Heather has posted a new Open Adoption Roundtable writing prompt. This time the questions come from O Solo Mama. Some adoption bloggers had already responded to these questions. I stayed out of it, having been in a place where I don’t feel I have anything particularly wise or helpful to add to the discussion. However, as I’m trying to pull myself from that place I will attempt to weigh in on these questions.
1. If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? By this I mean, not honouring commitments, closing the adoption, telling the other family they’re not “doing this thing” correctly or playing the “for the sake of the child” card?
Short Answer: People “suck” at open adoption because of lack of preparation.
Long Answer: Open Adoption is hard. But more than that, it’s hard and isn’t sold that way. I don’t know what J&M were told of the complexities of Open Adoption, but I was told next to nothing and NEVER was I told it would be hard. I think people decide to not honor commitments, close the adoption, etc because they commit to too much at the beginning and it’s overwhelming and emotional. And when they start to feel it’s hard and emotional and overwhelming when they weren’t told it would be they think, this isn’t working. This is wrong. This must stop.
*DISCLAIMER* When I say “too much” whats too much for one person might not be too much for another so in the example I’m about to give it may not have been too much for you, but it would have been for me.
If at the beginning of our adoption we had agreed on frequent (monthly or quarterly; or even annual at that point perhaps) visits I do not think our adoption would be as open as it is now. I was an emotional wreck in the months following the adoption. I remember breaking down in tears in one of my college classes because we were discussing/debating the practice of interracial adoption. I’m a crier by nature, but I tend to be able to restrain my tears until I’m alone. If the embarrassment of crying in front of an entire class couldn’t keep my tears at bay I would have been a wreck at a visit that early in the adoption.
I can’t speak for J&M, but it would have been enough for me to avoid subsequent visits at least for awhile. We started with letters and pictures and phone calls. We got to know each other, built a relationship. We eventually began having visits. M and I become FB friends.
If I had had FB at the beginning, and if we had been friends on it at the beginning…yeah it probably would have ended with one of us blocking the other or at the very least hurt feelings. It would be like dating someone new and friending them immediately and all of a sudden you’re privy to their thoughts and feelings (status updates) that you otherwise wouldn’t be and it’s a little weird and overwhelming and you’re not sure how or if to respond to things. It would have been crazy making. (again FOR ME others friend eachother on social networking sites from day one and that is fine for them)
As for playing the, “for the sake of the child” card. We as adults sometimes over think things and don’t give kids enough credit. We have a sense of what a “normal” family is ingrained into us. Depending on our generation, how were were raised, and our own experiences the what constitutes a “normal” family can be more or less inclusive. If a family that includes birth parents feels abnormal to us we assume it will to our child as well. That if we as adults are outside of our comfort zone, then the child must be as well and it must be stopped. But, we weren’t born with that feeling. And neither were our children. A family that includes birth parents can be their normal, and it can become our normal too over time.
2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent? [the following pertains to this question and was in O Solo Mama’s post]…from the perspective of first parents. How do they do it? No seriously, how do you watch your child being parented by someone other than yourself? Do you take some kind of pill every day? Or do you grieve for a long time, so long, even, that it impairs your relationship with your child or with your subsequent chidren? And then who helps you?)
In grad school my thesis equivalent (we didn’t have a thesis option in my program) focused on birth parent grief and loss. Research shows that birth parents in open adoption do have elevated levels of grief at first, but that over time those in open adoption actually experience less grief later in life. Sorry for the vague-ness of “at first” and “later” but different numbers are popping in my head and I don’t have the energy to get up out of bed to dig for the research.
Personally, I know I cry about the adoption less now that I did even a year ago and a LOT less than I did the first few years. My heart leaps when I see a child about Kidlet’s age with similar coloring. Which I know is ridiculous given that I know not only what Kidlet looks like, but exactly where he is (and it’s in a different state) and I also hold my breath when I see a car with a license plate from Kidlet’s state. I think both those things would be worse if our adoption wasn’t open, but having not lived that experience I of course cannot say for sure.
It’s hard to watch someone else parent my child, especially if I’d make a different parenting decision. But it helps to see the love in the parenting. From what I’ve witnessed I do believe J&M love Kidlet as much as I do and that is not something I would be sure of had I not experienced all that I have on visits.
There is no pill to cure ambiguous grief regardless of from where that grief stems. I think I will grieve forever in different ways, because as different milestones approach there are new things to grieve. I don’t think it impairs my relationship with Kidlet. When we’re together I’m in the moment and don’t become overwhelmed and emotional until I’m alone in my room at night or out for a walk alone. I dont think my grief will negatively impact my someday children mostly because I am aware of my issues and plan on working on them in therapy prior to having my IUD removed.
Anyone who listens when I’m sad helps me. Anyone who validates instead of dismisses my feelings helps me. Anyone who loves me despite my birth mother status helps me. Anyone who isn’t terrified that J&M allow me visits helps me. Unfortunately those in professional capacities who should be able to help me haven’t been so helpful.
3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.
Again I think this goes back to what has been ingrained in us over time to be the “normal” family make up.
4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?” (OR for f-parents: Do you ever feel as though you need to take this child back? That nothing is stopping you beside an agreement that feels false? Does that feeling go away?)
That is not to say that I don’t have my daydreams of what it would be like if Kidlet were with me. Of what it had been like had I not signed away my rights. But those what ifs don’t mean I would take him from his family and turn his life upside down.
5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?
I know you aren’t supposed to answer a question with questions, but…How do children in closed adoptions cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they imagine their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? When they search later in life and find they had siblings (full or half) how do they respond? Who helps the child or adult in those situations?
If Kidlet ever has questions about why he could not be kept I will answer them honestly and age appropriately. If I have more children (which I hope to do) he will see that I waited until I was stable and able to care for them. He will know them. I will do everything I can to not let the parenting of someday kids get in the way of showing Kidlet how much I love him.
6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?
I think Open Adoptions should be the standard. I think openness is a continuum and not every spot on that continuum is right for each person. However, a statement like, “some surrendering mother’s could not cope with an open adoption” feels like an excuse not to offer her one.
7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?