Friday, November 09, 2012

Who's afraid of...

open adoption?

I'm posting this for National Adoption Week. Many adopters are telling their stories and publicising adoption. I'd like to share a little more about why we chose the type of adoption that we did and what it means to us - and why it's not that scary. Open adoption can be any kind of adoption where there is some contact between adoptive and birth families, but it's more usually taken to mean one where families meet directly.

We were probably a little rosy in our view of open adoption when we heard of it first. We knew that wherever we adopted from we wouldn't be sharing first steps, first day at school, or family parties with our child's birth family, but we had read how important it is for children to know something about both their genetic (and national/cultural) origins and the real circumstances of their birth families, both to feel connected to where they came from and so that they don't think (like Lily in Modern Family) that their birth mother was a princess.

I've posted about this before in bits and pieces, and I know other adopters have strong views, and I also know that people are entitled to make choices for their own children that they feel are right for them. For some children meeting their birth family is just plain unsafe. I know some prospective adopters wish for that kind of adoption! And others worry about children who were abused meeting their abusers again, while others have said "but if a baby has never lived with their birth parents, why do they need a relationship now?" And we know the choices we make now are the ones that are right for us, now, and that we have made for Baby Spouse's future. They are not necessarily the ones he'll make for himself in the future.

But we were lucky enough to be able to chat to Nella (what I call his birth mother here) before he was born, on the phone. She still has a number that she can call us on, that goes to our home phone when we have scheduled a call (and to voice mail when we haven't).  She saw pictures of us and of our home, without having our address or location. We think this reassured her that we were going to be the right parents for her baby boy.

She has not led a rosy life, and we came to understand more and more of that as we got to know her (we knew some of it when we said yes we'd be happy for her to consider us).   She has two other children but she hasn't been able to raise either of them. Her parents tried to help her in the past but have decided they were just making things worse, and they are bringing up her older daughter.  Her other child was removed and placed in foster care, and subsequently adopted. Because of this and other risks she took (that placed, and continue to place, Baby Spouse at risk) she knew she could not take our son home from the hospital.

She also can be quite unreliable - not turning up when she says she will, calling us daily and then not for weeks - and we know that if and when Baby Spouse starts to be aware of who she is and to wonder why she's unreliable, we would have to moderate things, and explain things. And that's hard. But we feel it's less hard than having him wonder.  Most children who have been adopted have some very difficult information in their past. If their birth families had a lovely life, they wouldn't have needed to be adopted.

But we have a photo of her holding him when he was tiny.  And a photo of us all together. And we have met her daughter and her parents, and we have plans to meet them all again.

Our social worker thinks that what we have set up - we have an informal agreement for photos and visits (which, in the UK, would be called "letterbox" and "contact" but however difficult Nella may be and her life may be, really, she's Baby Spouse's family and with family you send photos and you have visits) - is pretty amazing. We don't really feel that way - we just think it's doing what we can for our baby. What we continue to do may not be the same. We'll see. But we'll try.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mara just turned 5 and we've had contact with her family for a little over a year. I think the times her parents have let her down (not showed up for visits, not called when they said they would) have sort of been a good thing because they're helping her see for herself some of the chaos and disorganization that kept them from being able to parent her successfully. I know it's deeply painful to my partner, who had a bio dad who also would break promises, to see this happen, but Mara defintely rolls with it. I'm glad you seem to be doing the same.