Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: The Beginning of Openness

Heather (on whose blog you can find the list of Open Adoption Bloggers) has organized a great idea to start a discussion on various open adoption-related topics periodically. The first discussion prompt: recall the beginning of your experience with open adoption.

2006 was a difficult year. Having received an infertility diagnosis and trying to come to grips with life not at all turning out the way we "planned" it, we were now additionally trying to muddle through the initial thought process of adoption.

Adoption was honestly never on our radar screen until a fertility doctor suggested it, knowing our severely low chance at conceiving a biological child. At the time, I thought "What? Us? Adopt? That's what people who are rich or famous (or both) do! Not ordinary people like us!" It just seemed so against the grain of everything I'd ever imagined. Would I be able to love a child who wasn't biologically mine? Wasn't adoption horridly expensive? Would we be able to afford it? Would I regret not experiencing pregnancy? Would others view us as less of a family, or our child less valuable in some way? And worst of all -- what if the real parents came back for the child?

It's a tough place to be in, for sure. But within a few weeks, I was throwing myself into researching adoption. I read books, browsed message boards, listened to others' experiences, attended seminars -- anything to just try and gain some knowledge about this topic of which I truly had NO clue or experience!

As I started to gain head knowledge, I came to the realization that I already had "heart knowledge." Years prior to beginning the adoption journey ourselves, I had completely fallen in love with a three-year-old boy in my class at a daycare/preschool where I had been working at the time. He started in my class and brought with him a fair share of baggage. This sweet little hearing-impaired boy had an unstable home situation. He acted out quite a bit, but I began to see that he had no sense of stability or consistency. I loved that little boy with all my heart, and he developed a trust in me. He responded uniquely to me in a way that even co-workers noticed. The end of the day would come, and he'd go home. It broke my heart, and I would literally think in my mind of how I could provide for him, if opportunity arose. I imagined tucking him into the bed in our spare room, watching him sleep and knowing he was safe and sound. I knew I couldn't love him any more if he'd been born to me.

All these years later, I saw how that experience had already shown me that it didn't matter if your children were biologically yours or had no genetic ties to you. What mattered was the love that is unique to a parent and child.

So... I could love a child that wasn't "mine." And it could be 100% natural, in a way that you truly almost "forget" that your child has someone else's nose and funny little quirks.

So, I could adopt, as long as we did so in a closed or semi-open fashion. Because, my 2006 self thought, open adoption means you are co-parenting. And we won't have any of that.

Do you ever look back on things you always said you'd NEVER do, only to realize some time later that not only are you doing them, but that it's also just a normalcy in your life?

More research, more reading, more studying, more exploring... but possibly most importantly, keeping an open mind. I honestly DIDN'T think we'd pursue an open adoption in the beginning days of our adoption experience, but we also didn't shut the door completely. We left ourselves open to how God was leading us, and that is what makes the difference.

I began to listen to stories of women who'd relinquished their child. I listened to adoptive parents who were in open relationships with their child's first parents. I saw how many adoptees truly desired some level of openness, knowledge from their past and heritage.

And I started to realize... it's not about me. It's not about what I want or what I am comfortable with. It's about what is in the best interest for the child, ironically the triad member who has the least say in their being adopted.

So as we started to move out of our comfort zone, we realized that most women who place children are doing so for various reasons, but similarly because in some way, they feel that this is the best choice for their child.

We began to see these parents in a new light. Thinking back to the questions we'd had at the beginning of the process, I could turn around all of those questions to the fears that someone else might be having in a very different situation. "What? Me? Relinquish my child? That's what drug addicts or teenagers (or both) do! Not an ordinary person like me! Could anyone else ever possibly love my child the way I do? Isn't adoption horridly complicated? Will I ever get over losing my child? Would I regret not experience parenthood? Would others view me as less of a woman, or my child less valuable in some way? And worst of all -- what if the real parents shut me out of their lives?

Certainly, it's against the grain of everything anyone's ever imagined.

Eighteen months into this open adoption journey, and I honestly don't know where it will lead. We've had varied levels of contact and openness, at the choosing of our daughter's mother. We have gone through times of daily contact, and we've been through periods of communication drought that can last months at a time. So in that way, I am still learning, still feeling my way through it all.

I assumed when we checked the "open" box on our paperwork that doing so would equal a consistent, ongoing relationship. I had lofty dreams of frequent visits, weekly telephone chats to catch up as we would with a family member, and being guests in each others' homes. I envied adoptive parents who spent holidays with their child's first parents or even went on vacation together. I expected to be braiding each others' hair and having pillow fights by this point (well, maybe not quite that extreme!), but it just isn't like that for us right now.

And that's okay. It's just different from what I imagined. I wish I had known then how I feel now, and know that sometimes relationships can wax and wain, and that it's all a normal part of life.

The one thing I would tell my 2006 self, if I could, would probably be that life DOES become normal again. Life will be good again. You will not forever live in this barren land of childlessness, and although it will be through a manner you'd never expected, it is wholly worthwhile and satisfying. Don't feel as though you have to force your way through the challenges of adoption (of any kind), but take life as it comes. Be on guard that your relationship with your husband and with God doesn't deteriorate, but remember that (as much as you hate to hear this cliche) everything truly does happen for a reason.


  1. Thanks so much for participating--it was good to hear from you. :)

  2. Hi there! Thanks so much for commenting on my blog! I loved reading your roundtable response... I found it very intriguing how your whole thought process on open vs closed adoption changed completely. There are still parts of me scared to do an open adoption... that fear of the unknown. I guess my biggest fear is going to be that feeling of competition between myself and the birth mother. Or that fear that the child will grow to become closer with her than with me, and we'll eventually get "phased out".

    Anyway, yes, we're from the Indy area! Good to find someone local on here.