I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Sally Bacchetta, of The Adoptive Parent, for the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. Sally is an adoptive mama to a daughter and a son. She's been involved in this crazy world of adoption for a few years more than I have, so I always appreciate hearing insight from those who are further down the road than I!
Poor Sally will likely keep having to answer questions from me, even though this interview project is over. I excitedly sent off my first batch of questions (yes, first), and within a matter of a day or two, I'd thought of more things I wanted to ask her. Now that it's all said and done, and I'm putting the final touches on this post... I've thought of more questions. My apologies in advance, Sally! :)
One really nifty thing about this lady is that she doesn't just blog... she writes books. Specifically, this one. Keep reading below to get a sneak peek at what's inside her recently released "What I Want My Adopted Child to Know."
For those new to your blog, can you give a little background on you and your family?
Despair and my husband (Dennis) led me to adoption. After a few years of trying to conceive followed by a few years of the infertility circus, we called it quits. I had developed some serious complications that made it almost impossible for us to conceive and life-threatening to me if we did. So it was time to move on.
We meandered our way through the thoughts and emotions of healing from infertility, and eventually Dennis suggested adoption. After much discussion and prayer, we emerged together at peace and ready to embrace adoption as our path to parenthood. We had been married for 8 years when we adopted our daughter, now almost 5, and last year we adopted our son, who just turned a year old. I can’t imagine becoming a mother any other way.
Was there a moment in time that really drew you to open adoption over other types of adoption? Or was it something you sort of "fell into" unexpectedly?
I never considered (and would never consider) a closed adoption. Our children’s biological families are theirs. Their origins are theirs. I consider their birth families among the most important people in my kids’ lives, because it’s they who chose this life for my kids. We want our children to know their birth families as much as possible because that’s knowing part of themselves. We want them to be able to ask questions and share feelings as their lives evolve and their thinking about adoption changes.
Selfishly, I could never be at peace without contact with my kids’ birth families. I needed to meet their birth mothers, I needed to hold their hands and look in their eyes and ask them why they chose adoption. I needed to tell them that it’s OK to change their minds, that it doesn’t matter what anyone’s expectations are, it doesn’t matter what papers are waiting to be signed, it doesn’t matter how much Dennis and I want children… that this is their baby, and they are the mother, and no one else knows what’s in their heart or head, and if they decide to raise the baby themselves, then that’s the right choice. I needed them to look at my face and know that I meant what I said.
And because we had those opportunities, I can love my children freely. I can love them without guilt or uncertainty. I can love them without any insecurity about their birth families. All because of openness.
And I have to say that we use the term “birth mother” in our family because our children’s birth mothers asked us to. Our children call their birth mothers by their first names and refer to them in conversation by their first names or as “my birth mother.”
Do you feel that your family and friends are overall supportive of your family's open adoption, or have you encountered more questions and concerned statements from those close to you?
I guess they’re as supportive as they’re able to be. I’m fairly certain none of them really understand the unique relationships we have with our kids’ birth families, but I don’t expect them to. The only time it bothers me is when someone asks an ignorant question like, “Aren’t you afraid she’s going to change her mind after she sees him/her?” If you have to ask that, you really don’t get it.
If you could tell your children's first parents anything, what would you tell them?
Thank you. I love you. I love seeing you and my kids together. I hope you’re OK. I worry about you. I wish I heard from you more often. I’m afraid of sharing too much about how amazing the kids are because I’m afraid it’s painful for you. You inspire me. (I tell them those things already.)
Having been through the adoption process twice, how did your experiences compare or differ from each other? How did you process the emotions and the grief side of placement the second time around?
This is something I often think about, yet being asked here, now, the question has proven much more difficult for me to answer than I originally expected. I felt very little grief the first time around, and there are several reasons for that. One, "M," our daughter's birth mother (herself an adoptee) was very young, and it was really easy to understand why she chose adoption. Two, we met her the night before we brought our daughter home, and we haven't seen her since. Three, our journey to parenthood had been terribly long and incredibly painful, and I was literally light-headed when we met "M" and later, our daughter. I was emotionally intoxicated by the "miracle of adoption." It was like falling in love... the world fell away... I felt nothing but pure bliss. Within a few days of homecoming my thoughts turned to "M," and I wondered how she was doing and if her life still fit. Still, she had been so clear and decisive about her decision I never imagined her grieving. Curious, yes... wistful, maybe. Not grieving.
