Thursday, April 12, 2012

path to openness

open adoption roundtable #36

openness.  i know i've blogged about it before, but it was the one thing that absolutely terrified us about adoption.  when we got started, we actually made a point to steer clear of agencies who were pushing open adoption and we felt happy like little clams because of that decision.  it was the main reason i really thought we should do an international adoption.  keep the biologicals far far away - even in another country.  after all, we did not need them changing their mind, coming back 4 years later and trying to pull something, or dropping in on us all of the time.

but i was wrong.

my thinking - our thinking - was all wrong.

so - so wrong.

it was our own insecurities and idiocy that scared us into almost submitting to our fears and seeking a closed adoption.  what a lifelong mistake that would have been!  however, it was God who halted us when we were at that point and put several life altering hurdles in our path.  hurdles were placed in our lives that would take us years to overcome.  while we journeyed down that road, our eyes became more open, less glassy, and we clearly saw that closed adoption was good for nobody.

my sister is a "victim" of a closed adoption.  i phrased it in those terms because this happened to her, without any choosing of her own, and there is nothing she could have done to have changed it.  she does not know where she came from, other people who look like her, or what ever happened to any of them.  she has no medical information on her biologicals and does not know anything about that part of her.  her paperwork is a jungle of holes - and so is her heart.  just imagine not knowing.

she did her best to steer us towards open adoption, but it was not the time when will and i were ready to process it.  sure, we heard her, but we really were focused on US - and how the birth parents could endanger US and OUR future.  but God gave us those hurdles, and with time to focus we met people like Cathy W. who had just recently adopted her son Gus.  Gus has an open relationship with his birth parents and we saw it wasn't so scary.  At about the same time we met Kierstin W., who has an adopted daughter Kaycee, who also relishes in an open adoption.  God was giving us examples of how we needed to be and how we needed to change our views.

by viewing other people's open adoptions more carefully it led us to really begin to research open adoption and how it could work in our lives.  it was through classes with Bethany that we learned that our selfishness was not a reason to deprive our child of a link to their past, and our own insecurities were not a reason to deny this sweet birth family a connection to their biological child.  in time we got over OURSELVES, and saw that we needed to do what was right for our child and right for everyone involved.  we decided on an open adoption.

we set our profile wide open, knowing that God would bring us the child we were meant to parent.  it was not too long after our book went active that we had a match.  we met with that expectant family and started to see what an open relationship was going to look like.  that family had multiple other children and this baby would be their 5th.  we'd never considered how openness would change us.  we left that meeting and went home and prayed for that sweet family and that God would make things happen how he best saw fit.  we prayed for the expectant father to find a new job, for the expectant mother to have a safe and easy labor and not to have to work so many jobs, and for their children to be happy and well adjusted.  but, that is all that relationship ended up being.  it was an open "visit" and that was the end of it.  the match failed and we still continue to pray for that family every day.  we'll never know what happened to them or where they ended up, but through openness they have people praying for them and their future.

openness led us to be chosen again shortly after this failed match.  we were guarded when we met expectant mother #2, and no matter how hard we tried, we were just a little closed off.  we were nervous that what happened before would happen again.  but openness gives you a fragility that you would not have if you were closed off.  this fragility is part of living, its really feeling your emotions, knowing pain, knowing joy, and having it all flutter inside of you.  this expectant mom was unwavering.  she gave us ultrasound photos right away, and she'd decided that we were the ones.  it was amazing to be there with her and to have this face to face meeting before our son was born.  we got to know her, what she liked, what she did not like, and answer any questions she had.  we talked about our level of openness and what we were seeking.  we talked about the future.  we all agreed that we'd meet 4 times per year and we'd share communication by phone/email in between those visits.  it was good to settle on something, something realistic, and something we could all count on.  setting our expectations were important, and we all needed some clear and focused gauge of knowing what the other person was seeking.

shortly after our son was born we were called to come to the hospital.  because of openness we were allowed in the birthmother's hospital room and we got to sit with her and spend time with our son.  because of openness we were allowed to take pictures to share with our friends and family who had prayed so long for this baby to find us.  because of openness we started our relationship with our son's birthmother and her family.

