“Are you sitting down?” the caseworker asked me when I answered the phone. I wasn’t but certainly learned from firsthand experience why you should sit down when you get big news! I quickly became lightheaded with excitement and nerves when she said, “A baby girl was born yesterday and her birth mother has chosen you and your husband.” Soon after, I was on a plane headed to Detroit.
It was love at first sight. A name was chosen. And a week later my husband and I were meeting our daughter’s birth mother, Latice. It was a very emotional day. My husband and I were overwhelmed with the amount of humility she possessed. It’s hard to express it adequately, but we felt a deep, intense love for her and wanted nothing but to embrace her as a member of our family. We laughed together, cried together, and took pictures. We expressed our desire to make it possible to see each other over the years and keep in contact through phone calls and emails. She seemed surprised but said that would be fine.
We talked on the phone a few times, but within months we lost contact. We kept sending letters to the agency so they’d be on file for her. But our caseworker told us that Latice would know how to find us if she felt the desire to connect. I suspect it was too painful for her? Perhaps it was just too overwhelming? Honestly, I don’t think she even knew open adoption was a possibility when she decided to place her baby with us. Adoption was a hard decision to make, one she felt was the best based on her circumstances, and then…it would be over? I don’t know. Losing contact with Latice has been a source of uneasiness for a long time now. We feel so strongly that having her presence in our daughter’s life is important, but this one is out of our control for now.
So, how do we keep it “open” when, well, things are closed?
I feel the most important piece in creating an open adoption is having an open heart. We may not have contact with our daughter’s birth mother for the time being, but our hearts are always open so when she is ready, we’ll be here waiting with arms and hearts wide open.
In the meantime, we are open with our daughter about her adoption story. We use her birth mother’s name and talk about when we met her. We remember and share the details. She has a picture of them together on her wall. We pray for her, we speak of her, we honor her. We talk about what the future could be like, maybe finding her again, but also recognize and honor her birth mother’s choice in that decision as well. We answer questions and are completely honest. We may not see or have communication with our daughter’s birth mother, however, she is as much a part of our lives as we can make her.
It may not be what a traditional open adoption looks like, but it’s our daughter’s. She gets to own every part of her story, and for now, this is what it includes.
I hope that one day we are able to connect again and I remain hopeful by hearing your successful reuniting stories. Thank you for continuing to share your stories. They matter.
Have you lost contact with your child’s birth family? How do you explain it to your child? What do you do to keep your adoption open, even without contact? I’d love to hear your ideas.