I recently joined the blogroll at Open Adoption Bloggers. If you check out the site, you’ll see that Heather has created a blogger network for people involved in open adoptions. This network includes birthparents, adoptees, and adoptive parents. I am really excited to be a part of it. Heather posts Roundtable questions for members of her blogroll to answer. This month’s question is this:
Write about open adoption agreements. Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?
We do have an open adoption agreement that we signed at our agency. The agreement lists what we are expected to do as far as sending pictures and updates. It specifies when these updates should be sent. For example, ours starts at 6 weeks and then goes to 3 months, 6months, etc. up at age 3. After age 3 we agreed to send updates on a yearly basis around our daughter’s birthday. Our daughter’s birthmom is able to send us pictures and letters, too. We also agreed to 2 visits a year at her birthmom’s request. The agreement states that it is important to keep the agreement – to let the child’s birthparents know that they “made a good decision for their child and supports them through the difficult process of grief and healing” and “commit ourselves to always considering as first priority the best interests of the child.”
As far as what effect having an open adoption agreement has on our relationships, I think it has a positive effect. I look at the agreement as a promise and a guideline. We made a promise to our daughter’s birthmom that we would share information with her about our (her/our) daughter, that we would share photos, and that we would share 2 visits per year. That agreement has grown and evolved over the past two and a half years. In addition to the specific updates in our agreement, we send cards, pictures, and gifts at other times of the year. We get together for visits at both of our requests. We email and text and are Facebook friends.
It’s important for us to have this kind of relationship with our daughter’s birthmom. She can see how Zoe is growing and changing. She can see how much she is loved not only by us, but also by our family and friends. She can spend time with her and see how important it is that she is in Zoe’s life. We appreciate that she allows us to be a part of her life, too. I have to think that there are days when it is very hard for her. That some days might make her sad or feel down. I hope that seeing what an amazing little girl she gave birth to gives her peace and joy. I know that I love having this relationship with her birthmom and being able to tell her how much her decision to choose us to be Zoe’s parents means to us. We love her birthmom so very much, and we’re so glad that she wanted an open adoption. Our daughter is little right now – 2 1/2 years old – but she will always know who her birthmother is. We talk about her and have pictures of her with her birthmom (and her birthmom’s family) in our home. We talk to her about how much her birthmom loves her. We get together and spend time together. We talk to her about her birthfather, too, but we do not have a relationship with him at this time. We do know, though, that he asks about her and how she is doing.
Just to backtrack a little bit…we did not know a lot about open adoption when we signed with our agency. We knew that most of the adoptions they did were semi-open. We were a little bit nervous about it because it was something brand new to us. We discussed what it meant to have an open adoption with our caseworker, and Steve and I talked about it a lot with each other. Ultimately, we felt like it was in everyone’s best interest to have an open adoption if the situation felt right. We felt very comfortable with Zoe’s birthmom, so we were very happy that she chose to have an open adoption. I wouldn’t change anything about our agreement, but I am very glad that it has changed over time and become so much more.
I shared the picture above because it actually relates to this question. Two weekends ago we went to that park. We had gone to an pre-Easter event and decided to stop at the park to give Zoe a chance to run around before her nap. While we were there another family stopped at the park to let their son play. We started talking and the little boy’s mother mentioned something about the Easter bunny to me. I mentioned that we had just gone to an event that had an Easter bunny and other activities for toddlers and young kids. We started talking about that and other things. It actually felt like I was talking to someone I had known for a long time. She told me in the course of the conversation that she really wanted to have a second child but that her husband did not. She was trying to accept that, and I could tell she was having a hard time by the tone of her voice and the look on her face. She mentioned that they both had their son later in life and that she felt they were probably too old at this point to add a biological child to their family. She asked if we planned to add to our family. I explained that we would love to but that right now I was a stay-at-home-mom, and we would need me to be back at work to save up for another adoption. I told her that I love being home with our daughter, so if we do adopt again it will be a little further down the road. I mentioned to her that we have an open adoption with our daughter’s birthmom, and that we were getting together with her and her family the following week (last Tuesday.)
A few beats later she told me that she herself was adopted. She was a few weeks old and was adopted by a family member. She didn’t know about the adoption until she was an adult. She said it was very hard to learn that way and to not have always known that she had been adopted. She said she does not have a relationship with her birthmother even though she would really like to have one. She does know her birthfather, but it is not necessarily the close relationship she might have wished for. She said that she thinks it really wonderful that we have an open adoption with Zoe’s birthmom and that she’ll always have each other in their lives. She talked about how great it is that Zoe will always know about her adoption, and it won’t be a surprise or a secret.
It was so good to hear about this woman’s viewpoint as an adult adoptee and to hear that she appreciated the choices we all made about the type of adoption we hoped to have. It also made me appreciate what having an open adoption has given us even more – a chance for Zoe to see who she looks like, opportunities for Zoe to get to know that part of her family and for them to get to know her, for us to build a relationship with her birthmom as Zoe builds one as well, for Zoe to have that a relationship and connection with her birthmom, for us to spend time with her birthmom as well as her birthmom’s family, for us to take pictures during our visits so Zoe will have them as keepsakes and memories, to have chances for all of us to ask questions about our backgrounds or just about life in general, and most importantly for all of us to be a part of Zoe’s life and for her to know how much she is loved by everyone in her family.