Recently, I was asked to blog about the hard parts of open adoption.
We keep a lot of our adoption details private. Not because we are ashamed or stuck up, but because we believe in respecting the privacy of our children and their birth families. Adoption is complicated. Or, my favorite word to describe our adoptions: bittersweet.
I greatly admire our children's birth families for agreeing to be part of an open adoption. Why? Because sometimes it's easier just NOT to know. NOT to feel. NOT to "go there" (wherever there is at the moment). I cannot imagine how simultaneously difficult it is to see their child being raised by someone else while also feeling immense joy to have accessibility to their children through phone calls and texts and letters and pictures and visits.
Open adoption presents many challenges for all triad members. (Triad=birth families, adoptive parents, and the child who was adopted---also called an adoptee.) Adoptive parents make sacrifices of time and energy to keep adoptions open. For example, my family makes 2-4 trips a year to our kids' birth city which is about four hours away from our home. We usually stay 2-4 days per trip. We also, as adoptive parents, have to deal with reoccurring emotions surrounding openness. These emotions may be frustration, jealousy, and disappointment.
Perhaps the most difficult part for us, as the adoptive parents, is explaining open adoption and the letdowns/disappointments we've had to our maturing children. These disappointments include cancelled visits, no-show birth family members, or unmet expectations of what a visit should or shouldn't be. Openness also triggers questions of absent birth family members: who they are, where they are, and why they aren't available.
For birth parents, I can only imagine that it's hard to see us, the adoptive parents, making all the decisions and holding the power in the situation, even when we work very hard to "even the playing field," offering love and respect to the biological family members, accommodating their needs for more or less contact at any given time. The truth is, there will always be an imbalance, a dash of discomfort, and the reality that adoption is messy from the get-go and that messiness is always, to some degree, present. I am certain they imagine what life would be like had they of parented. And I have, at times, felt tremendous guilt for being a parent through adoption.
I admire them for the faith they have in us. I want to do "right by them." I want them to know I love my kids with all my heart, and I am beyond honored to have been chosen to parent my children.
We have promised to fulfill our end of the bargain. We keep our promises. Always. We show up, on time, with a good attitude. We are excited to see them. We take photos. We converse. We ask questions about hair care and family traditions. We celebrate their victories (a new job, a new apartment, a new baby). We encourage them to press on during challenging seasons.
Our goal in open adoption is to provide our children with access to their biological family members. And not just access (to things like health information), but relationship. The opportunity for relationship.
We don't want to ever be the ones who close the door.
So we fight through our feelings. We compromise. We make adjustments.
We realize we are incredibly fortunate to have openness. Our children will have choices growing up. Choices regarding contact, regarding information, regarding opportunities. Not all adoptees have openness.
Is open adoption easy?
Is it beneficial?
Is it hard?
Is it best?
For us, yes.
Openness is a journey through a relationship. There are ebbs and flows.
But I'm not throwing in the towel, not out of selfishness or a desire to have an easier life. We didn't just adopt and move on. We adopted FOR LIFE. We chose this path.
We chose the messiness.
The beautifully broken.
So until our children are old enough to take the reigns in their open adoptions, deciding if they want more or less, we will keep at it. And whatever our children decide in the future, we want them to know that we support them and that we always worked to keep the open-adoption door wide open.
For now, I know one thing for certain: the kids' birth families and us, we love the children we share. Deeply. We want what is best for them. We want them to flourish. We want them to do life big.
And that is the tie that binds us.
To learn more about open adoption, please check out the chapter entitled Two Mommies, Two Daddies: Navigating Open Adoption in my book Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children