Saturday, 28 April 2012

Continuing communication

So…letterbox. We have a letterbox agreement (sort of) with Mini’s birth parents. When Mini was placed with us, the NC and I signed an informal agreement – a generic document drawn up by social services, in which we filled in the blanks with specifics that we agreed too i.e frequency, whether we are happy for gifts to be sent to Mini, if we want to know about births/marriages/deaths, how letters should be signed i.e Mummy X or just X.

Without going into the details, we write twice a year to each birth parent. Letters are sent to a Letterbox co-ordinator who sends them to birth parents, and if they reply it's to the same co-ordinator who sends them onto us. This ensures privacy of each other's addresses and in our case, our surname too. 
We regularly ask for social services to support Mini’s birth parents in replying. Birth Dad feels it is too hard, and so we’ve never heard from him.
However, last year we received a call from Social Services, informing us that Birth Mum had written. We were asked if we wanted the letter sent to us, or kept on file. Of course we jumped at the chance to receive more information about her, and something for Mini to have in the future.
Anyway, I was a bit disappointed with her ‘letter’. It was addressed to Mini, even though all our letters are from Stix and the NC, and it wasn’t really a letter. It wasn’t conversational (which is how I try to write to her), it was just a list of acknowledgments – ‘Oh, you like sausage and mash, me too’ and ‘I’m pleased blue is your favourite colour, it’s mine too’. But, it’s communication, and it’s been filed away for the future.

Truth be told, the longer Mini is part of our family, the more I resent letterbox. He’s mine, why should I share information about MY son with a virtual stranger? But…I do it because it will help keeps those lines of communication open to Mini in the future. And also deep down, I truly hope she’ll write back, because I’m interested in the life of the person who gave my son life.

Recently, I wrote our latest letter. I try to write balanced letters about all aspects of Mini's life. I don’t just give them the good stuff, I tell them about the tough times too, and I’d explained that Mini had a seizure and it was being investigated. I asked if there was any family history we should be aware of. When I emailed it in, I asked (again) for support to be given to Birth Mum, as we really hoped for a reply. Social Services took 6 weeks to inform me that support had been offered but declined.

Out of the blue this week, we received a letter from Birth Mum. No warning phonecall this time and despite being grateful for the letter, I’m a bit cross with Social Services for not warning us of it’s imminent arrival. Given that we’re going through some pretty challenging stuff at the moment, I just wasn’t at all prepared for opening the post to find this letter.
This letter was much more chatty than before, disclosing a bit more information and sharing some major news.  But importantly, Birth Mum had read my letter to her, and had responded to the questions I’d asked her. Yippee, I now have something to tell the neurologist. It might be irrelevant, but it’s something.

I’ve been having doubts recently about whether to continue, and I’d shared that with Letterbox, explaining to them about my frustrations. Perhaps the fear that I’ll stop giving her little titbits about her son is what’s driven her to write again, or perhaps she has found the courage and strength to overlook the fact that I’m looking after ‘her’ son. Perhaps she's just not been in the right place to write before. Whatever the reason, I’m so pleased she managed it, as this has given me the reminder that I needed – Letterbox is important. And I WILL carry on.


  1. we do twice yearly letterbox too. I think it's good, (even though it's a chore sometimes)After all we are in control of what information we give, and we don't have to tell everything. I feel that birth mum and her family (including her other kids)are indirectly 'part of the family' and it's good to communicate with her. But mainly I feel I'd be letting the boys down if I didn't keep in touch, and get as much info as I can. She writes simple loving little letters and it will be good for the boys to see that she loves and misses them. Even if at the moment they don't care a scrap about her!

    1. It must be lovely to get those letters for your boys, do you share the contents with them yet? I wish the letters for Mini were less factual, and more emotive, but I know Birth Mum finds it hard to express her emotions, and we're grateful for the two letters we've so far had.

    2. Hi, I do read them to the boys but the response is usually on the lines of "OK, that was a nice letter, can I go and play now?"
      We have a formal agreement so we know when the letters are coming, which helps a lot. She has missed a couple of times, but usually only when she has other stuff going on. We send photos too. We get photos of their siblings and other family members in return, which I think is really valuable. We don't get many facts, which is frustrating!

    3. It is frustrating isn't it. But at least it's contact.

      I can't imagine sending photos. BM has asked, but SS advised us against it, especially as we changed Mini's name and BM doesn't live very far away...we don't want names/photos/identities getting confused or discovered. Must be really nice getting photos back...

      Kind of links back to my Facebook issue. If I got more via letterbox, then I wouldn't be so intrigued about them and check them out on FB! But I haven't looked since I wrote the post, so definitely moving forward :-)

  2. Good post. I think it is more normal that letters just turn up - we don't get warning. Ours, however, are clearly not written by BM, but by SS, pretending to be, obviously with BMs input). I am happy to do the letters for Buster's sake, but I do keep them brief - and factual!

    1. Do you have a formal letterbox agreement? I think if Birth Mum had signed an agreement, and we knew when we might receive a letter I'd be OK with them just turning up, but she's never actually signed the agreement, and we're resigned to letters just turning up when she feels able to write.
      2 letters in 4 years isn't a great record, but I know she's had life struggles that might have made it hard for her to get in touch.
      Sometimes I wish we'd given more thought about how letterbox would make us feel...well, me actually as the NC has little involvement in the letters I write...

  3. Great post! Letter box contact is one of those really emotional issues that you know about academically when going through the adoption process but it isn't until you have to write those letters that you really start to understand the myriad of emotions that you are going to feel about sharing information about the child that you love. I try to be as open as possible because I think that my letters are the only link that BM/BF have with Katie. I try to give a full picture of her life. So far I've had letters and photos back from birth grandparent. She writes on behalf of herself and BF which is a link to him at least. She writes lovely letters and our contact letters are much better as a result. We hope that it will lead to a meeting with them in the near future (minus Katie). I hope it will continue so that I can answer Katie's questions but there is a big part of me that resents having to do it. It's one of the most mature things I do twice a year I suspect. I do it, like we all do, for the hopeful benefit of my daughter. We have set months in which to write so we know roughly when a letter should be arriving. I will admit that I'm often a few weeks late sending them. I wonder if one day Katie will want to be involved in the letters. I've not shown her any letters yet but did show her a recent picture from one of the letters. We have to send photos once a year but I am careful about the ones I send. They are always a year out of date and her face is a little obscured. Just to be on the safe side until I feel that the contact is strong enough to be more open. It's so tough to know what the best thing to do is though isn't it? xx

    1. I definitely think it's another one of those issues that should be talked about more when you're going through the homestudy. But of course, it'd slow down the process, and when you're waiting to be a parent, you just want to get there as quick as you can. You don't realise the benefit of time to explore these issues... Hindsight hey?!

      I think it's great that you've managed to maintain that link with BF - I guess that where links are kept, it's usually with BM. It's a credit to you and birth grandparent that you've managed to keep that communication open for Katie in the future.

      I assume as Katie has seen photos from your replies that she also knows you write? Mini has at times asked me to include a few lines about x, y and z. In BMs first letter to us she asked for a photo, we suggested that perhaps Mini draws her a picture one time that will be his first real involvement in Letterbox, and I hope that depending on how our therapy goes, it might be something that he's ready for in September's letter.. xx