Thursday, July 1, 2010

Open Adoption

So, I've had a few people ask me "how does this open adoption thing work?" and "why'd you want to still have contact with them (the kid's birth parents)?". So, I thought I'd write a bit about that today (don't roll your eyes when I say "a bit". The last post wasn't all that long, was it? That's right! I'm due for a long one. Feel free to skip down to the bottom for the synopsis, if you must, but you'll miss the best of the ranting...).

So, when we started this whole thing we had no idea what open adoption was (probably like some of you) and assumed all kinds of things - the birth parents would still have some kind of parenting role in the baby's life; the birth parents would have a say-so in how we raised the child; the baby would be confused about who his/her "real" parents were; seeing the baby would make the birth parents want to take him/her back; etc... You see, we were thinking of this baby as just OURS, hubby's and mine, like a possession. But he's not. Way before he was part of our family, he was part of another family who loved (still does love) him. And, in my opinion, by having no further contact with that other family, we're trying to pretend that they didn't exist, or at least like they don't matter. But that other family, well,they're the only reason this phenomenal kid exists. And they know a part of his story that I don't know, a part that I think he has a right to know.

What we learned in our adoption classes is that continued contact (in some form) is actually beneficial in the child's development, and in helping the birth family heal. Kids do have questions as they get older - who do I look like, do other people in my family have certain characteristics or talents (or struggles with math, for example), does anyone else in my family have a history of asthma, and biggest of all, why did they choose to make an adoption plan? These are all huge questions that I can't answer for him. Well, some I can a little (you look just like the perfect mixture of your birth brother and sister), but for the most part I just don't know.

As far as the kid being confused about who's the parent, it's simply not an issue. I'm the one who nursed him. We changed all his diapers. We feed him. Hubby watches Dinosaur Train with him. We color together. I'm the one he calls for when he wakes up in the middle of the night, or when he's sick. He came out of L's belly. I am Momma. Hubby is Poppa. There is no confusion.

In regards o the birth parents, think how it would feel to put your baby in someone else's arms, walk away, and never know anything else about him/her. To look at the faces of kids as you walk down the sidewalk, and wonder "is that her?". To think, "I wonder what they've told him about me?". To want to know what your kid looks like. Some people have said to me that birth parents loose the right to those answers when they "give up their babies".

That's an important distinction - birth parents (in the vast majority of cases) don't "give up their babies", they make a plan for them. They choose whether they're ready/in the position to parent their children, or whether it would be in their/the baby's best interest for someone else to do it. And this is another benefit of an open adoption - the birth family chooses the family who will adopt their child. This is an active choice; it's not simply giving up. It's being a parent, in a different way, this decision. It's a heart-wrenching, difficult decision not made lightly. And, I think, if I can do anything to make it easier for them (like the simple act of visiting every once in awhile, calling, sending pictures, etc...), then I should. Because as a human being, it is my job to do what I can to ease others' suffering. And if I can't feel some empathy and love towards the people who gave my child life, then I am a poor excuse of a human being. It's about them knowing that their child is ok, is loved. They have a right to that.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do NOT believe in open adoption out of some sense of guilt. I don't feel guilty that I'm raising this amazing child and they aren't. They made an informed decision about what they thought was best. I AM absolutely and completely grateful for them. And I love them for the spectacular gift they've given me. I want to help and support them in whatever way I can.

So, today's lesson (the condensed version) is that open adoption rocks. That is just my opinion, but it's my blog so that's what I get to write. I'm interested if anyone has anything to add though (aka - bring on the comments, people).


Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but I want to thank you for this. I've often thought about adoption, even though I can and have gotten pregnant, its just something i've thought about alot since I was little. Even more so since my cousin was adopted (closed adoption and he doesn't know. He is 19, appalling I know), and my husband is also adopted - also closed adoption but his parents were very honest with him about it. While I disagree with my families decision to hide the fact that my cousin is adopted from him I still had very many ill-concieved notions of open-adoption many of which you stated above thank-you for opening my eyes to such a different perspective. I think my mother in law would cherise the opportunity to thank the couple that gave her the gift of a child and motherhood. Shes unlikely to ever have that chance.

Becky said...

Thank you so much for your comment. I know that I certianly have more peace in my heart having had the opportunity to tell my boys' birth parents how much I love and appreciate them. That, I think, is a gift to the (adoptive) parents.