I'm sure that's why I was stunned by the near-obsession I've felt for our son's birth mother, "J." We have a more open relationship with "J" (emails and visits in addition to pictures and letters), and we spent quite a bit more time with her before bringing our son home. "M" has always been sort of a mystical character in my mind, whereas "J" has always been real. Our relationship with "J" snares me in uncertainty - how much detail should I share? Why hasn't she written back yet? Does she ever regret her decision? The up-side about our openness is that I can ask her these questions, and she seems sincere when she says she does not regret her decision. I, of course, worry that she may yet, that she may be protecting herself from grief. But I take her at her word and trust that she will let me know if things change for her.
I know this is a long answer! I think about this a lot. I'm obviously definitely not anti-adoption, but I think the adoption industry can do a much better job educating prospective adoptive parents in this regard. I think most adoptive parents don't realize what angst and healing most birth mothers go through... for some, peace never comes again in this lifetime... and I think that piece should be in place before adopting. Otherwise, it's like having surgery without giving informed consent. Potential adoptive parents should know the WHOLE picture, and that includes talking to birth mothers (with both positive and negative experiences) and adult adoptees (both pro and con adoption) before making a decision. For me, the issue is general under-education by the adoption industry, not adoption itself. One of the reasons I wrote my book is to help change that. I think there's great value in partnerships between adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and birth parents... working together to make sure that "open" is really open for everyone involved.
What do you think has been most influential for you (or any member of the triad) in terms of support?
Maybe surprisingly, birthmother/first mother forums and blogs are the biggest influence on me. I find them generally difficult to read because of the intensity and prevalence of pain expressed there, but for that same reason, I think they’re vital to me as an adoptive parent. I think all adoptive and prospective adoptive parents need to actively cultivate their understanding of birth mothers’ experiences. I think Ann Fessler’s book, The Girls Who Went Away, should be required reading for anyone considering adoption.
Even at the time of our second adoption I was very naïve about the adoption industry. Both our children’s birth mothers had family support and no one pressured them into adoption. Both did consider raising their babies, and both would probably have been able to make it work. Each ultimately chose adoption for her own reasons, but since they were (and still are) at peace about their decisions, I never questioned the rhetoric that adoption is a “better” choice than single parenthood or unwed motherhood. At the time, I had no reason to question it.
Since then, through the writing of my book (What I Want My Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent’s Perspective), I have met and spoken with countless birth parents, extended biological family, and adult adoptees, and my understanding of adoption is much more comprehensive. Certainly, no one birth mother speaks for all birth mothers, and no group speaks for all people, but there are universal themes running through adoption that I think adoptive parents need to understand.
In terms of their adoptions, what do you most want your children to know as they grow up?
Several things – that’s why I wrote my book :), and each is a chapter in What I Want My Adopted Child to Know:
- I Would Do it All Again
- We Really Are Your Parents
- I Regret What I Can’t Give You
- You Are Not Different Because You Were Adopted. You Are Different Because You Are You
- To My Daughter/To My Son (“I can’t imagine any mother loving her child more than I love you.”)
- I Want to Be Part of Your Process
- I Think About Your Birth Parents
- Before You Search (“The truth is that your birth story has no real bearing on the opportunity you have to create the life you want.”)
- I Will Always Love You
What are some of your favorite traditions you enjoy with your children?
Cooking and baking. Reading! Making up songs, exploring the natural world, and writing love notes to each other.
Thank you, Sally, for such a lovely interview! I've enjoyed getting to know you a little better. Thanks for letting me pick your brain!
Besides her blog, further information and resources can be found at Sally's website, The Adoptive Parent.