Its hard to know where to begin. I’ll preface things by saying that there’s no way I could write about the conference in any kind of comprehensive way, and won’t even try.

The Opening Adoption symposium was the rarest of experiences- a case where my fantasy of what it could be actually came true.

2 years ago Rebecca and I started talking about the lack of practical support for those trying to live out open adoption. We believed so strongly in it and, at the time, I felt like the fact that I was finding most of my support online meant there was a failure in the system. I saw that Becky did have a day job to do and couldn’t continue to field my calls all day long. (i’m kidding here. Sort of.) I also saw that I needed support from lots of different kinds of people, not just one.

Now, I see that part somewhat differently- its kind of a both/and situation. Online support IS real and practical; at the same time, there’s no substitute for what we all experienced being together in the flesh. Its too bad this country is so damn big and that we’re all spread out.

But anyway, the fantasy: that I would get to hang out with my wise and funny and complex online adoption community and others I hadn’t met. That we would have safe space to really dig into the nuance and complexity of how you make open adoption work, and not just why (the why part we’re all pretty much agreed upon, and sometimes need a break from educating the rest of the world about). That there would be time to really listen and learn from each other. That there would be ample representatives from all parts of the adoption constellation (this was true, but we do need more men!). That we would come up with new ideas when it comes to meaningful adoption reform as it relates to all kinds of adoptions. That we would have a great time.

Everything on that fantasy list happened, and then some.

This morning, I happened to treat an acupuncture client who attended the conference. Along with her partner, she’s the adoptive mother of a 6 year old daughter they adopted from Guatemala. Her situation illustrates just how complex all of this stuff is. Because its illegal for gay couples to adopt in Virginia, she actually had a pretty traumatic experience adopting her daughter. Having to lie to the state while undergoing such a major transition took its toll, and she had decided not to go back to the agency for any real post adoption support. It simply brought up too many challenging memories. (Reminds you of the discussion on why first parents don’t return to the agency for support, no?)

But she told me that the conference was life changing for her- that she had no idea how much she’d been craving this community until she experienced it, and that now she wanted to be involved. That now she wanted to get support for some behaviors they’d been wondering about with their daughter, and that now she saw support was possible. That she realized she needed support for herself, too. And finally, that all of this felt good and was a tremendous, tremendous relief. This is huge!

The conference has reinvigorated my own involvement in all of this, too. For a number of years post placement, I soaked up everything there was to soak up on all of y’alls adoption blogs. I listened, I learned, and then I started writing, too. Then, after awhile, other parts of my life started creeping in- or rather, were able to. Its not that adoption stopped being important in our lives; on the contrary, relationships with first family members have grown and changed and evolved, and my own understanding of what all of that means is constantly evolving, too. But I do believe that for me, the adoptedness of our family had become integrated in a way that meant I didn’t think about it as much. Or rather, didn’t think about it as separate from anything else in our lives. Its simply something else to be talked about and occasionally worked through. But man when you need it, it sure does feel easier to do that with other people who are doing it, too.

In closing, this post is NOT an indication of how much i’ll be blogging in the future. I really don’t think I will be all that much. As I told some of you at the conference, I don’t even know how to type. And i’ve had to scratch this out while another client lies in the other room with needles in. But I will be involved, and i’m in it for the long haul. I’m truly excited about how I think this growing base of support will affect things for all of us, and for people we don’t even know. Right now, it feels like the beginning of a tsunami. I hope i’m not wrong.

Big love to all of you and every single member of your extended, beautiful families.

Edited to add something VERY important:

My high about all of this kept me from saying something very important…
Next week we’re going to be debriefing the conference and I really encourage you to give us feedback of all kinds. I know there are ways it can be improved upon, and I want to hear your specifics!

About to be 6

Hellooooooo? Do you hear an echo?

I’m still here. Just not- well, here.

I don’t have time to write too much about it now but had to at least say that Jenna’s coming!!
After almost 4 years of not hearing from her (other than some brief facebook contact last summer), I finally heard back from Jenna, Wendell’s first mom. I had written her an email a couple of weeks ago about Wendell on the occasion of his 6th birthday, which is tomorrow. I didn’t hear back, but did mention to Wendell that i’d written her when her name came up related to something else (I don’t remember what.) He asked, “Well. Did you invite her to my birthday party?” I said no not exactly, but I let her know we wanted to see her, and that of course she was always very welcome at our house. That I missed seeing her. I asked if he wanted to write her and he said yes. This was his email:

Dear Jenna,
Please remember to come to my birthday party.

I love you,

A man of few but powerful words, no?

