You've met Stacey here before. They have two beautiful children through adoption. Both of their adoptions happen to be local and they share an open relationship with their children's birth mothers. I've watched as they have worked to honor these women and the important role they have in their family, created healthy boundaries, and loved them well. Today Stacey is kind enough to share more about the relationships they have built within their adoptions.
Every now and then someone will ask us, "Do you ever see their parents?" And I'll say, "Well good golly, I see myself in the mirror every day!" Buuut not really. I know they are referring to their birth parents, so I'll actually say, "Yes! We text and email, and get together regularly! Just like any other family." And I get it, when they look surprised. That's not the way things used to be, and it's not the way things were done even just one generation ago (although that is a good thing). Open adoption sounds a little scary to some people. I get it.
Before we even began our adoption process, I followed several blogs written by adoptive parents. Two of them in particular had very open adoptions and I loved reading about their families. It helped open my eyes to how wonderful and positive open adoption can be, and I wanted something like that! In early 2012 we were "matched" with an expectant mama who wanted a semi-open adoption - she did not want to know our last name, where we lived, and did not want to see us again unless the baby was older and asked to do so.
Then we met for the first time.
She told us, "I don't want to be an intrusion on your lives." We said,
"You will never be an intrusion on our lives. We want to know you, in whatever capacity you are comfortable with."
She was still confident that she only wanted to know basic information about us, and to only communicate going forward with a dedicated email address. We soaked up every minute we had together, wanting to remember every detail of these amazing people we had fallen in love with. In the end, she decided to parent her son. Today, we have reconnected via Facebook and she is an amazing mother and a brave, strong woman.
Today we have two beautiful children born from two absolutely beautiful women - their birth mothers. How can I not love this person like crazy? Two open adoptions, two birth families, and two unique relationships. We email, text often, Facebook, and regularly get together. We live across town from each other, but still no more than a thirty minute drive. We have been to their houses. They have been to ours, and sat on our couch and stayed late and joined us for dinner at our dining room table.
They are our good friends, and they are our family.
The thing about open adoption is this: our children (and your children, if you have adopted) come from a family of origin. They were adopted into our family, their forever family. These two realities coexist together - it is not an either/or situation, but a both/and situation. I love my children fiercely, and because I love them, I love all of them - and this includes where they came from. We hope to raise our kids to not feel like they have to choose, to feel whole, and to have access to the full picture of their identity. We want our daughter to know that she wrinkles her nose like her birth mom, and our son to know that his blue eyes match his birth grandma's. One day when they have hard questions about their birth, and about why adoption was chosen for them - I want them to have access to the source, to the person who loves them so much that she made that difficult decision.
I want them to not have to wonder, "Did my birth mom love me?" because what do you know! They just saw their birth mom last month and she gave them a big hug and told them that she loves them, in person!
Open adoption has blessed me so much.
I'm aware that our situation might be a bit unique. Even at its very best, just like any other relationship, it takes work. Sometimes there's conflict. It isn't co-parenting, and there are boundaries - just like any other relationship. Your situation may involve addiction, or violence, or criminal activity, and less openness might be the very best thing for your child and family in that case. In those situations, something that I have found helpful is to imagine the same situation but with a different individual - for example, let's say that it's your cousin who is known to be using drugs. Would you completely cut off this relationship? Would you establish clear boundaries - like, they cannot come around while they are currently using - and do what you can to communicate in other healthy ways?
The fact is (and studies have confirmed) that some degree of openness is best for the most important person involved in this scenario - the child! Like I said before, our love for our children is fierce, isn't it? Because of that, I can work through some of my own fears, insecurities, and discomfort if needed.
There's no such thing as too many people to love a child. This is what openness in adoption means to me.
For Stacey's original post and more on their adoptions, you can find their blog at The Starks Adopt.