Monday, October 10, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable #30

If you are a regular reader, you might be puzzled by the #30 in the title (I've never done 1-29), as well as the phrase "Open Adoption Roundtable."

Allow me to explain. No, wait, allow the creator of the Open Adoption Roundtable to explain, as follows: "The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community." (See *here* for more.)

While I've been on the e-mail list for ages now, I have never felt the urge to participate. I'm not sure why. I'm also not sure why I felt the urge to participate today, but I did, so here goes. Prompt #30 says, "Do you remember the first time you heard about open adoption?"

(Allow me to apologize in advance for how scattered my thoughts are, and for any typographical errors. It's just been one of those days.)

I'm not sure I remember exactly - I can guess. I don't even remember when adoption itself was introduced to me. As far back as I can remember, I knew that my mother was adopted, and that it was a good thing because it meant she was special - her parents picked her, and they loved her. Personally, I always got the impression she was their favorite, but that might just have been the way I saw it as a child.

So adoption, in my mind, was closed adoption. There was no contact with the biological family, no connection. Although my mother occasionally put her name on adoptee-rights mailing lists, her heart wasn't in it - she didn't feel a void in her life. She mentioned, when I asked, that she was mostly curious about what her birth mother looked like, and she (my mom) wished that her birth mother could see that she was happy, and that adoption had been the right choice.

I know that my grandparents wished they knew more about the young woman who was in their lives for a matter of minutes. I imagine that they had questions for her, both for their own peace of mind and that of the tiny baby they'd been entrusted with. But what they knew about her was little enough to fit into a text message. They learned to live with it.

I had more of a thirst. When I was a teenager, or maybe 20, I was able to do some digging and I found my mother's biological family. She had a half-brother 5 years her senior, and two younger half-sisters. Her birth mother had died a few years before, and had never told anyone that she once placed a baby for adoption. I remember wondering how a person could keep such a heavy secret for over forty years. But, I thought, that was adoption for you.

Fast-forward several years to my first meeting with a social worker. I was only a few weeks pregnant at the time and the cells dividing inside me didn't even seem real yet. The social worker, S, discussed what she called my "options" with me, and adoption was one of them. I tuned her out because I wasn't particularly interested in adoption. I vaguely remember the phrase "open adoption" being thrown around but it didn't mean much to me. S told me about a few birth mothers she had worked with who had placed very recently, and I think she said something about visits or pictures. This caught my attention, and it mystified me. Visits? Who on earth would do such a thing? In my mind, adoption meant a signature on a legal document and silence for at least 18 years. It meant unanswered questions. That's just the way things were - right?

The next week I met the aforementioned birth mothers, and they showed me pictures of the children they had placed. They talked about how much they missed their babies, but how nice it was to be able to see them and know that they were okay. The fact that they spoke so openly about things threw me. Adoptees, I expected to speak. But because of my mother's experience, I thought that birth mothers would want to keep secrets.

The more I heard these women speak, the more I thought to myself that if I were ever to choose adoption (not that I EVER would, I thought), openness was the only way to go. I imagined how alone my biological grandmother must have felt, and how hard it must have been for her to hand over her newborn baby girl to two strangers and just walk away, never knowing for the rest of her life if her baby was happy and cared-for and loved.

Because of my situation - parenting for a bit before placing - I knew that I had to have an open adoption or no adoption at all. I had such a connection to Roo. The thought of never knowing anything about her was too much. I needed openness. I needed it then, and I need it now.

I need it for myself, if I'm honest. I don't think I could have healed if I hadn't been able to see Roo and hold her and tell her I love her after placement. I don't think I could have stood not knowing what she looked like or if she was happy.

But I think that as time passes and Roo grows, the openness will be less about me and more about her. I think of my mother, wondering for years if she resembled the woman who grew her and gave her life (she does, for the record). I think of her wanting to tell her birth mother that adoption was the right choice, that my mom has had a happy life. I think of my grandparents, wondering about the young woman who gave them their daughter. Roo won't have to wish or wonder - she knows what I look like. I know that she's happy. P and M know who I am.

Every adoption situation is different; I know that. I mean, I would never presume to tell someone how to fold an origami crane when I've only ever folded a chicken. But I do believe that open adoption, when it is done right and for the right reasons, is the very best kind of open adoption. Everyone benefits - the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the child most of all.

Isn't that what adoption is all about?


Savannah said...

Wow, I can't believe your mom's birthmom never told anyone. I know it was part of "those times", but my heart hurts for her. I'm glad you were able to find her so your mom could make that connenction.

I first heard about open adoption when we went to LDSFS to learn about adopting. It terrified me. Then a week later, we went to a birth mom panel. One of the birthmoms who spoke, her daughter was there running around. I knew then it was the right thing. The next day I tracked down one of the other mothers on the panel who had a closed adoption (she had placed 20 years before). I told her how her story touched me and told her I hoped someday she would be able to hear from her son. A few months later he found her. Even after placing 20 years earlier, that contact helped her heal even more.

I'm so grateful times have changed and adoption isn't a secret anymore.

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

I love this! I wish more people understood how adoptive parents benefit from open adoption!

Swinging On Small Hinges said...

Kayley just visited her birthmom for the first time last month. We had to wait for her birthmom to be ready and comfortable. It was an amazing, spiritual experience and if/when we ever get to adopt again - I really, really, hope we get another open adoption. It is AWESOME! :)

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Welcome to OART! I really loved reading about your experience, and I hope that #30 is just the beginning of your writing with other open adoption bloggers.

This was true in our cases, too: "as time passes and Roo grows, the openness will be less about me and more about her."

My kids are 8 and 10 now, and it's so helpful to have their birth parents around to answer their wonderings and just be there for them.