After a day of me sort of but not really questioning whether I should have sent it, she wrote back. And said of course she’d love to come, and she always loves to talk to us and see us, and why don’t we give her a call. But of course. It all sounds so simple. So I did, and it was lovely and laidback like it always was before when we were in touch, and she has this easy laugh like Wendell, and all the time I was wondering did you get all of my emails from the past 4 years?? So I asked, and she said yes, or something like it, and then laughed and said, “You’re not bothering me so stop worrying about it!” So then I worried a little that I haven’t communicated very much in the last year but I decided to stop worrying about that because, really. That’s not going to help.

So she’s coming. Tomorrow afternoon. And staying the night at our house, and even coming to his big birthday party in the park with all of our friends and family. And this is the first time since he was born that his birthday is on a friday. And something really powerful and natural feels like its completing a circle.

I am very happy and peaceful right now but i’m quite sure i’ll be exhausted at the end of it all. I am always emotional around Wendell’s birthdays…. though thinking about it, some of that emotion is around missing Jenna. This year it will be different, and I can’t wait to see how.

If you want to see more of our life, follow me on flickr- that’s where my energy is these days, but I will try to write more after the weekend, too. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cynthiahenebry

oh, well.

Dang. So much time has passed and now I don’t know if I can muster the energy to write about the trip, which already feels weeks in the past. I am encouraged by the fact that I remember so many details of our trip out there 5 plus years ago, however. I think when you’re that present and awake, the details filter in and stick. I’m counting on it anyway. I’ll post pictures soon, though- and they may tell the clearest stories of all.

home again

i’m very, very happy to be back in our cozy pre-christmas home… and also feeling a pang in my heart from missing our montana family. i get separation anxiety fairly easily so its no surprise, but in any case- its there. in a good way, but there. i know the same is true for them.

this post is a promise to write more later about some of the things that happened. one of the greatest gifts i received was the time to process with bryce what happened 5 1/2 years ago when he considered parenting wendell (and when we had already been parenting him for 4 months). my heart is so full from that gift- and from all of it, really. everything that happened only confirmed every belief i have about open adoption… and it sure is nice when your beliefs are supported, isn’t it? so, ok. i’ll write more. about bryce, about my husband’s generosity of heart, about language and boundaries, about the new baby, and about the boundlessness of love. my life is so very interesting and full, and i’m feeling incredibly blessed tonight.

g’night for now.

journal entry from montana

Its been so long since i’ve written in a paper journal that I actually forgot to bring one out here… and there is some serious amazingness that must be documented. I’m not drawn to document it on the one hand- partly, i’m processing as I go and am so in the middle of the process… but i’m also aware that once we get home we’ll be jumping into Christmas and a lot will be lost. Not to memory, but to text. And years down the road, who can trust their memory?

It has been a very, very good thing that we came out here. Not without its inconveniences and hassles, certainly: it takes all day to get here from Virginia (at least) and costs an arm and a leg, staying in a hotel with 2 very active boys has its challenges, and Wendell is now sick with a pretty significant cold. However. However.

The day we arrived, Bryce’s new baby boy was born- which meant in fact that he met both of his sons the same day. The one he has been waiting to meet for 5 years, and the one he will parent. If you were scripting a movie about open adoption, you’d probably consider that plot line too unrealistic. Who in the world can imagine how his mind and heart could possibly accommodate such big and simultaneous events.

(…as I write this, i’m overwhelmed with everything I want to get down- and know that I can do justice to none of it. There have been far too many thoughts and emotions- all of which have felt so important at the time, but each of which is replaced with something new the next minute…)

Though we haven’t had a whole lot of time with Bryce, seeing him with Wendell is pretty spectacular- Wendell likes him, and his instincts around Wendell are pretty right on. He plays it cool, which is no big surprise because I know its just what Wendell would do. I could see at the first meeting how his heart was bursting, though. Grandma Cora doesn’t hold back- which is wonderful, too- but Wendell doesn’t respond to that kind of bold emotion quite as well- though he does really like and trust her already, too. (River on the other hand will hug anyone who asks for it after a 5 minute grace period. )

The main reason that we haven’t seen more of Bryce, of course, is that he’s at the hospital with his new baby. And while his girlfriend has been unbelievably gracious about this whole thing, she does need him there. We spent some time at the hospital yesterday (the experience of holding that baby Wendell look alike is a whole other entry), but we’re not a great crew for the newborn ward. Wendell’s sick and River’s been part rock star/part maniac. That’s just his M.O.- especially when we travel.

This afternoon, though, Bryce took a break from the hospital, and we got some mellow time with him at the hotel. I had a chance to talk one on one with him, and I am more grateful for that than just about anything that’s happened. Its hard for me to describe the way I feel about him, because it doesn’t really fit into the perameters of any other relationship. First off, he’s adorable. I mean really, stinking, unbelievably so. Like my son. So part of me wants to just cuddle up to him in the way I feel like i’ll want to with teenage Wendell. He’s just a big teddy bear in the way that Wendell is- and, though he’s been through a lot- still has this wonderful, earnest quality that Wendell has… and which I now see he won’t likely grow out of. I feel proud of him, I feel protective of him. There’s just so much there I can’t even articulate.

