I’m new, so I thought I’d explore Tumblr a little bit. I tossed “adoption” into the search and found a lot of posts about animals and a surprisingly small number related to actual people.
One of the posts I did find led me to the blog of a gay couple looking to adopt, and I read that they were looking for a domestic, open adoption. They even want to limit their search to a geographical area, presumably to increase the openness of their future adoption.
In addition to being new, I’m also nosy, so I’ve asked them what kind or level of openness they’re looking for. I hope they answer, because I don’t get the opportunity to discuss openness with like-minded adoptive parents very often. Typically, references to our relationship with Dictator’s birth family are met with The Face. Seems most people don’t see the same benefits of ongoing contact that we do, and it’s nice to run into people who “get it” (if only so that it doesn’t make us feel so weird).
The thing is, I constantly feel like I’m defending our decision to maintain a relationship with Dictator’s birth family.
We got used to defending our decision early, waaay back at the agency, after we first met Dictator’s birth parents.
For the six weeks between our first meeting and Dictator’s arrival, her birthmother and I were in near-daily contact, mostly by text, but also by email, on Facebook and on a couple of occasions where we visited in person. The face-to-face meetings were fully sanctioned by the adoption agency, but the rest of it - let’s just say the additional communication seemed to
piss the hell out of irritate concern them. They warned us about getting too attached, since nothing is guaranteed in adoption until the final documents are approved by the courts.
I get it. I do. I realize that not every adoption plan comes to pass. I know that people (on both sides of the equation) change their minds. I knew we were opening ourselves up to a world of hurt by inviting Dictator’s birthparents into our life, but I also knew that no matter what, the pain of losing a baby when we were thisclose would be agonizing whether or not we took the time to get to know them. I compare it to being pregnant yourself - there’s no way you’d avoid bonding with your baby throughout your pregnancy in case something terrible happened, and this was the only way we had to bond with our prospective child. More than anything, I worried that not communicating with Dictator’s birthmom would turn her off, that we’d lose the connection we’d established at our first meeting.
So I made a deal with myself. I’d resist the urge to check in on her too often. I’d wait for her to initiate a conversation, but then participate fully in it. I’d be careful what I said, so as not to be perceived as coercing her into “giving” us her baby (much lecturing came from the agency on this, so I was petrified of saying the wrong things).
But we continued our chats, generally about nothing of consequence. You know, the kind of things people talk about when they first start dating. We got to know each other. We set the stage for the relationship we have now.
When she mentioned to the adoption counsellor that we talked so frequently, the agency
freaked out advised us to limit communication. But that felt so wrong, so instead, we bonded over the shared secret of our ongoing relationship. Neither of us (or our partners) could understand why it was so bad that we genuinely liked talking to each other, and with Dictator’s birthparents so confident in their decision to place with us, they wanted us to share in the last few weeks of the pregnancy.
So we continued to talk, to build that relationship. And when birthmom finally went into labour, Dictator’s birthfather called at nearly midnight to tell us that her water had broken. She texted me throughout the day with updates on her labour. I knew when she was 2cm, 5cm, 10cm dilated. We texted right up until it was time to push. When we got The Call around 5:30, birthdad gave us the usual stats, told us that both birthmom and the baby were doing well. Shortly after than, I got a text from birthmom herself:
“We have a beautiful baby girl, Mama.”
I’d never seen sweeter words, and if they agency had it their way, I would never have seen them. We would have received a call from the adoption agency telling us that a baby girl had been born, that she was healthy, that the agency would be in touch about placement.
I understand why the agency discouraged us from getting too attached, but I’m glad we made our own rules. We have a bond now that goes beyond the transactional, beyond the letters we’re required to send annually, beyond the limited visits that we’re obligated to have throughout the year. We talk and text whenever we like. They invite us to family celebrations. We ask them to visit whenever we think, “Hey, we haven’t seen them in a while.” Our adoption isn’t just open - it’s wide open.
I know our model couldn’t possibly work for everyone or every situation. But it works for us. I just wish more people would be open to exploring the possibility - and that agencies were less afraid of it.