Barbara, Like Sadie, I feel like an ambassador for open adoption. My husband Jeff was adopted in 1963 and we adopted a domestic newborn in…...
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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love
“Why Do You Have an Open Adoption?”
"Do you want to join my friend Molly and me for a girls’ night out, dinner and a few drinks?” my friend Sarah asked me not too long ago. "Yes! Yes, I do!" I responded excitedly. I had not seen my dear friend in some time and was really looking forward to catching up with her. My husband and I haven’t gone out much since Max’s arrival, but like most parents, we occasionally welcome the time away.
When our girls’ night out finally arrived, I put Max to bed. My husband settled in with the DVR and rented some gun-flinging, fist-flying, heavy-on-the-special-effects movie I would never want to watch. Out the door I went!
When I arrived at the restaurant, Sarah and Molly (whom I had never met) were already there. As I sat down, they were discussing their children. I ordered a margarita and settled in, ready for good conversation over great food. As we chatted, the subject matter ranged from childcare and kids to cell phones. At some point during our conversation, they began to discuss their labor and delivery experiences.
Sarah, aware that Max is adopted, didn’t find it odd that I was not sharing the details of my own experience. Molly, who is a very sweet person, eventually looked at me and said, “We haven’t let you get a word in edgewise. Did you have an easy labor?" I was going to reply with something along the lines of, “No, I didn’t. It took hours and hours before we were finally able to meet our son!” That isn’t a lie. Max was born in Florida, and we live in Ohio. We set out for Florida on a Sunday, taking two days to make the drive and arriving in Florida on Monday. Max was born on Tuesday, and we picked him up from the hospital on Thursday. So we literally spent days waiting in a hotel room before we were able to meet Max! I consider that my labor and delivery experience.
I was just about to reply when Sarah spoke up and said, “Oh, I should have told you. Sharon adopted her son." Molly clearly felt uncomfortable, and I did my best to reassure her that all was fine. The misunderstanding actually made space for a beautiful conversation about my adoption experiences.
Just when I thought the conversation had run its course, Molly asked me one last question. “So, why do you guys have an open adoption?" It’s one of the questions we are most commonly asked. It’s so common a question, in fact, that back when we first began to discuss our adoption plan, my husband even asked why we would have one.
When deciding what type of adoption we wanted for our son, I couldn't help but think about my own adoption experience. Did I want a similar situation for Max or something different? For me, growing up, I didn’t have a desire to seek out my birth family. I had no desire to form a relationship with people who were strangers to me. To me, family is the group of people I grew up with. My parents are the people who raised me from the age of 4. And the very few memories I have of living with my birth family prior to being placed with my forever family are not enjoyable. For this reason, my lack of desire to rekindle a relationship with my birth family is something that I am easily able to understand.
But what if somewhere down the road, that desire did exist? What if I wanted to ask my birthmother or birthfather why things happened the way they did? What if I wanted to know the most basic of things, like whom do I resemble? I have no pictures of myself until I am 4 years old. Maybe my birthparents have baby pictures of me that they would be willing to share. If the desire to find my birth family arose, my ability to find them would be seriously impaired by the limited information I have because of my closed adoption. (Though my siblings and I never sought out our birthparents, when I was 17 years old, my birthmother located us. This is a subject I will discuss in a later blog post.)
After a lot of soul searching, I decided I wanted our son to feel differently about knowing his birth family than I feel about knowing mine. Because the circumstances surrounding our son’s adoption vary so greatly from mine, I expect that Max will eventually want to know his birth family. If there was someone who had made such an amazing sacrifice for me, I think I would want to know that person.
Furthermore, if Max has questions about whom he looks like, I want to be able to pull out pictures and show him. If he wants to know what circumstances lead to his birth family formulating an adoption plan for him, I want him to have someone to seek out and ask. If he wants to know whom his musical talents come from or why he so easily gets ear infections (is the propensity for them hereditary?), I want that information to be available to him. If he wants to know what course his birthmother's life took after placing him for adoption, I want to be able to say, “Here, this is what I know." I want to be able to give him a way to reach out to his birth family if he so desires.
Our son is too young right now to make this decision, so my husband and I are making the decision we feel is best for him. In the end, the decision to maintain continued contact with his birth family is our son’s decision alone. I have no idea if he will want a continued relationship with his birth family or not. But if he does, I want to know that we have done all we can so that he will not have to look far to find them. The decision we have made to maintain an open adoption is not the best answer for all adoptive families, but we believe it is best for our family.
When Molly asked me, “Why do you have an open adoption?” I responded from the heart. I said, “Our son’s birth family is a very important part of his life. They are a part of him just as we are. He is just a really lucky little boy with tons of family to love him!”
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