How Openness in Adoption Benefits This Adoptive Mom

chairsMy wife and I participated in another panel at the adoption agency, and I felt, once again, like a freak. I tried to be as helpful as possible to those wide-eyed, eager-faced waiting couples, remembering when I was one of them. But it was hard.

The trainer mentioned our entrustment ceremony and described it as “passing a child from one family to another.” No! I protested, but didn’t get a chance to explain because time ran short. We CREATED a new family together. We wrote the covenant together. Our daughter has one family — all of us.

An adoptive mom next to me wondered aloud if her daughter might benefit from an open (rather than their closed) adoption. So when my turn came, I mentioned a couple things about how openness benefits me, an adoptive mom. I could tell that at least one hopeful face connected with me, but most people avoided my gaze. I felt again that my experience seems to be just my own.

Here’s what I would say, if I could:

  • We, all of us – adoptive moms, birth mom, birth family, adoptive family, friends, cats (ok, maybe not the cats) – chose to create a family for our daughter. We CHOSE. Our choices affected us differently: our daughter’s birth mom made a choice that brought her deep grief. Our choice as adoptive parents brought us incredible joy. Both of us feel bittersweet gladness. This is how I talk about it. I don’t talk about how “we adopted” because the story isn’t about us, it is about our daughter, how she came into the world, and the family that a group of adults created out of love for her.
  • Open-hearted and authentic relationship between birth and adoptive family can be healing for adoptive parents. It is for me. At six months my daughter can’t talk, but her mother can. When I talk to her mother, I connect with my daughter. Yes, my daughter is her own person, and in time her personality will reveal itself. But for now, being close to her mother is one way I can be close to her. This helps me and I am so grateful that her mom is able to share so much with me.
  • Motherhood isn’t all or nothing. We share it. Her mom took care of our daughter for nine months. I’ve only cared for her for six months, and I’ve had help that her mom didn’t get. Her mom will ALWAYS be her mom. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do, I can’t change that. Her mom got to carry her in her belly and whisper to her at night, and soothe her when riding the bus, the train…days I’ll never have. And now I pick our daughter up when she wakes in the morning, I fix her bottle and cereal, so many days that her mom will never have.
  • When I look in my daughter’s face, I see her mother, and it opens my heart. I don’t know how else to explain that, I just wish someone understood this experience.

Maybe we are always alone in our experience. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m a mom who sometimes bursts into tears while holding her daughter because the joy-sorrow is so big her heart can’t contain it. So these are my words, and this is a start. I’m here now, loving and open with all that I am.

Creating a Family

rainbow-covenant-will-bordenWhen my wife and I began trying to start a family, we didn’t know what it would look like. As a same-sex couple, it definitely wasn’t going to happen naturally. After we matched with an expectant mom who was seeking a family to adopt her child, the agency asked us to talk about openness and contact: how many visits, pictures, etc. would we share over the years. While we talked about that, we also shared our vision of what adoption could mean for us: we wanted to create a family together.

Those first visits were definitely awkward, but they were also intentional. Even though we were strangers, we were committed, very early on, to building a family together. So while every open adoption is unique and the amount of contact may vary, for us open adoption is a relationship rather than just letters or pictures or visits. That relationship is family.

For my family, open adoption is:
  • A sacred covenant between adults for the love of a child and in her best interest.
  • An intentional commitment to create an extended family.
  • An opportunity for adoptive parents to provide their child with a lifelong connection to the family that made her.
  • An opportunity for birth parents to remain an integral part of their child’s life as she grows up.
  • A growing and changing relationship between family members.

Sometimes people ask (or imply, because they are too “polite” to ask outright): So…uh…isn’t this co-parenting?

No. We are our daughter’s parents. After our daughter was born, we signed a sacred covenant in front of witnesses, kind of like what you do in a marriage. We pledged to honor our daughter’s tummy mommy and grandparents, and they pledged to honor us.

People also wonder if our daughter will be “confused” about her family. Since my wife and best friend are both adoptees, I can confidently say that kids who are adopted know who raised them. Parents are those people who are there everyday to care for and nurture a child. But we strongly believe that children need to grow up knowing the family that gave them life.

I can’t see the future, so I don’t know how our daughter will reflect back on how we raised her. What I do know is that, as an adopted person, my daughter has two families, a biological family and an adoptive family, joined into one in love of her. I am so grateful that we have been able to come together and build a relationship that provides continuity, identity and support for the daughter we have in common.