4.04.2012

# 20: WHAT'S IN A GIFT?




PAGE # 20

Friday
12/9/11
2:00 pm


Tom and I were rushing around like lunatics.  We had already taken care of criminal background checks, and we still needed to obtain health exams.  The attorney had called earlier to report news from Kendra's latest obstetrical appointment:
"She might go any moment now!  Already 3 centimeters and having lots of those Braxton Hicks contractions!  Get on your list of things to do--no time to waste!"
Our next mission was to get our fingerprints taken.  We had almost arrived at the facility when I received a text message from Paula, the social worker, to inform me that she had scheduled an appointment to meet with Kendra the following Monday.  We sent a flurry of text messages back and forth, and then Paula simply called me.
"This is too much for texting," she said.
During the home study the previous day, I had expressed some concern about Kendra feeling obligated to give us the baby.  What if she changed her mind about keeping the baby, but then felt like she couldn't disappoint us?  I knew of a few people who proceeded with wedding ceremonies, even when they had doubts about the pending marriage, simply because they felt bound by wedding expenses and the expectations of family and friends.  Surely, it was possible that a similar effect could happen to a birth mother?  
"I wouldn't worry about that," Paula had assured me.  "When that kind of thing happens, the emotions are so high--a birth mother isn't going to be concerned about hurting anyone else's feelings."
I also fretted over the issue of birth mother gifts:
"I've heard it is customary to buy a birth mom a gift," I said.  "But what kind of gift?  What is appropriate?  How much money should be spent?"
I asked these questions because I was slightly uncomfortable with the whole notion of buying presents for Kendra.  This was likely on my mind because of my past profession as a clinical psychotherapist--the topic of both giving and receiving items/services to and from a client is one that is debated through graduate school and beyond.  


For example, imagine a therapist, who for whatever personal reason, gives something (say a free session) to a client.  Pretend it's for the client's birthday.  The potential danger is the establishment of a dynamic that renders the client feeling indebted to the therapist.  Moreover, the therapist is typically the person with greater power in the relationship.  


I'm not suggesting that the birth-mother & adoptive mother are dancing to the same tune as the client & therapist; however, the power imbalance is likely similar.  A birth mother is in a crisis situation.  An adoptive parent has resources (adoption is not exactly cheap--remember I was quoted the whopping price of $40,000).  The notion of giving a woman in crisis a gift, in exchange for her baby could be rendered problematic, in my opinion, especially given the power differential.  I did not want Kendra to feel obligated to us in any way.


On the other hand, I did want to give Kendra something meaningful and thoughtful.  I wanted her to have something concrete to hold onto--something that I had chosen specifically for her.  I wanted to give her a connection to me and the baby.  In fact, I wanted Kendra and I to remain in contact after the adoption.  I did not know at that time if Kendra hoped for the same.


So much of the adoption process is speculation and fantasy.  


I had only met Kendra one time.  


I really didn't know her at all.  


But I had already projected a wide variety of relational paradigms upon this mysterious woman.  Just yesterday, I was imagining her as a victim who needed my rescuing (in the form of me convincing her to keep the baby).  Before Kendra had picked us, I imagined her as a 'glorified teenager' who might judge my physical condition since developing multiple endocrine problems. And now, while I chatted on the phone with Paula, during the car ride to our fingerprinting appointment, I was beginning to envision Kendra as my co-mother of this unborn child.  


How many times would I transform this imaginary relationship between the two of us?  Could Kendra and I ever achieve a truer sense of each other?  Did she even want to?  


I wondered what kind of relationship we would mutually construct if given the opportunity to do so.


But I was way ahead of myself.  I was still on the phone with the social worker, discussing birth mother gifts.  
"Sorry Paula," I apologized.  "I'm afraid I didn't hear what you just said."
"A necklace," Paula suggested.  "A necklace is always a great gift.  A lot of couples get something with birthstones as a sentimental gesture."
 I spent the entire following week trying to pick the perfect necklace.  


The gift should have been the easy part.  When I asked Tracey how they chose a gift for their adopted son's birth mother, she shrugged:
"I can't remember," she said.  "I think we picked it up at the mall right before we went to take Ricky home."
I should have known then, that if I was struggling profoundly over this one decision--I couldn't even pick out a freaking necklace!--I probably had no business in the world of adoption whatsoever.  


The decision making was only going to get tougher. 

4 comments:

Theodore said...

I feel so sorry for you, having had to deal with such a mean person as that Paula. I must say that your site tells a very interesting story.

Jennifer said...

Theodore--Thanks for reading. All the best, Jennifer

afamilyofmyown said...

I really don't understand (well actually I do - money) how the "professionals" involved can be so stupid. It's WELL known that many mothers DO feel guilted into letting the PAPs have her baby - the one she suddenly knew she wanted and loved once she met her after birth. WELL known. As in, that's part of why open adoption exists in this country the way it does. That's why we have pre-birth matching in the first place.

angls0702 said...

Your story tells ours so well. We have had three adoptions (two with the same agency and once with foster care). Thank heavens we did have one successful adoption and we have a beautiful son who is 2 years old. But I've now been grieving heavily for the last 7 months over the last 2 failed adoptions