This is my third year participating in the Interview Project. I jumped on board because sometimes it feels like adoptee voices are a bit… sparse in these types of events, and the only way to change that is if more adoptees jump in and join. For the third year now, I’ve been paired up with an adoptive parent, this time Colleen Oakes of The Ranunculus Adventures. This new mom had some interesting things to say, and some amazing answers to hard questions! You can check out her blog for my interview over there today.
For more posts, follow me!
1)How would you describe your blog? What made you start it? What’s your favorite part about blogging? What is the biggest challenge?
Hmm..I have a really hard time writing synopsizes or summaries – I would rather write an entire novel than a back cover copy usually! I would say that my blog is one writer’s life journey. There is nothing that I won’t blog about in terms of life experience. My blog tends to focus on the positive, but I definitely don’t hold back things that frustrate and sometimes break me. The focus of the blog use to be weddings, and now I’m moving it more towards lifestyle, travel and writing. I started the blog to have a place to post pictures of the weddings I designed, and it just sort of turned into a dump-all. I started adding reviews of books and movies, then theater and music. I wrote about nights out with my friends and hilarious travel stories. I posted pictures of recipes and parties and home design and bam! Suddenly, it was an all-out lifestyle blog with a wedding bent. After I sold my wedding florist, I began fine-tuning the blog to be more writing focused and less about whether peonies and ranunculus mixed (absolutely!) together well. The biggest challenge right now is finding time to write. I have so many drafts that I’ve started and not finished. I’m getting better now that I’m carving out some time to post, but for a while there (ahem, LittleM, cough cough), there was just no time to blog.
2) You’re a published author. How does blogging about your son differ from writing fiction? Which do you find harder? Does your “real” life ever interact with the lives of the fictional characters you create?
Blogging has always been a joy for me. I love sharing details of my life within reason, and through blogging I have connected with some of the most incredible people. Without my infertility and adoption bloggers, I would have been absolutely lost. With that being said, I do find it hard to blog about LittleM, only because I’m concerned with his privacy, with the privacy of his birth family and I want to make sure that my blog doesn’t morph from what it is now to a “Mommy Blog”. Not that I don’t want to write about parenting, I do, but I don’t want that to be the focus, just as I want to make sure that we keep the bulk of our memories within our family. In that way, writing fiction is MUCH easier than real life blogging. When I’m writing fiction, I don’t have to worry about anyone’s feelings or the applications that it carries into the real world. Writing fiction is creating a world without boundaries, and it’s ultimately very freeing. My real life has absolutely interacted with fiction in the Elly in Bloom series. Elly is very much like myself, a world of insecurities and clumsiness in its most pure form. I have loved writing parts of myself into those novels. The Queen of Hearts has nothing in common with my life, but that’s why it has been my favorite thing to write so far.
3) What has been the biggest adoption and/or motherhood challenge you’ve dealt with so far? Have you experienced anything unexpected, or have things been pretty much as you thought they would be?
I think the biggest challenge so far has been time-management, and I talk about that in the next question, so I won’t reiterate here. As for anything unexpected, I would say Mommy Guilt. I never really believed that was a real thing, and when I had friends who would feel guilty about a night out, I would think that they were totally ridiculous. However, now when I’m away from LittleM for more than a few hours, I have this ache, a physical ache in my chest to see him again. And my husband is probably the most capable and competent father I’ve ever seen and I still am filled with a nagging guilt whenever I leave him with LittleM for a long period of time. It’s getting better and I’m getting back to my old self, but I was surprised at how real, ridiculous and insane Mommy Guilt actually is. As for a secondary challenge, getting ready to leave the house with a baby is like trying to write a novel with a wriggly puppy on your lap. It’s just not going happen.
4) Your son’s adoption is closed. What will you do as an adoptive parent to help him connect with his biological past?
My son’s adoption is actually sort of open. The details of his adoption are tricky and a bit complicated, but it’s complicated in a way that makes it hard to share about it and still be respectful to his biological mother. It’s still in process, and is a growing and changing relationship, so what it may look like now is not what it will look like in a few years. As for what we will do to keep our son connected to his biological past, I’m hoping that the answer is everything we can. As a child of mixed race, we will expose him to all aspects of his culture. I hope that at some point we will be invited to meet some of his other biological relatives, and that they can develop a relationship with him. I feel like his history with us and our family and his history with his biological family should be both honored, and time should be set aside so that those relationships remain strong and nurturing.
5) Things changed very quickly for you. How have you dealt with these changes to your life? What do you do for you?
They did change very quickly! One day we were laying on a beach in Kauai and a week later, we had a newborn! I think parents go very quickly into survival mode. We were so overjoyed, that any struggle seemed minute, and also, we have a very good, easy-going baby. I remember thinking, on like day three, “This isn’t so hard!” Well, that was when the adrenaline was still pumping. About two weeks later I was like “Oh, wow, I’m like, really tired.” LOL. The changes have definitely changed the way we spend our time, for the better. I don’t have time to mess around or just sit down and watch some TV. When LittleM naps, it’s like go time, where I try and get everything done. I feel like our house has never been messier, or that I haven’t seen all the friends I would like to in the past five months, but the minute I look at his sleeping face, I know it’s worth it. I think the biggest change, and the hardest change, has been finding writing time for me. In the past, I wrote every day while my husband went to work. Now, I’ve been trying to sneak in writing time in the mornings, when Ryan has him, but writing is hard in two-hour chunks. If you really want to write productively and beautifully, then you need at least a five hour stretch to really get into that creative zone. Two hours is just a warm-up for really good writing. So that’s been a challenge, especially now that I’ve signed with a publisher and have deadlines and such. We are still figuring out how this is going to work with my career, but it’s a good problem to have.
