It sounds fairly easy. Write a letter about your adopted kids once or twice a year and send it to birth family. Maybe send photos. It is called 'letterbox contact'. The mail goes to the Social Services. Receive a letter in reply. In our case twice a year to birth mum (BM, called in our house 'first mummy') and once a year to grandma ('nana') Birth Dads are not in the equation.
We are overdue, again. Our letter was supposed to be sent in February. We know that birth Mum looks forward to these letters and pictures, she calls the letterbox team regularly to find out if they are in. But we cannot seem to get them sent on time. In this case the delay is partly due to health issues, we've all been struggling and Pup isn't well. Partly also due to my feelings about BM being more negative recently, as we realise more and more how Pup has suffered. from his prenatal experiences.
We are grateful to her for our 2 wonderful boys. We want her to know what they are achieving and how they are. We love to send her photos of the boys. But, boy, those letters are hard to write. And they get harder as the boys get older.
- Things you cannot ever say: "You screwed my sons head up before he was born, you b****!"
- Information you have to withhold. Where you live, schools, when you are going away, when you are visiting foster carers. Careful what photos to send e.g. not pics of kids in school uniform with logos on them or identifying pics of our home town. Information that could be added up to tell her where we live. "We visited Legoland, it is not far from us." "We went to the seaside / London / Bermuda for the day" (these are all hypothetical examples!)
- Difficult / painful information. Pup is not so well, he is getting a lot of pain. We think he has foetal alcohol syndrome. Other info about Pup's health. It is his body, it is personal. But also as his health fails, she should know something. How much should we tell her?. Tigs is really challenging at times- how to phrase this?.
- Stuff we don't want to talk about, stuff that is too personal. After all they are our kids.
- Too much info about birthdays, Christmas etc; so as not to rub it in that they have so much more now than she could give them.
So it comes down to how they are doing at school / swimming / clubs; to their favourite toys, TV programme, books, activities; their achievements - they have recently learnt to swim, ride a bike / hang glide / fly a jet...... All cheerily upbeat, with smiley photos. All true (well some of these examples may be slightly exaggerated!). But not a true picture.
The boys are not yet interested in the letters she sends. However they are short loving letters, and usually positive, so I am glad we get them. In years to come it may be reassuring to them to read those letters and know that BM loved and missed them. It also will tell them a little bit about her as a real person, so make it harder for them to hang unrealistic fantasies on her. They like to take a quick look at the pictures she sends, including those of a younger sibling who she is still in close contact with. They sometimes ask questions about their adoption. But not often. It's not their life. It is peripheral to their real world. From her letters it is obvious that BM still sees them as 'her' children, and in one sense they are and always will be. But they are also mine. (there is the conflict!) But of course in reality they belong only to themselves.
The saddest bit to me is having to tell Pup that he can't meet his younger sibling. He doesn't really understand why. He doesn't think about it a lot, but when he sees the child's photo he asks each time if he can go and visit. I wonder whether I should suppress the photos, but they are mentioned in BMs letters, and I think it would be cheating Pup.
And the boys? They have the final say in how much we tell. At the moment I just ask them what they'd like to say.
"Pup, do you want to say anything to first mum?"
"Tell her I'm sorry I had to leave you." *gulp* No Pup, I won't tell her that - yet. But I will mostly tell her what you want me to, and if there is stuff you don't want me to tell that is fine. And if you want me to stop, that is fine too.
They usually pick out what photos to send from a shortlist I suggest. Pup is a generous boy and would like to send her tons of stuff. He'd give away his last Rolo. Tigs is not really that bothered. I don't think BM has much reality for him yet.