Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Open adoption is a gift
As unusual as it may be, our children are able to have fully open adoptions. I say "unusual" because two of my children were born in another country, adopted and brought to the United States and then that adoption was dissolved. After all of those events, it took a lot of effort to locate their first family (and someone willing to help us maintain that contact).
One of our children was born not terribly far from us, and she joined our family when she was seven months old. Her mother was prepared to make an adoption plan before her birth, but ran into some obstacles. She wanted a fully open adoption. Our agency only provided and trained adoptive parents for such. Yet, at the time, they had no waiting families who were open to a child of color.
Yeah. It still sucks the breath right out of me to remember hearing those words.
So, our agency told her that they were fully committed to helping her locate a family who would only participate in an open adoption. Until that happened, they were able to provide an amazing foster care situation (seriously, while foster care is never ideal, this family is truly a jewel). Her other option would be to go to another agency that might provide "levels of openness" but her child could be placed with a family at birth.
After all of the stories I have now heard about mothers being promised things before birth, only to have them change down the road, I am so very thankful that J not only made the choice she did but that it was even available to her! Our agency worked tirelessly to locate several families, and despite the fact that it had been many months, J ... as her child's mother ... selected who would parent her daughter. She was treated with every ounce of respect she deserved.
Fast forward almost a decade, to this sweet child who is at an age where they are processing their losses through adoption. Feeling so many things. Acting out to try to communicate what is going on. In those moments, on the hardest of days ... she has us both.
She can pick up the phone and call her very first mother. She can ask her anything. She can be mad at her and she can love her. She can sit in the lap of her adoptive mother while talking, or walk as far away from me as possible.
J and I also talk about how we are each trying to help her. We work together, and brainstorm how we can better help minimize any competitive feelings of loyalty. Both of us have breaking hearts for this child we love so much, yet we also have such love and respect for one another. I want to be everything to my child, but I'm not. I never will be. Many times in the last year and a half, I have had to step back and allow my child to get what she needs from the woman who loved her first. I also know that when I do that, I'm providing J with healing for her heart. It IS her place. It IS her role in our daughter's life.
I certainly had years of jealousy issues, knowing how my child would feel about their first mother and how that made ME feel as a mother. Yet, when I allowed myself to watch my daughter love me, I had to .... well, I had to grow up. She loves me. I am her mother. But she does have another mother. A woman who, even if we didn't have such positive circumstances and relationship, she would STILL have a primal connection with deep within her soul. When I acknowledge that relationship. When I say the words. When I say, "We both love you. You are our daughter," I cannot explain the amount of relief that comes over her face. It's immediate. She needs to know her very first mother loves her, and that her adoption was not because of anything she did. She needs J to be much more than just someone who "gave birth to you." She needs to know they have a connection. She needs to feel valued by her, as she is valued by me.
Every open adoption looks different. They can't all be like this. They AREN'T all like this in our home. Yet, we never stop striving for each of them being as healthy and accessible as possible. Right now, in our home and even amongst the tears and pain ...
Open adoption is a gift.
(photo by Billy Alexander, used with permission)