retain links with birth family. Mr Spouse says my mother is just not thinking about it, so I guess I'm going to have to work out a way to get her to think about it, without strangling her.