We first met Theo’s birthparents a few months before his birth, a sparkling May just over four years ago. His late July birth took place during the stickiest summer on record – a blur of thick wet heat, whirling fans, dripping sweat, icy drinks, joy and sorrow amid a confusion of visits by birthfamily, friends, neighbours and family.
Here’s are a few things I’ve learned in the ensuing 4 years (not all– just a few things).
Open adoption is not just a single relationship but many. We’ve had visits and conversations with various members of Theo’s birthfamilies but the permutations and combinations of people shifts and evolves constantly and will continue to do so over time as people move, regroup, breakup, meet others and so on.
We need to actively open our door. Just because we don’t hear from Theo’s birthfather or mother or grandmother or auntie does not mean they aren’t available, willing and interested in being connected. A recent visit with Theo’s birthdad, sister and mom proved this point.
Open adoption isn’t just about the child. Of course, the health and well-being of Theo is central to all decisions but I believe that it’s vital for (many) birthparents all the way up to grandparents to know and see that the child they placed for adoption is secure and loved. I’d hate to wonder and worry about the people that gave us the gift of parenthood. It’s a relief to see everyone grow in ease and confidence as part of an open relationship as well as, as people in their own right.
Open adoption increases (not decreases) my confidence as an adoptive parent. I know my son better through seeing his birth aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents but I also recognize his individuality. You can see biology in his body, his physicality, and some of his interests but there’s not doubt that he walks his own path. I no longer feel self-conscious about being a transracial adoptive family. I have his birthfamily’s love, support and connection, and Theo has a tangible link to his culture and biology so that when he needs to, as Lori Holden would say, “drink from the well” of his history, he can.
Open adoption is emotionally taxing. Open adoption isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Pre-visit lead ups are a source of huge anxiety with a side of intense house cleaning. Theo is only just 4. He still does not understand the magnitude of what adoption is. The penny has not dropped for him. I’m never sure if visits are good, bad or neutral for him. For now, he seems to enjoy the excitement of these ‘birthfamily’ visitors; he knows they are special and they look like him. Further than that, he’s still not able to express his feelings. Only time will tell.
Open adoption can yield surprising and unexpected benefits. We now have a high-school aged birthauntie who lives close by on the babysitting roster. She’s got deep brown skin, curly hair a sunny personality and a smile a mile wide just like Theo.
Have you had any recent revelations about open adoption, adoption or anything related?