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Piedad thanked me for the "peace I never thought possible"
Leceta Chisholm Guibault
Relationships such as mine with my son's birthmother in Colombia can be loving and balanced, but I can't say if that's the norm, as relationships like these are so personal and very much based on personalities, philosophies and experiences. They take time to nurture.
I think that Piedad and I both took steps from the very start to make this a positive relationship. We moved slowly. We did not rush each other. It was clear from the beginning of contact that we both wanted this to be long term ... a relationship bringing both of our families together because of one child YET for the benefit of all touched by him. It has benefited my son. It has benefited his sister by adoption. His siblings by birth. His birthparents and their extended families. My husband and I and our extended families. As the years pass the significance has become clearer. This is right for our family ... not just my child.
An open adoption relationship should be built on respect and an understanding of the complex feelings of all involved. As adoptive parents, we need to do a lot of work ourselves, coming to grips with the realities. Our children, as much as we adore them, were not born to us. They have a first family. Our kids know this too. They too must understand the truths of adoption. The birthfamily must also deal with their grief, sorrow, regrets, loss and most times, guilt. As parents we must be comfortable in our role as parents and work on our fears of our children's biological families.
There is a lot of fear! A lot of "what-ifs". Piedad wrote recently that as she prepares for our trip to Colombia, she is working on coming to terms with the fact that Tristan is from her, part of her ... but not "hers". She is also working on the fact that as much as she can't wait to see him and touch him ... she will have to once again let him go. That is so honest ...
From my very first letter to Piedad I was honest and clear. I wrote from my heart. I didn't ask questions. I told her why I think opening the adoption -- contact -- would be beneficial for all of us and especially our mutual son. I told her that it was not my intention to cause her further pain but I wanted her to know that Tristan was loved, happy, healthy and alive. I did have the support of a number of domestic birthmothers, all in closed adoptions, to write like this. They shared their pain with me: the not knowing, bottom line, if their birthchild was alive or dead. This pain was lifelong. I knew that I had an opportunity to lessen that pain and in turn open the adoption.
My first letter was short but I did understand the importance of photos. I provided Piedad with our full names and home mailing address. After all ... I already knew so much about her and her family from the written social history report. I wanted her to know us ... to trust us.
Piedad wrote back immediately. She made it clear immediately that she welcomed the contact and that I caused her no pain. She said, "On the contrary ... you have given me peace. A peace I never thought possible". In the first letter she told me a little about her family and life. It was reassuring as it matched perfectly the social workers report. No lies! In my second letter I asked Piedad if she had any questions. She wrote back telling me that the photos said it all. She said her only request was a photo of Tristan's daddy and me holding him. I hadn't included photos like that previously and Piedad taught me that it was very important to her to see Tristan in our loving arms ... not just alone.
Like I said, we started off slowly. We nurtured our relationship. Our trust grew. I am glad that we did not jump on the first plane to Colombia after making contact to meet! It would have been awkward. There would have been too many questions to be answered on both sides and it would have been rushed. Over time I learned more and more about this remarkable woman. I now know her heart. Her hopes and dreams and her everyday struggles. I now know "why adoption". She has opened up about the birthfather (who has since died) and has put us in contact with his family. She had a lot of pain about the birthfather and it took her five years to even mention him in letters. I didn't ask (I wanted to!) but felt she would share when she was ready. I have since felt an acceptance from her about their relationship and the pain it caused.
Piedad, remarkable woman that she is, helped me grieve my mother's death. This was an unexpected support! She was "there" for me! Who would have thought this? I also helped her come to terms with the birth of a new baby six years almost to the day after Tristan was born and relinquished. With the birth of a new daughter she was overcome with grief and guilt over Tristan. She felt unworthy of contact with Tristan and feared he would hate her.
I told her we celebrated the birth of a new soul into our extended family and that Tristan was very happy with the news. He wanted to know more! What was her name? Could they send photos? I tried to help Piedad understand that the grief over losing one child was normal with the birth of a new baby. Many, many birthmothers had told me this and Piedad was no different.
Piedad and I are both mothers. We write about our older girls and boy (ages 14/hers, 12/hers and 13/mine), our mutual son Tristan, 10, and her newest daughters, ages 3-1/2 and 1. I also tell her about my new nieces and nephews ages 2, 2, 10 months and 4 months! The best part for me is when I learn of the antics of Andrés Felipe, Tristan's birth brother. In letters it is obvious they are so much alike! Andrés has sent us some drawings and letters. He and Tristan write the same way and neither one of them are artists! Andrés Felipe has repeated a year in school. So has Tristan, as he was diagnosed late with dyslexia. Is Andrés dyslexic too?
Well ... I have written about my relationship with my son's birthmother. My son's growing relationship with his birthfamily is much more powerful. And now, I am learning from him the importance of the sibling ties ...
Leceta is mother to Kahleah (Guatemala, 1991) and Tristan (Colombia, 1994). Leceta and husband Jean and family live in Joliette, near Montreal. She is a board member of the Adoption Council of Canada and the Federation of Quebec Adoptive Parents, and moderator of the email list Canadians-Adopting (groups.yahoo.com/group/canadians-adopting).
Copyright 2006 Leceta Chisholm Guibault, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published at Family Helper, www.familyhelper.net, on Nov. 7, 2006.
First published as "Our Mutual Son", in Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections (2006), edited by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae (EMK Press, 16 Mt. Bethel Road, #216, Warren NJ 07059, 732-469-7544, www.emkpress.com/adoptparent.html.)
Also published in "Going Back to Our Roots", a six-page reprint by EMK Press, used as a handout for the Guibault presentation at the 2006 Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado.
For Piedad's thoughts, see "Tristan's in Good Hands".
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