Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sometimes open adoption is hardest for those on the outside.

I oftentimes get asked about our open adoption relationship frequently hear responses such as "I don't know how you do it" or "I couldn't do what you do" in terms of sharing our boys with their birth family. For people not living an open adoption it can look confusing and hard to wrap your head around. Even within our own families (adoptive families and birth families in general)  there are times where we have to answer questions and in some cases, family members never come around. I'm not great at speaking in the moment and conveying what I really want to say. Writing comes far more naturally for me and there have been so many times when I think back and wish I would have said this or that. Now, two years in I've learned a few things that I'm going to put in writing here.

Open adoption doesn't start out feeling natural. Rarely does any relationship. There is nothing natural about a mother choosing another family to parent her child and then kissing them goodbye with tears streaming down her face as they go home with their new family. It doesn't feel natural to go against your instincts to keep your baby all to yourself or to feel as though you are "stealing" a baby away from his/her birth family and all they have ever known to give them more, when you know their birth family is perfectly capable of raising them and giving them a good life.

Katy and I have always felt a natural connection, but that doesn't mean that an open adoption relationship always feels natural. In the early months, I had to work more at my emotions. I was still insecure in my role as mom. I wanted the boys to know me and need me as mom and I also probably felt like more like a babysitter than their mom for awhile. All of the pain that I had felt leading up to becoming a mom led me to hold on tight, sometimes too tight. Sharing them was sometimes hard because I knew that she loved them just as much as I did and I also knew that she was still familiar to them and in some ways that felt threatening because of my own insecurities. Were they more comfortable with her, did they love her more? Even though Katy has told me so many times that she loves seeing me be their mom, I know this journey hasn't been without pain for her either.

As the months have progressed, I've been able to hold on a little less tightly. I'm secure in my role as mom and their love and need for me. I'm also secure in her role as their other mom and her love for them and their love for her no longer feels threatening.

Some of the questions I get are along the lines of isn't it confusing for the children? Asher and Lucas are only (almost) 2, so they don't fully get it yet, but kids are raised in all different types of families. They come from families with step parents and two households, parents of the same gender, and some are raised by grandparents. Any of these situations could be classified as confusing and sometimes there are tough emotions to process, but for my boys, this will be their normal. The adults are usually who make it confusing and complicated.

Another question is basically why we would choose open adoption. I think many feel this is for the sake of the birthfamily. First of all, I think there are many benefits for the birth family and I would never want Katy to wonder what they look like, if they are healthy and how they are doing. I can only imagine the torment that would cause a mother. But, if we put all of the adults aside, ourselves and their birthparents, we do this for the boys. Too many adult adoptees have grown up wondering why they were placed, where they came from, who they look like, or what their medical history holds. Just recently select states have started unsealing adoption records, but in most states adult adoptees still don't even have access to their original birth certificate. I repeat, it's their birth certificate and they are not allowed to see it or access it. They are not able to find their biological family and have questions answered, they don't know if they have siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. They can't complete health histories because they don't know anything beyond their own personal history. Our boys are ours and our family is theirs', but they do have another family. A biological family complete with siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents that love them and that they have to right to know.

So all in all, we do open adoption for our children. We do it because placing a child for adoption and signing over your parental rights to another family doesn't mean you also sign over your right to love and know your child is safe and healthy and well adjusted. It's not always easy and it's not always natural, but I truly feel it's what's best for all parties involved.