Love it, Barbara! I think a sense of wonder and play is essential to happiness. Looks like your father is imparting terrific wisdom to the…...
Adoption Blog: Improv Mom
Preparing for Our First Open-Adoption Visit With Our Daughter’s Birthmother
Finally, it’s here! This week, I received the two-year retrospective Snapfish album of my daughter’s life thus far. Actually, I ordered three—one for me and my husband, Tony, which will be the Keepsake Album; one for our daughter, Beth* (the I-Won’t-Have-a-Heart-Attack-as-She-Rips-Through-the-Pages-With-Buttered-Fingers-or-Worse-Because-We-Have-the-Keepsake-Album Album); and one for our daughter’s biological mother, Kim.*
Now this might sound strange, but throughout the adoption process I wasn’t exactly sure how open our open adoption would be. Since Kim came into our lives, I’ve been diligent about keeping in touch with her. In the months leading up to the birth, Kim and I talked about once a week. Kim and I talked in passing about sending notes and pictures but made no mention of future visits. Nothing was ever formally agreed upon. Perhaps this happened because Tony and I went the private-attorney route instead of using an agency, which seems to have set protocols. Maybe it was just our particular attorney. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe that kind of discussion would have finally made our heads explode.
As Kim's C-section date crept closer and closer, our conversations turned to the birth plan and—lucky us—Tony and I were part of the plan! We traveled out to Indiana the day before Beth was born and were in the waiting room when they brought her out screaming her little head off! We saw her get weighed, drink from her first bottle, and poop that first very small but very dangerous-looking, black gooey poop. Luckier still, we were able to begin bonding with Beth on her second day of life. With Kim’s blessing, the hospital staff asked if Tony and I would like to room with the baby, down the hall from Kim (free of charge too!). We felt like big-time jackpot winners in this crapshoot called adoption.
Leaving the hospital for the final time—us with our new baby and Kim with staples in her belly—was emotional to say the very least. I promised Kim that I would call as soon as we got home. Since that phone call, there have been several others. But mostly, giving an update means sending cheery, milestone-packed e-mails with the girl’s latest pictures and videos.
What Tony and I eventually received a month after our new little family returned home read more like a handy how-to guide than open-adoption agreement. It was three xeroxed pages from Kim’s attorney called "How to Create a Cherished Update" and a letter stating Kim wanted updates until Beth was 5 years old, “at which time, everyone will evaluate the situation to determine future updates,” which could mean future visits or not. Honestly, I was relieved. Life had become interesting enough with a newborn without the added stress of a visit. By the time Beth turned 2, Tony and I were sleeping more soundly and ready to explore how much openness we could handle.
And after reading articles about birthmother visits and talking through reality-show worthy what-if scenarios—like “What if Kim’s extended family hates us?”—we decided to arrange our first family visit with Kim. At this age, if the trip doesn’t go well, Beth will have little if no memory of it. If it does go well, we can go from there.
As we get closer and closer to our return trip to the state where Beth was born, I find myself getting anxious thinking about those what-if scenarios. Turning my attention to wrapping up the Snapfish album for Kim, I am reminded how special it is. This is the first album that has pictures of Beth’s birth family at the hospital, including her mother, father, brother, and aunt. My anxieties subside as I realize that yes, this feels scary, but we’re figuring it out as we go along. The bottom line is that it’s all about Beth and what’s best for her. And that is a question her birthmother answered a little over two years ago.
It’s hard to believe our baby girl is 2 already. I still have days when I can’t believe she is really here, even as I make my way across the living room floor, wading through plastic food items and farm animals. I think about her big hazel eyes and queenly demands for “more!”—“More tickles!” “More see cars!” “More vacuum cleaner!”—and for the umpteenth time, I realize how honored I am to be her mom.
I have one person to thank for that. And I’ll have the opportunity to do that again, very soon, in person.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
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Barbara HerelNew York
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