In the summer of 2013, we were chosen by a couple from Texas to be the parents of a baby girl who was due 4 months later. The expectant mother was thoughtful, organized, inquisitive, involved, and thorough. She asked a million questions before choosing us, and each time a new concern would arise, she’d ask if we could talk through them. She was independent, and stood her ground on making decisions she felt were in her child’s best interest, but having her family’s support brought her peace.
A couple of months before our daughter was born, we drove 12 hours to Texas and met her in person, along with the expectant father, and spent time getting to know each other. They asked if we’d feel comfortable meeting their three children, and if it was okay if her mother came to breakfast and met us, too. I was beside myself with excitement and nerves. In our other adoption, extended family members were far from involved. Leading up that visit, I realized I wasn’t concerned about the expectant grandmother liking me because I was afraid of a disrupted adoption plan; I wanted her to like me because I wanted her to feel peace in her heart should this expectant mom follow through with her adoption plan.
That morning at breakfast, an open-minded grandmother met me at my car. She hugged me and sat quietly, observant of how I played with her grandchildren, asking a few questions about what our life was like and what our other open adoption was like. She was warm and inviting, she held no judgments, and she welcomed us with open arms. I remember sitting at that breakfast, realizing my nerves had washed away, and the only thing that replaced them was excitement that this woman might be my child’s grandmother.
That night, I got a Facebook friend request from her. I felt at peace, knowing we had eased her fears. I immediately accepted her friend request, giving her full access to my full Facebook past. I had nothing to be ashamed of; I had spoken with respect about open adoption, I had shared realistic glimpses of our life, and I knew that this was one additional opportunity to help her find peace over the situation. Through Facebook, she could quickly get a better picture of who we were and the life her granddaughter might become a part of.
A couple of days later, my husband and I said our good-byes to the expectant parents and started the 12-hour drive back home. A few hours into our drive, I got a Facebook message from my daughter’s Nana. She told me she loved us already, and that we were wonderful people. She said she would love to welcome us into her life, and supported her daughter through whatever choices she made. She was thankful for who we were, and I couldn’t write back quickly enough to tell her how thankful we were for her, too.
Our daughter was born one day after her Nana’s birthday, which we think is a nod to how connected and close they will always be. Halloween came just two weeks later, and we were still in Texas spending time with our daughter’s birth family during ICPC (Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children). We trick-or-treated with our daughter’s birth family that night, and I sent photos of all of the kids dressed up to her Nana.
I remember her asking me that night whether I was OK with our daughter still calling her Nana like her other grandchildren did. “I’d love if your son called me that too,” she said. I can’t even explain that feeling . . . the feeling of knowing that my son was loved and included, too, when he lacked that relationship in his life. She is not only an important part of my daughter’s life, but she’s someone my son frequently asks about, too. When she comes bearing gifts for my daughter, there is always something in hand for my son, too. This is just one example of her inclusiveness, something that has been a focal point of our relationship from the very beginning.
My daughter’s Nana gives me confidence and reassurance that the ties we have in this open adoption relationship will never weaken. Her comments on the photos I post on Facebook always make me smile, because she is constantly giving me her vote of confidence. When we visit, she is present and engaged with us and is just as warm and inviting as she was that very first day we met her. She has a sense of humor about how we’ve all had to fumble through the beginnings of this relationship, and extends grace and a sense of ease even when we’re all trying to find our footing.
The thing is: I can tell she has faith in all of us, and I know the love she has for our daughter is equal to the love she has for her other grandchildren. This is one less thing that we have to worry about as our daughter assesses how adoption has made her different, and her love for our son will ease the gap in his life as well. Her contribution to our grafted family is invaluable. After all, she’s the woman who raised my daughter’s mother, a woman we’ve come to respect as being both soft and bulletproof at the same time.
It’s Nana Julie who has taught me exactly what open adoption can be. Through her patience and kindness, and her ability to treat us as if we’ve always been a part of her family, she’s made me see that I can open my doors even more. As she’s welcomed me under her huge family tree (which has included aunts, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, cousins and friends), I’ve realized how easy it is for me to do the same. This family has made me forget a time when they didn’t exist, and it’s because she—as the matriarch of her family—welcomed us with open arms and full faith.