Birth Mom Visit and a Christmas Conundrum

by Camille on October 24, 2012

On Sunday, we visited Ellie’s birth mom. If you’ve followed this blog for long, then you know that while we have an extremely open relationship with Ellie’s grandmother and aunt (the Ls) including almost monthly visits, we’ve had some bumps in the road regarding visits with her mother, C. We’ve always been open to visits, and we’ve continued to send letters and pictures every few months. The last time we saw Ellie’s bmom was Easter, and we had hopes for establishing a more regular routine.  However, due to work and life circumstances, C.’s schedule changed, and last weekend was the first time she was again available.

The visit went extremely well, and I’m grateful.

Prior to visiting, we took Ellie to a pumpkin patch, and unfortunately, we interrupted her nap a bit. She’s rather unforgiving when it comes to meddling with her beauty rest, and she communicated her disdain by refusing to smile for the entire afternoon.

NOT smiling for close-ups

NOT smiling for Daddy or the chickens.

Completely UNimpressed with adorable, tiny pumpkins.

Bored with the pirate-ship playground.

Hayride with Mom and Dad? A soporific affair.

And our attempts at Ellie’s first pony ride? Epic Fail.

However, miraculously, by the time we made it to visit C. later that afternoon, Ellie perked up dramatically and decided to be her charming, giggly self. She showed C. all her sign language. She climbed onto a table and attempted a triple-back-flip to the ground. She “borrowed” two handfuls of Oreos from a nice lady nearby and proceeded to run in circles, scream-laughing while C. chased her. She showed C. how she tackle-hugs other kids. (#NotPlanned #SorryInnocentChild) C. showed her off to some friends. And when it was time to go, she went right to C. and gave her a hug and kiss. Perfection.

So what’s the conundrum?

C. told me she plans to buy Ellie one of those Power Wheels battery-operated vehicles for Christmas. In pink. I smiled politely and said something along the lines of, “Oh, please don’t go to any great expense,” and mumbled something about Ellie being into books and dolls.

What I didn’t say was, “Ummm… thanks.” I didn’t explain how Charlie and I pretty much agree that it’s better for kids, whenever possible,  to move around outdoors by their own power, possibly with the assistance of a bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, or scooter. I didn’t say how with a tricycle, multiple strollers, and a wagon, we really have no more room to store a toddler vehicle at the moment. I didn’t discuss how we’re trying to move more toward a more Montessori-type learning environment and collect simple toys that will inspire creativity while limiting items that require batteries, have flashing lights or sounds, etc. (I may or may not have gotten a little carried away with the toy buying initially. I’m repenting and trying to change my ways. For real, y’all. No comments from anyone who has actually been in my house for the last two years….mmkay? ) I didn’t clarify how we’re in the process of re-examining Christmas traditions and attempting to move the focus away from extravagant gift-giving.

For many reasons, I wasn’t honest in my reaction. For one, I’ll have exactly the same problem with grandparents, aunts, and uncles from the rest of the family as they raid the North Pole and return to dump Santa’s sleigh into the living room floor of my Mama’s house. Seriously, I think my Mama may have been Christmas shopping for Ellie since December of last year. Furthermore, it’s a gift, and I should accept it graciously and then just hide it away in the attic or something? Right?

Also, I know Ellie will probably love a battery-operated car. She spends her days following me around trying to imitate every. single. thing. This is adorable, of course, but makes things such as putting on makeup or going to the bathroom….well, challenging. She already has a Little Tikes car I purchased at a consignment for $20, and the blessed thing has provided hours and hours of entertainment.

But honestly, I mostly didn’t say no because I don’t want to hurt C.’s feelings. This relationship is still new and forming. I sense the fragility, and I don’t want to risk damaging anything. However, I know that for this open adoption thing to work smoothly in the long-term, both of us are going to need to find a way to be honest with one another about our thoughts, emotions, hopes, expectations, etc. And, she’s barely tow, and a toy isn’t such a big deal, but will there be things in the future that become more of an issue and require more definitive decisions from me? I want to build a strong relationship now to hopefully avoid any miscommunication in the future. As always, open adoption is an ever-evolving, growing relationship.