He apologized this afternoon for not staying in better touch- he said it had a lot to do with the daughter he’s not parenting, and the pain he feels over that. His ex-wife doesn’t let him in their life, and he hasn’t spoken to his daughter in 4 years. He said that even though we never did anything to make him feel this way, he just didn’t know if he’d ever see Wendell, and he couldn’t make himself reach out. He said that seeing him has helped fill a hole in his heart that has been there awhile.  I thought about how this must be the case for so many men- that what looks like lack of love or inattention is really just depression and resignation or lack of faith. I never doubted his love for Wendell- and in many ways everything he said and how he is confirms my first impressions of him when we met 5 years ago. He’s a stand up guy trying to do the right thing; he’s just young and has some growing up to do. He doesn’t have a lot of great models to work from. That’s how it feels anyway. I really just have so much tenderness for him- I think that’s truly the best word for it.

I believe it will be so much easier for us all to be in touch from here on out- sending texts won’t feel like sending information into the atmosphere, and i’ll know when I send pictures how much they really mean.

This morning when Wendell woke up with a cough (and it was 4 am, which is when they’ve been getting up, ugh), I felt so homesick. I felt like we’d been here long enough to make a good connection and I was ready to go back home. Now, at the end of day 3, while i’ll certainly be happy to be home when we get there, i’m glad we’re here for the duration. Its good to have enough time for the ups and downs, and to build real relationships. They’ve seen Wendell (and River!) be their beautiful, sunny selves, and they’ve also seen meltdowns. They’ve seen us be stern parents, and playful ones, too. Real life is important in real relationships. And I think we’re building some very good ones here.

I do want to write more on our conversations about adoption, but that’s enough for one night…

Happy solstice, and full moon, and lunar eclipse. Montana is a beautiful place to be for all of it.


Departures and arrivals

Its sort of amazing I haven’t written much here at all- i’ve been way more consumed with my photography and flickr in any free time I have- but its too bad, really. There’s been a lot going on in when it comes to the adoptedness of our family lately. I think in some ways I might be protecting myself from the bigness of it by keeping some distance. That must be the case, right? Because if I really tried to wrap my head around the fact that Bryce is meeting both of his sons on the same day (looks like his girlfriend may get induced on the actual day of our arrival), that would feel pretty big, right?

Except its his bigness, really. Right now I feel flexible to roll with whatever’s necessary when we go out there. I’m sure it will be big- all of it- but we can’t know the ways in which it will be until we do it. Wendell’s a good one for staying in the present, so that helps me, too. Truly, i’m just excited to get out there.

River’s first mom just sent the second in a series of really amazing birthday/Christmas letters. They’re the kind I think an adult adoptee searching for their birth family would just about die for. Explaining why, expressing so much love, expressing availability for whenever he needs her. Even a bonus just say no to drugs lecture- kind, but firm. Its remarkable, really. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am that she’s done this. Though she hasn’t said outright that she doesn’t want a visit right now, she’s politely ignored my questions about that, so I’m taking a hint. Its ok. We’re here, she’s here. It will all work out and we will physically be together when we all can.

Happy holidays all, whatever you celebrate. I’m wishing for peaceful hearts in 2011.


Both of my childrens’ birth fathers are expecting babies in the next couple of weeks- I think the due date is the same, actually. We’re going out to Montana in less than 2 weeks to see Wendell’s birth father Bryce, who’s expecting a boy the day before we arrive. (We didn’t know that when we planned the travel, but I think its pretty amazing- if intense- timing).

River’s birth father Bryan is expecting a baby, too, with his girlfriend Joanna (and let me remind you that both of my sons’ first mothers names are Jennifer) and I just found out that they’re naming their daughter the same name as Wendell’s half sister who lives in Montana. Its not even a common name. Ayanna. Thank the blessed lord that Ayanna’s mom has a name that’s totally off the radar of the Bryan/Bryce/Jennifer/Ayanna spectrum. Its Stormy. I am more grateful to Stormy than she can know for having a truly unique name.

So, to recap:

…..wait, i’m even too confused to do this. How in the #$%&*# hell are 2 boys going to piece all this out until they’re like, 40? At this point you can count me as completely unsurprised if Bryce decided to name his new son River. Yeah, that would be perfect.

p.s. 2 of my very closest friends names are Jen and Joanna. That’s helpful, too. I’ve asked them to change their names to no avail.


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