Friday, May 31, 2013

Roundtable #48: Why has or hasn't openness worked for you?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?

Before Baby Girl arrived I had an idea of what open adoption was about.  The birth family would attend birthday parties and a phone call could be made when Baby Girl yelled at me for the first time "You are not my real mom!  My real mom would let me do XYZ!"  That isn't our reality.  I found its not as cut and dry as open vs. semi-open vs closed.  I wish there was a way to describe adoption not as open, closed, or semi-open but rather in a way that acknowledged that each relationship will be unique because each birth family/adoptive family is different with different circumstances.  As long as the relationships status is communicated and all parties understand the expectations then I think it should work.  The relationship can morph and change as long as all parties agree to the changes.
It started with us having all identifying information about D and J while they only knew our first times and the state we live in.  We were clear from the day we met them that this would be the information that would be shared and communication other then texts/phone calls would go thru the agency.  They also had my personal cell phone number. Unfortunately D would contact me in the middle of the night which abruptly stopped before I ever talked to her about it.  Turns out D went to jail which explains why the calls stopped.  I don't think she still has my number only because her life is chaotic.  I want them to have a way to contact me but I also dont want to be woken up so I created a Google voice phone # which allows them to have a phone # to call while not providing our home phone #.  We have their phone #.  Since D is still in jail so far we have only received calls from her extended family.  What didn't work?  Ds life was so different from ours it was OK to call after midnight.  I'm sure simple communication would have solved it however I like having the google # because once she gets out of jails he can call 24/7 but after 9 it goes directly to voicemail.
We had a visit in April with D's extended family.  Most all of her extended family came with the exception of one aunt because she felt that it would be "too hard" to see Baby Girl as well as she felt it was "an invasion" of Baby Girls privacy.  I think for that one family member that the visits were too much but for the rest of the extended family it allowed them to visit with Baby Girl.  I explained to them as often as I could during the visit that right now Baby Girl is young and the visits are more for them but that the consistency of visits as well as their interest in her will help her know that she was not "given up" but rather placed because she was loved.  She will always know that is is loved by all sides of her family.  Although during the visit the birthday party was for her birth sister it will still amazing to be a part of the celebration!  What worked?  Her family welcomed us in and we were able to see first hand their love for Baby Girl.  With the exception of D, D's mom, and baby girls Birth siblings no one from the large family had met her.   
Tonight as I rocked a sick Baby Girl to sleep she stalled going to bed (as usual) by pointing at the pictures on the wall.  She said "Mama" and "Dada"  and as always I asked "who else is up there?"  I then said the names of her birth siblings  and birth parents.  When I said her birth sisters name she repeated it for the first time!  I could tell she was trying to say D's name but its too hard but her sisters name came out clear as a bell.  Its moments like those that make me realize that I might not be doing this adoption thing perfectly but I'm trying my best. What worked?  We talk about her birth family daily if not looking at the pictures mentioning details about her hospital stay or commenting how she is good at gymnastics just like D!
I hope for the future that this stay in jail D will get the help she needs so that when she gets out she will except the help her family so desperately wants to give her.  I hope that D continues to build trust with us and respects us by not calling in the middle of the night.  I hope D continues to be consistent with her contact once she is out.  I continue to tell her this in each of my letters because I want her to know that what is best for Baby Girl and her birth siblings is a birthmom that is sober and available.  I pray that maybe having someone rooting for her and believing in her will allow her to believe in herself.  Whats working?  D's more consistently available currently.  Whats not working?  D can't be physically available and missing out not just on Baby Girls life but the rest of her family as well.  
What I didn't realize until adoption was a reality was that the relationship will eb and flow.  There will be give an take.  There will be ups and downs.  There will be things we become more open about and other things we may hold close.  What I do ask of myself and DH when we choose to hold something back is- "Why would we not do X?  What about it is uncomfortable?"  If its just a comfort issue we have gone ahead like going to D's mothers house for the birthday party... if its something that is irreversible say giving our last name we have continued to hold back.  There is always time as the relationship builds.
So how is it working?  Once I gave up my fantasy it has started to work much easier.  I try as hard as I can in letters and conversations to be consistent.  I do not provide D's extended family information I wouldn't provide her even though I have built a relationship with them that I feel I can allow them greater trust.  J I wish it was working better but afte re-reading his portion of the application I guess my expectations were off.  He indicated that she could contact him once she turned 18 if she wished.  He didn't communicate that to us during our visits in the hospital thus this miscommunication allowed me a year of hoping that he would step up and be present.  In the end he defined his relationship as closed unti she is 18 in writing and we will have to except that.  It wont stop me from continuing the letters we verbally agreed to- I just wont expect anything in return anymore.


  1. I like your description of ebb and with our adoption, and anyone we know with an open adoption, the relationship does ebb and flow. Some of it is us getting busy, some of it is her life, and its okay...

  2. Thanks Meg. I got a chance to read your blog as well.