Sitting in the adoption agency five years ago I heard the words, “There is no such thing as an open adoption.” My brain registered the words coming from the mouth of yet another new caseworker, while my very soul remembered the words that came from my caseworker five years before, “Yes, we can do an open adoption.”
I sat gripping the edges of the grey upholstered chair and looked around at my surroundings. The agency had redesigned itself, and nothing looked familiar to me. The caseworkers were strangers, the photos on the walls were all new, and it seemed that a bulldozer had struck relentlessly and without concern, erasing my relinquishment from history. “What do you mean there is no such thing as an open adoption?” I asked this tall twenty-something behind her new, fancy desk.
“It means just that. There is no such thing. By law, any adoption performed and finalized is treated legally as a closed adoption.”
I sat still for a moment, trying to contain the fury within me. As cautiously as possible, I lowered my voice to hide the pain and spoke, almost in a whisper, “Then why was I told five years ago that what I was getting was an open adoption?”
She rustled her paperwork and darted her eyes to avoid my gaze. The air in the room was thick with resentment and uneasiness. I almost wanted to wave it away with my arm, but my arms were frozen at my sides. She blew air out of her mouth, lifting the wisps of hair from her eyes, and while cocking her head she replied, “I don’t know what you were told, if you even remember what you were told, but it doesn’t change anything. There is nothing we can do.”
I had to pull my body from the chair that day. I forced myself to thank the caseworker. I walked without feeling my legs to the back door, and while my steps took me to my car, my heart told me to go back. That couldn’t be it. That shouldn’t be it. There had to be a reason, some kind of explanation, some sense of support or validation.
I sat in my car parked across the street. Though I shook uncontrollably, I felt numb inside.
I stared through my windshield at the building that had once housed my last moments of motherhood. The meeting I’d shared with my son’s future parents, the tears each of us cried, the promises we made. The last hour I had, holding my baby in my arms in a room all alone where I sang to him his very first lullabies. The promise of letters and pictures, the hope for communication, the trust and faith gathered up and placed in the arms of strangers. The last kisses, the last touches, the final goodbye.
That was five years ago. I’ve gone back since then. And I will go again. I will sit in that chair and look into the eyes of yet another caseworker. Because truly … there is such a thing as an open adoption.
It is never too late to reach for understanding. It is not enough to accept the unacceptable and walk away with your tail between your legs. For ten years I’ve struggled with insecurity, telling myself, “Who am I to ask for answers?” or, “Maybe I just heard wrong, maybe it’s my fault.”
Wherever you are in your adoption, it is not too late. Whether you are a birth parent or adoptive parent wondering why promised communication has ceased, answers are there. It is never too late.
That’s why I’ll continue to go back, year after year, asking questions and continuing my search. It is never too late.
Side note : I’ve been reading “How To Open an Adoption,” by Patricia Martinez Dorner. I recommend this book to anyone in a similar situation to mine, either adoptive parent or birth parent seeking some answers.