Thursday, January 28, 2010

OA Roundtable #13 - agreeing on openness.

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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.

This OA Roundtable topic is from Andy at Today's the Day.
We often hear about open adoptions where the two sides don't want the same level of openness. First mothers who don't get updates as often as they would like, or not as many visits each year. Or adoptive parents who want to include their child's first mother in his life, but she is not ready.

But what we don't often discuss is when people on the same side of the triad can't agree on the level of openness in an adoption.

•It could be a wife who wants a fully open adoption but the husband only wants to send letters once a year.
•Or a first mother isn't ready for an open adoption but the first father wants to be part of the baby's life.
•Maybe a spouse isn't supportive of their partner entering into reunion with their first mother.
•Or a partner who came along after the adoption and isn't comfortable with your relationship with your placed child.
•And the classic Hallmark movie of the year scenario: Your mother-in-law is convinced that the baby will be snatched away from under your nose if you have an open adoption.
How would/do you navigate these situations? Does your current relationship impact the type of open adoption that you have? How does this affect your current relationship?

"I just feel protective," S said to me. S is one of my closest and dearest friends. We went to college together, and have been through enough of life closely linked to each other that at this point we function more like siblings than anything. "I guess I'm just suspicious by nature."

My experience of S is not that she is suspicious by nature. But protective of me? Absolutely.

We had been talking about Z, J's first mom, and some new information I had just received that may turn out to be a game changer in terms of the levels of openness in our adoption. My friend's first questions, when I brought up seeking more openness from Z, were oriented towards protecting and preserving what she perceives as our nuclear family: Andrew, Alissa, and baby J.

As I have explained the adoption process over and over to friends and family, this is something that comes up all the time. The folks who love us are, naturally, most concerned with preserving what we worked so hard and waited so long to achieve by adopting baby J, and sometimes it seems like the most natural place for them to go when thinking about Z is to wonder if she is a threat. I forget, at times, that we were not the only ones burned by our failed match - and that most of our community who felt invested in that experience and who cried with us when it fell through haven't spent large chunks of their lives becoming educated about open adoption. So I am glad that our dear ones are comfortable enough with us to voice these concerns. I'd rather get it settled now.

So, while Andrew and I are in agreement about the level of openness we are hoping for and how we would go about it if we have the opportunity to pursue a relationship with Z, I also understand how and why that might sound scary to our extended family and community of friends. The amazing thing about our community, however, is that I can trust them to respect our choices. This is a gift that not everyone receives from loved ones. So I look forward to dialogue about it - because I know that questions like the ones S posed to me over coffee aren't judgements on me, Andrew, or Z, but actual attempts by people who love us to understand this alternative way of family building that we are engaged in. They don't have to agree with us to support who we are. Time will tell, and S and I will still be talking about baby J over coffee for years and years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this is interesting, other people's reaction/response to our open adoption. People get uncomfortable when I start talking about her birthparents. It's like they don't want to know they exist and see them as a threat to us. I try to explain but find myself fumbling on words, which doesn't help. A typical conversation is something like we'll talk about how much she looks like me. I'm tall, and I'll say her BF is 6'3" and the smallest one in his family, HIS father is 6'7", and their eyes glaze over and they'll say "so I guess she'll be tall too". It's awkward, but also funny. But you are right, I've had a lot of education about open adoption, and they haven't. WE are their education.