So, to my adoption friends out there, what do you think? APs: have you had to set limits or guidelines for Christmas or birthday gifts? BMoms: How do you approach giving gifts to your child? How can I best share our thoughts on this in the future without offending anyone? 

Rachel Heath October 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm

What an interesting and, as you said, fragile dynamic you and Ellie’s birth mom are developing. Maintaining an open relationship with her, I wonder, will you have differences in opinion in how Ellie should be parented? I wonder how much she will question your decisions, and how much authority you will allow her in disciplining, etc? I guess my question is, will her birth mom want to “parent” Ellie? And how would you deal with that? I, obviously, am in complete ignorance about how these kinds of relationships work, and I’m sure every one is as different as the people in them.

Camille October 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Rachel, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I think a lot of people not in the adoption world have similar questions. 🙂

Open adoption is definitely a learning experience, but I fully believe it’s the best thing for my daughter, myself, and C., so I’m committed to any challenges in figuring out the particulars. We always visit together, so any discipline issues that arrive always fall to Charlie or me, and I don’t really see that changing. C. has told us in the past that she wants to be like “the favorite aunt.” I’m not sure if her view of herself will change, but I think she chose those words since that’s a role she’s already comfortable in with her sister’s children. We’re both her mother, but I’m also her parent. I’m not sure how we’ll deal with it if C. has differences of opinion on how we parent, etc., but we’ll deal with it as it comes. I can only speak to open adoption based on the experiences we’ve had thus far, but so far, it has been a good and positive thing. Ellie’s birth family is an amazing support. I have concerns and doubts at times, of course, but I’m fortunate to have found a strong community of other adoptive parents, birth moms, and adoptees on-line that provide support and guidance. So grateful for them! Thanks again for commenting. 🙂

Lisa January 17, 2013 at 12:51 am

This is an excellent question. And I really appreciate that you are approaching the natural questions that arise in open adoption in a very healthy manner and looking for the answers that are in everyone’s best interest (and especially your daughter’s) and not just trying to find your own comfort. Because, let’s be honest, open adoption has its uncomfortable moments, as do all relationships, but there’s a lot of good to be had in there too. This takes great compassion and Ellie will benefit so much from this in the long run.

For the most part, we birth parents don’t cross the parenting line. We connect to our children as mothers but understand that they have another mother and father who are responsible for that parenting role. Of course, there are always people who have a hard time understanding boundaries, but this is possible in any scenario where there are two or more human beings interacting.

Lacking other outlets for some of those maternal instincts other than the act of loving them, we can (and I know I do sometimes) channel those parental urges into spoiling them however we can. Personally, I’m a crafty lady, so I tend to make my daughter a lot of little handmade gifts. But one of her moms is crafty too and also loves to make stuff for her, so I’m always respectful about discussing what I want to make before hand to be sure I’m not doing something she was planning on doing too. Or, we’ll get together and make her stuff collectively (my favorite solution to the conundrum!).

All relationships require us to set boundaries, and while the adoptive/birth parent relationship is a lot more emotionally charged than others are, they need these boundaries too.
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Camille January 17, 2013 at 10:04 am


Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂 I love hearing from birthparents, and I can’t wait to check out your blog. I’ve learned SO much from those of you that share your stories and thoughts; thanks for taking the time.

I really appreciate your thoughts on this. We ended up having a wonderful visit with Ellie’s birth family (two aunts, two cousins, grandmother, and mom), and they all spoiled her rotten. C. did bring a pink and purple Minnie Mouse batter-powered four-wheeler, and Ellie loved it. Of course, like all her other toys, she abandoned it a few hours later in favor of her baby dolls. Girl knows what she likes. 🙂 I’m not sure how this type of thing will work out in the future, but I want to work on building a strong relationship with C. while setting boundaries when appropriate.

I love the idea of making crafty gifts. 🙂 Last year, C. sent a storybook recorded in her voice, and I think those types of things will mean the most.

Again, thanks for your kind and thoughtful words. Have a great day!

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