I often tell people that my family and I are blessed to have a “perfect” open adoption. When I say this two conflicting thoughts enter my head: (1) I know there’s no such thing as a “perfect” adoption, and (2) but if there was, our son’s adoption is pretty darn close. So, what’s our secret? Did we simply just luck out? Was God or some higher power watching over us? I mean, I’m sure that all played a role, but I’m going to give you what I think is the number one thing we’ve done that has made our open adoption so amazing, and I can sum it all up in one word: relationship.
When we were in the midst of filling out mounds of paperwork to begin the adoption process, one of the big topics revolves around how open you are willing to be with your adoption. Legally speaking, adoptive parents don’t have to allow birth parents any type of contact, but through all of our research and classes, my husband and I knew we wanted to have an open adoption because we felt that would be in the best interest of our future child. Our adoption agency had a formula worked out–they asked for letters and pictures to send to the child’s birth family every three months for the first year, and then once a year after that. I think this was to ensure that adoptive families at least did that minimum when it came to openness. I was fine with this set up, but I was hoping it could become more.
When writing my generic “dear expectant mother” letter, the agency, once again, suggested we discuss our plans for having an open adoption. I had such a hard time writing it. I couldn’t bring myself to say, “We are open to sharing letters and pictures and having visits X times a year.” It made it seem so final–so absolute with very little room for discussion or growth. I didn’t want my future child’s relationship with his birth parents to be so set. It felt like I was in court drawing up a custody agreement for parents who were getting divorced. I have a stepson, and I’ve dealt with my fair share of custody arrangements. I didn’t want adoption to be like that.
Also, I can’t live my life based on a schedule I may or may not be able to keep. What if we can’t make one of our planned monthly meeting times? What if our child’s birth parents are not in a stable, safe point in their lives and we don’t feel comfortable meeting with them? What if our child was uncomfortable with the visits or us sharing information? What if, what if, what if…the “what ifs” were driving me crazy. What I ended up writing in the letter was this: “We are open to sending you letters and pictures, using private social media, and should you choose it, we are open to visits as well. It is important that you are comfortable with your choice. And as our relationship grows and changes, this can grow and change as well. We pride ourselves on being a flexible family.”
My use of the word “relationship” was deliberate. I never wanted open adoption to be a burden or obligation. I wanted a relationship. Relationships grow and change. They are living, breathing entities that allow room for all of the people involved to learn about each other and figure out how best to interact. I am blessed and proud to say what we have with my son’s birth parents is a true relationship. We text nearly every day, we make plans to see each other often because we genuinely want to see each other. I love hanging out with them, and most often they stay over well past the time when our son goes to bed. (In fact, one day they came over after he was already asleep because they wanted to play with the puppies we were fostering!) They are friends and they are family. It’s not always easy, and I know as our son grows up he will have questions, but my hope is that since he knows and has a relationship with his birth parents he’ll be able to have his questions answered and his fears assuaged. And, most importantly, he’ll always know how much we all love him.
I’d love to hear from other people on how you make your open adoption awesome. Share your stories in the comments, and let’s continue to spread the positivity!