Dear Birthmother Letter

[Wrote this on Tuesday, before the neck crisis]

BMA is supposed to move today. We haven’t talked about names yet, but soon she will be an hour and a half drive away, rather than a seven hour bus ride away, so hopefully a visit and conversation can happen soon. Also hopefully soon, she’ll be able to meet with the OB she’ll be laboring under, and get an induction date.

In the spirit of sharing my process, I wanted to post the profile I created for my agency to show to birth mothers. This is the first thing that BMA saw of me. (Of course, some of it is no longer accurate, but that’s how life goes.) Special thanks to friends and housemates who helped with the photography, and for the editorial notes from the agency. Enjoy!

Hello!

I’m Lee, and I’m excited to show you this window into my life. I’m a young, single, gay, Jewish, geeky guy living in Cambridge and really hopeful about becoming a parent. I hope that you like what you see, and want the life I can offer a child for your child.

First and foremost, I want to offer you my gratitude. Even if we aren’t a good match, your choice to place your child for adoption is a profound and crucial gift that enables families like mine to exist, and I would not be the person I am today without the strength and grace exhibited by the birth mothers of two of my siblings when they were placed for adoption.

Where I’m Coming From

My family, from L-R: Me, my niece Hailey, my sister Evora, her fiance Glenn, my brother Isaac, his wife Anne, my mom Susan, my dad Dixon, and my brother Bill.

This is my family of origin, and a huge reason why I’m pursuing becoming an adoptive parent. My eldest siblings, Bill and Evora, are both adopted. Adoption was my parents’ first choice for building their family, and for me growing up, it was always how I wanted to build my family. Both my adopted siblings are African American, and continuing to have a multi-racial family is also how I’ve always envisioned having children. My parents are my parenting role models, in this and many other ways, particularly their openness, honesty, support, and respect for all four of us as we grew on our various paths to adulthood.

I grew up in Washington, DC, a weird, nerdy kid, and weird and nerdy I’ve remained. (Yup, I do have blue hair in the photo above. I think you’ll see at least three hair colors represented in the photos in this letter.) I’m the youngest of the four of us by quite a ways: 12 years younger than Bill, 9 younger than Evora, and 5 younger than Isaac. Partly because of the age difference, I grew up closer to my parents than to my siblings, but I have great relationships with all of them, and with my delightful, if frustratingly adolescent, niece Hailey. I grew up Christian in my father’s church, but left when I was a teenager and connected with my Jewish heritage in college. I also came out of the closet in early adolescence, and I’ve always had the unwavering support, acceptance, and love of my family, something I am grateful for every day.

My approach to adoption is informed by the experiences in my family. Bill has never wanted to know much about his biological parents, and is comfortable creating his own identity in our family and his own skin. Evora, on the other hand, has sometimes wanted more information than an adoption completed in the 1970s can provide about her biological origins. I will be fully open and honest with any child I parent about his or her origins. Only you can decide how much you want to know about a child you place for adoption as they grow up, and I am committed to continuing to provide information for as long as you want it. If both you and your child want to, I will be happy for you to know each other face to face.

Where I’m At

My life is already quite child-friendly and child-focused, even though I don’t have any children as of yet.

Professionally

I’m a middle school librarian who also works with younger students in a diverse and struggling urban public school district. The lack of funding, support, and resources can be profoundly frustrating, but I love working with children and adolescents, particularly in a culturally and racially diverse school. My work provides on-site child care at the high school for the children of teachers and students, and it is not uncommon for new parents to take a great deal of leave to settle in with a new child. When the time comes when my professional self and my parent self come into conflict, most of my colleagues will understand when being a parent comes first. It’s the same for them. I don’t think I could even think about becoming a single parent if I didn’t work in education or a similarly child-focused field.

Personally

My living situation is something in which I differ from most people: I own my home, and I share it with five housemates in a collaborative household called Beis Toorbina (Windmill House). We’re all in our twenties, committed to living cooperatively, and good housemates to each other, but we have very different lives.
The housemates engaged in typical pursuits: reading and playing games.  On the couch are Riv, Susannah, and Melissa. Rachel and I are on the floor, and Elianna is on the other couch behind us.

Although we all live together, none of these women will be co-parenting with me. They’re all interested in the process and, like my other friends, excited to be part of the extended support network of family and friends for me and my growing family.

There’s one more housemate to introduce: my cat, Prawn Salad. She’s a five year old American Shorthair who I met when she was only two weeks old. She’s five years old now, and a vocal, if not always sociable, part of the household.

Somehow, her curiosity has not yet killed her.

