There are a lot of reasons why I haven't participated since #7. #8 was posted the day before Choice was born and, well you know the story. But this time I'm not posting because I haven't written this post yet. This is the post about how I'm not actually in an open adoption.
What we have with J's first mom, I am going to call her Z, is what is called a semi-open adoption. We've agreed to send pictures and written updates every month for the first six months, and then once a year after that until J is eighteen years old. She hasn't agreed to anything, aside from the part where she agreed to give her daughter up for adoption which is a giant thing. I don't want to diminish the power of that choice. But Z has never seen our profile book and I don't think she knows our first names. The letters and pictures we send will be held by the agency, in case she wants to pick them up. If she ever does, then in that written material will be the information that we are interested in more openness. The agency didn't seem to expect that she would come back to get updates. I hope that she does. I hope that I can always continue to prepare them as if she will.
But this post is not about Z. It's about me, and what it means for me to be in this sort of adoption. I'm not complaining - I have found my daughter and would have it no other way - but this part isn't what I had in mind. So it's taken some adjusting to. In some ways I started adjusting when I said goodbye to Y, the day that unbeknown to me, J was born.
At our post placement visit Karen asked us some questions about bonding with J, and how it's going, when it happened, etc. I thought immediately of Choice, what it felt like to be in the hospital room with her and Y, and how I did not feel like she was my baby. I don't think that was fate or destiny or anything like that. She could have been my baby, if Y had chosen differently. I think the reason I didn't feel like she was mine was because her mother was right there. I had spent the past three weeks focused on Y and our relationship. If I was bonded to anyone in that hospital room it was Y, not her baby. I can see why some of the adoptive mothers I know in open adoptions struggle with their mother-identity at first, why it is not uncommon for adoptive moms to have a hard time moving past the first mother's grief and some feel guilty about their own joy.
At this point Z is a name to me. While I know cognitively that J has a first mother who is just as real as Y, I don't know it in an experiential way. In my experience of J I am her only mother. I have been her mother from the moment I first saw her, from the moment I first saw her picture, even. Fate, destiny, and the alignment of the stars aside, this is probably at least part of why I bonded to her so quickly and irrevocably.
So in some respects, the self-centered adoptive parent focused ones, this way was easier. I believe that in the long run it won't be easier. I believe in open adoption, that when it can be arranged it is better for the most important person in the adoption triad, the child. The other two parties are the grown-ups. We are supposed to take the harder hits so that our child doesn't have to.
After the experience with Y and Choice, Andrew and I had some long talks about our expectations. That situation had seemed like our dream scenario, and the connection with Y was part of that dream scenario. But we walked away feeling like Y made the right decision. So, if that was the case, then we concluded we might need to revise or expand our dream scenario. Choice, we decided, didn't need us. I am definitely not saying that this is true of every open adoption situation, but it was true of that one. We decided we needed to be open to a child whose need for us was clear, even if that meant letting go of some of the expectations we had. One of those expectations was a first mother like Y - someone who would have been capable of a fruitful and open relationship. We decided to be open to situations that were a little more dire, where the need for the baby to be placed was more obvious. I talked to Marla about it, and we were all set up to be shown for some cases that fit our expanded scenario when J's ten days came up.
My daughter is perfect in every single way. But because this post is about me, I'll stick to the topic. The scenario I didn't really imagine was actually this one. The one where the first mother stays in the shadows of our lives for now, and possibly forever. But I would be so good at openness, my heart says rather plaintively. If she just knew me...
But it is not my job to evaluate Z's decisions. Her choices are hers, and I cannot - should not - imagine what they are about. "Semi" means "half." In this adoption relationship there are three sides, not two. But I have control over my part, and the "semi" can be me. There are things I can commit myself to, in this semi-open relationship. The first one, the one that all the others comes from, is to respect my child's first mother. This means speaking of her with honor and compassion, and not sharing information about her with those who might judge, or who just don't need to know. Respecting her means not fantasizing about why she did what she did. I will not make her into an angel or a demon in my own mind, or in our family lore. She is a whole complicated and real person. This means raising J to honor her - J will have questions and feelings and her own Z stuff to deal with and I'll be supportive of whatever that is, but she will be raised to respect and honor the person who gave her life. It also means being open with J. She will have hard questions and I will give her honest answers, as appropriate, as she grows able to ask. And if Z ever wants contact, I will do all in my power to facilitate that in a healthy way.
There is a lot I wish I could tell Z. It is a litany in my head, sometimes, when I think about her. Your child is safe. Your child is loved. I hope you are okay. I know you probably aren't. But your baby is safe, your baby is loved. Our daughter is thriving.
I think about Z a lot.
So there it is. I can still be an open adoption blogger. In some ways, I am more open now than I was last time I participated. Some people can have open adoptions, some people should have them, and then there are situations where it's just not possible. My personal bias is that any adoptive parent can and should be at least capable of considering it. I know that not every first parent is, nor should they have to be. And my child, my daughter? Right now her adoption can't be all the way open, it is just not in the cards. And I want her and no one else. So I am in the adoption I want to be in, because this is reality for my family.
If my heart sinks a little when I see our extra profile books lying on the table, that's okay. There is a prideful part of me that wanted to show that to my child and say "here it is, here is the book we made for your first mommy. She read it and she picked us to be your parents." But for that dream to come true I would have had to have a different daughter and that is inconceivable to me now. In some ways Y picked us for Baby J, because without the choices she made we wouldn't have been offered this match. So we were picked, just not by J's own first mother. It's a more complicated story than the one I imagined. But in my experience real life is often more complicated than the dreams we have about it - and there isn't any dream that I'd prefer over this.