our first visit was just after the revocation period had expired.  will and i were scared, but we knew we had to do it.  see, in the state in which we live, open adoption agreements are not legal documents - they are moral covenants.  in having an open relationship you represent not only your family name and what you've agreed to, but you also represent the agency you are working with.  our agency strongly reminds adoptive parents of this fact.  we never thought for a moment we would not get in the car and drive to the birth mother's house that day, but it was just not an easy thing to do.  i was worried.  i was not worried she was going to take the baby, but i was worried she'd regret her decision.  not her decision to place the child for adoption, but to place the child with us.  i was worried we would not appear to be good parents and she'd worry that she'd picked the wrong people.  i was worried about dax's outfit, how he looked, how she thought he'd look, worried that his hat was too big, his socks were falling off, or that we would not know how to change a diaper in front of everyone.  it was this nervous energy that was making us scared,  not what you'd think you'd be afraid of.  i was just worried we'd let her down.

think how far we'd come.  i mean after all, just one year prior we thought of a birthmother like a villan, and now she's a real person and someone we genuinely wanted to impress and prove ourselves to.  look how much time had changed us.  we came to see how birthparents are a gift.  the time we spend with them is a treasure and something to cherish.  they are part of our children's history - the part that fills in the holes - answers the questions - and makes sense of it all.  these wonderful people gave us the ultimate gift and entrusted us with raising this child.  the least we could do is to respond to their emails, send them pictures, and go visit them whenever we can.

we're an open book now.  after our most recent visit with our birthmom and a thunder storm that caused us to become separated in a park, i had gone into a panic mode when i realized i did not have our birthmom's cell phone number.  fear set in when i thought for a flash of a moment that she'd think we'd abandoned her there.  as soon as we found her and she was safely out of the rain i asked for the number.  she now has ours too.  we email pretty much 3 times a week and we talk about what's going on in each other's lives.  were there when she needs us and she's there when we need her, and we never let each other down.  if you think you won't need her as much as she needs you, just be open and you'll see how much you really do need her.  its openness that's built this relationship and openness that will carry us far into the future with each other.  we originally said we'd meet 4 times annually and so far (in 5 months) we've met 4 times and we've got a 5th visit in the works for june.  this visit is one that i planned.  she never asked for it.  we just feel like its right to meet about every 2 months.  we also pray that she and her family will feel comfortable enough to come to dax's 1st birthday party this fall, and hope we can strive for 6 visits total this year.  sure, its more than she asked for, but its what seems right - right now.  we're changed.  we're grateful to God and everyone who helped to get us here, and we would not have it any other way.


BumbersBumblings said...

This was beautiful, Adrienne! Loved it!

Melodie said...

you've written it all so well!

Kierstin said...

Tears... I'm sooooooo glad you wrote this sooooo beautifully. I am sharing this with many friends and family!! I love you dear friend...

Kelly Smith said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that with stories like yours people will see how many shades of wonderful adoption is.

We have three children, all adopted through foster care (involuntarily terminated). Our adoptions are closed but I understand that someday my children may want to find their birthparents. I used to be so comforted knowing that our adoptions were closed. I used to be thankful that we wouldn't have to be bothered by them or deal with the drama (and truth be told, I will always feel that way about one or two of the birthparents, an open adoption truly wouldn't have worked). Then one day I saw an adoption reunion show on TV where one of the adoptive parents was saying that if a mother had enough love for more than one child then certainly a child could have enough love for more than one mother. As my children grow up I'm saddened that they will have to tell their birthparents the story of their lives, that their birthparents can't share in some of their growing up as it happens. How wonderful that your child's birthparents can be part of his lives now.

Ashley said...

What a great post! I'm thankful for our open adoption as well!

Cat's Litterbox said...

I love it. I love that you've changed, you've grown, and you are HAPPY.

God brings people into our lives for specific reasons and I'm so thankful that you were open to listening to what others were telling you about their experiences with open adoption.

As you know, it's not easy and it's not always going to be sunny... but it IS what's best for Dax and what a gift you've given him by allowing him to remain part of his biological roots. He has the best of both worlds-- parents that love him and care for him, and biological family that loved him so very much they gave him you guys. <3

I pray that your journey through open adoption continues to grow, develop, mature, and stay as incredible as it is now.

I'm glad you got his birth mom's cell and you gave her your number. All adoptions go through changes, and there might come a time when she doesn't want as much contact, and you might want less contact, but for now it's what it needs to be and everyone is happy.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for being such a great example of what an open heart and listening to God looks like.

Love you friend!!!

abby said...

Great post!

We have an open adoption agreement with our son's birth family. I'm so thankful that God has worked that out for her to be in our lives.

Looking forward to following your journey!