6) You mentioned being (as parents) the blessed ones in your adoption. Do people seem to have a good grasp on what adoption has means to you and your family? How important do you think it is to have a supportive network of people who understand?
That’s a great question. I do think a lot of people misunderstand adoption. We’ve had a lot of very well-meaning and kind people say the most offensive things to us about our adoption. The most common is “Wow, your child is SO blessed to be yours.” There is a misconception that adoptive parents swoop in and rescue a child. In some ways and some cases, this is true, but even when that happens, it’s not without a loss to the child and his biological family. We are reminded every day that the blessings of adoption lies with us. We were so lucky to be chosen by our birthmother, so lucky that she followed through with her adoption plan, so lucky that we had a supportive agency behind us, and beyond lucky that we have this amazing son, who is like the stars and the moon. We are the blessed ones. Adoption has changed a lot in the last twenty years, and I think a lot of people don’t understand that the lingo, and the feelings about adoption has changed. Having a supportive network in our friends and family – well, we wouldn’t have LittleM without them. They threw us fundraisers and helped us financially. They held us as we cried when a match fell through. They heard us lament our infertility and our wait. We leaned on their shoulders, and they carried the burden, and now they share in our joy. Without them, I’m not sure any of this would have happened. I would say that a couple needs a very strong support system in place of people who understand adoption and infertility before they start.
7) If you could tell people only one thing about your adoption experience, what would it be?
That you better have a strong heart and stomach. That it will be the most wonderful and challenging process that anyone could go through. Our counselor once said “Adoption is not for wimps” and I can’t think of a better way to put it. It was a three year emotional roller coaster. We had a lot of up and downs, and we luckily ended up on a life-changing high. With that being said, some of the worst moments of my life occurred during the adoption process. It’s a process that truly breaks you down in every way: financially, emotionally, and intrusively. I think my advice to someone thinking about adoption would be: how strong are you now? Because if there is anything in your life that isn’t in a good place, it’s about to be blown to bits. People need to be on the most solid ground they can before they start the process. At the same time, that’s hard advice, because it’s such a long process that I feel like if you are unable to have children then you need to decide rather quickly if adoption is the process for you.
8) If you could change anything about your current adoption situation, what would it be?
Since we are currently on Cloud 9, I actually wouldn’t change anything about our adoption, but I will say that I wish it wasn’t so ridiculously expensive to adopt. We had a lot of support from our families and some church fundraisers, but it still was way outside of what we could afford. By some miracle, we were able to save the amount, but it set us back for years in terms of savings, something that we are really feeling now. I know that this is a shared feeling from many families that adopt. Matching children that need homes and couples that long to be parents together shouldn’t cost upwards of 25,000.00 dollars. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I feel strongly that adoption shouldn’t only be an option for those who are upper middle class and above, and that’s really what it has become. Adoption agencies definitely prey on the unfortunate realities of infertile couples. We are very happy with our agency, but I still feel that their cost breakdown is ridiculous. But what are you going to do? Grrr! Okay! I’m climbing off my soapbox now.
9) What is your favorite part of being a new mother (and you can only pick one thing!)?
Picking one, impossible! Actually, what I think I love most is talking to my baby. There is nothing I enjoy more than laying on the floor next to him, putting my face up next to his and looking in those gorgeous, huge brown eyes and just talking softly to him. I ask him about his day. I tell him about my day. He can absolutely tell when I’m asking him a question, and I adore watching his eyes light up as he coos and squeaks in return. In the mornings he’s extra chatty – I literally can’t get enough of it. It’s something special that he and I do together, and it’s a moment of pure heaven every day.
10) Has being parents affected your relationship with your husband? Did the adoption process itself change anything in your relationship with him?
Absolutely. I think we know now that our time together needs to be viewed as more valuable, and treated like a rare gem. We don’t have time to spend it bickering about dumb things, or doing chores. When LittleM goes to bed, it’s time for us to connect, to talk, to synch our schedules. If anything, it has made us more connected and reliant on each other than we were before. In the last five years, we really felt a natural pull towards being a larger family, and now it finally feels like that has happened. We were happy and could have been happy just the two of us for the rest of our lives, but having LittleM with us now is just so right, in a way that only God understood. Going through the adoption process, which is so invasive, I think made us very aware of the public nature of adoption, and made us a little more protective of our family’s privacy and time together. Seeing my husband as a father had endeared me even more to him. I always knew he would be an amazing Dad, but even I’m surprised by how incredible and loving he is towards our son. It’s an entirely different side of him. After 10 years of marriage, I didn’t think anything he did could surprise me, but this has.
11) Its your last day on Earth. You have a magic wand and you can transport you and your family anywhere in the world for one last Hurrah. How do you spend your last day on Earth?
Oh my goodness…well, my sister loves the Scottish Highlands, and she is always raving about them. Her passion for them has sort of infected me, and now I really want to visit them. I would say that the perfect last day on earth would be me, surrounded by friends and family, spending the day visiting the Highlands, and then having a great meal with lots of tears and laughter, at a gorgeous restaurant with a great view, and then wrapping it up by spending the night looking at the stars with my husband and my son.
Thank you so much Colleen for your thoughtful answers! I really enjoy this project every year because I feel like I learn something new and see things from another perspective.