Beis Toorbina is on a residential street in central Cambridge, across the street from a park and only a few blocks away from the nearest square. I love living in a city, close to restaurants, public transportation, and lots of different kinds of people, and I especially enjoy Cambridge, with it’s small, old-world feel, New England weather, excellent public schools, and progressive politics.

Playfully

My faith, and the community that comes with it, are central to my life. I’m on the board of my synagogue, and spend most weekends there. It’s where I’ve met the friends who I consider family, whose lives I celebrate and who support me in mine.

Me at the wedding of two friends I met through my synagogue, with Hilary, Lexi, and Elizabeth, three of the people I’m closest to in the world. They all are members of my synagogue community, too.

I’ve become one of the unofficial “shul dads”, a group of men who watch the children of the congregation on the playground, making sure everyone’s safe and having fun without disturbing the neighbors. I know the children in the synagogue, and have babysat for many of them (and played with or talked to all of them). My religious home is incredibly nurturing for children, one of the things that drew me there in the first place.

I’m also involved in the wider progressive Jewish community; I go on spiritual and Jewish learning retreats throughout the year to refresh and intensify my connection to my faith, and I volunteer with several organizations. Although synagogue and retreats are important parts of my Judaism, I feel the most strongly about home-based Jewish practices, like Shabbat (the sabbath). I love opening my home to friends and neighbors on Friday nights and holidays for dinners, games, and joy in the rhythms of a Jewish life. It’s the aspect of my life I’m most excited to share with a child.

Since I’m a librarian, it’s pretty obvious that I love to read. I spend a lot of my free time immersed in books or the internet, both for pleasure and professional development.

Me reading with Akiva (age 5) and Shai (age 9), sons of Ziva and Ezra, two close friends. They read everything, and love to share reading material (and couches, and Legos) with me

One of my biggest hobbies other than reading is cooking. Both my parents cooked for us growing up, and I have incredible memories of baking hundreds of Christmas cookies with my grandmother when I was young, and then, after she passed on, doing the holiday baking with Mom, Dad, and a family friend. Then, in college, I joined a cooperative eating hall, Kosher-Halal Co-op, where I routinely cooked for the thirty-five members (or the hundred or so students who would join us for Shabbat dinner, or the 250 who came for Passover Seder). Since college, I’ve learned how to do home canning and preserving; it’s a lot of hard work in the summer and fall, but it’s so glorious to open up a jar in the dead of winter and taste the tomato sauce, jam, or pickles I made myself months before, often from produce I picked myself.

Taking carrot pickles out of the boiling water bath during a canning session at my friend Debby’s house.

I also love to dance. I do traditional social dancing (contra, square, and English country dancing) with a group called the Lavender Country and Folk Dancers. It’s specifically for LBGTQ dancers who want to dance without concern for gender roles in the dances. There are dances every other Saturday night, and we have “dance camp” twice a year, where we stay at a Boy Scout camp for a weekend and dance all day long. It’s my favorite form of exercise, and I’ve met some of the most wonderful, caring, and genuine people through the dance community.

Me, dancing with Santos at Dance Camp Fall 2010.
This is me at the same dance camp’s costume party, dancing with Avian, the 10-month-old grandchild of one of the dancers. He’s a very good waltzer, as long as you don’t let him lead.
You can also see in the photo above my patchwork yarmulka. I made that myself, and I do other fiber crafts like cross-stitch and crochet. I like relaxing with a project in front of the TV, keeping my hands busy while I enjoy a favorite show.

From left to right: Rachel (spinning), Eliana (writing), and me (stitching) watching How I Met Your Mother.

Finally, fixing up the house has become one of my hobbies. Owning an older property, there was a lot of work to be done when I first bought the place, and much of that work continues into the future. I personally did a lot of the painting of the house, as well as building shelves and furniture. I’m learning what things I really can do myself, and what jobs are best left to the professionals. Next up: the backyard!

You can see some the awesome colors I picked out and applied in the kitchen and hall. There are other great colors throughout the house, as well as wonderful art on most of the walls.

Where I’m Going

You made it to the conclusion: congratulations! I know I can be a bit wordy, but with only words and pictures to introduce myself and my life, I want to make a good and accurate impression. I know that I’m young to be considering adopting as a single person, but being a parent has always been an important life goal of mine. As I’ve been letting long-time friends know that I’m taking this step, their most common reaction is to comment that I’ve been talking about becoming a parent for the last six years. Sometimes I look at my friends who are parents with partners and wonder how I’ll be able to manage it all on my own, but I know that I’m not all on my own; I’m in the middle of several wonderful communities (my family, my home, my friends, my synagogue, my work), and that they will support me as I take this next step in my life. I’m incredibly lucky to have this support in my life.

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