oart, and other thoughts on open adoption
May 24, 2013 § 15 Comments
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 listed at Open Adoption Bloggers 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. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
In her OAB blog post this week, Kat Cooley wondered if there is some way to predict whether (adoptive and first) parents entering into open adoptions truly understand the importance of openness and are really committed to doing what they can to make it work. She asked readers to comment on what drives them to maintain their open adoption relationships. It sparked some great–still ongoing–conversation in the comments section. I encourage you to read the post and comments for yourself.
Reader Racilous suggested that we continue the conversation in a roundtable, which I thought was a great idea. (And for those of you who left comments on Kat’s column, you already have your roundtable post started!). In Racilous’ words:
Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?
This is my first roundtable. Yay! I never do the OART questions because most of them don’t apply to me. Hearing from his parents once every six months doesn’t give me much to write about–although if they manage to keep up that schedule, I will be surprised. I honestly expect them to feel inconvenienced and start slipping up, sending pictures yearly or not at all.
I do think that the reason this adoption isn’t open is because of “education and expectations,” on my end and theirs. When I filled out the paperwork for the agency, I could check off what kind of openness I wanted. I had to select from the options it gave me, which were quite minimal. The agency seemed to define openness as receiving updates every 6 months or once a year. When I got to the question that asked “until what age would you like to receive updates?”, I checked “other” and wrote “until adulthood.” The list only provided “1 year,” “3 years,” and “5 years” as options. I thought that was strange, and I wondered why I would want to stop hearing about my child just because he was 5 years old.
I thought we (his parents and myself) would handle our relationship independently of the agency and of the agreement–which I erroneously hoped would be a baseline guide for contact–and it was a huge surprise to me when I gave them the baby and found out I would only be contacting them through the agency. I can imagine the agency likes to do things this way, as it might seem more reassuring to adoptive parents.
While I was pregnant, it never concerned me that I wasn’t told their last names or what state they lived in. I figured that was a measure to protect the PAP’s privacy, and once the adoption occurred, we would have each other’s information. I was very wrong. I found all their “identifying information” in a Google search, which might make me a crazy stalker, but I don’t call them or friend them on facebook or travel 2000 miles to sit outside their home.
It was also a huge surprise when I didn’t hear from them after placement. Even though I’d agreed to the six-month updates, I figured that once they’d met me, they would want to get to know me better, or tell me about the baby more often. I’m embarrassed to say that now. How disgustingly naive.
While I was pregnant, I was trained to think of the baby as not mine, and my biological connection to him as meaningless. So I can only imagine how they were trained to think of the baby as theirs. No matter how much they may have liked me, or how much of that was my imagination and their polite manners, it was never the plan to have a relationship with me. Talking to the birthmother isn’t synonymous with “real” parenting. Despite the anger I might seem to have, I don’t actually blame them. I know they are totally uneducated about adoptive parenting and they truly are doing what they think is best for their baby and for themselves. I get it.
Also, I would not be surprised if the agency had told them it’s best to keep an emotional distance and not to “bother” me and stir up grief, or whatever. I wish we were closer so I could ask, because I am curious if the agency has told them anything about me. It’s hard to believe that they would be upfront and honest about not talking to me: “After she went home from the hospital, i texted her the next day to tell her the name you picked out. :) she thought it was so cute!!! We haven’t spoken to her or heard anything since. I’m sure she’s doing great tho!!!! :) :) :)”
Then again, maybe they don’t lie and I simply don’t come up in conversation.
I get a lot of comments that say, “I hope your adoption becomes more open,” and I don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t believe open adoption is the perfect bandage it is built up to be. I would still feel depressed and angry no matter how open of an arrangement there was. Even if I got to play with him on the weekends, it would not change my regret. I do think more communication and a different attitude would make things easier, in some ways. Even the tiniest gestures on their part, things that would cost them nothing, would matter so much to me. Just something like “thinking of you” on Mother’s Day or wishing me a Merry Christmas, or sharing cute stories about the baby, or talking about themselves and how they had a fun weekend, would mean everything.
I no longer sit around hoping for a more open adoption. There were a few months where I did, and I couldn’t stop wondering what was wrong with me that they didn’t want to talk to me. I know not to take it personally now. I have resigned myself to not ever having a relationship with him or with his parents. My one and only hope is that the baby will not be worse off, as he grows up. For a relationship to be more open, they have to want that first. It’s not something I can beg for. I have a lot to lose if I asked for more contact and the answer is no, but they have nothing to lose from making the same request of me.
[Sidenote: There’s always someone who disagrees with me when I say this, and they’ll be like, “No, no, a lot of adoptive parents want more contact too, they’re just too scared to ask.” I know that’s true for some people. I cannot speak for adoptions other than mine. I don’t know about other people’s lives and how it all works. But I know my own situation, and I know they’re not being quiet to please me.]
In summary, I blame the agency for not encouraging communication. I could blame myself for not requesting more contact and openness, but I hardly feel entitled to make requests. C and L are both pleasant, friendly, and humorous, and there were no personality clashes when we met. I felt like we got along amazingly well, in fact, and hoped for closeness. I liked them a lot from their booklet, noticing how many interests we had in common. We met once while I was pregnant, and liked them then, too. I don’t believe the last part of the question applies to us, either. We’ve never had any rifts or offended each other in a manner that would close off the relationship (that I know of). It’s hard to have disagreements when you don’t talk!
One last thing before I end this monster post and go for a run (yay!). I check their facebooks from time to time. C has nothing public; just her profile photo that never changes. But L has the occasional public status and photo. He recently posted some photos of the baby, and I had so many evil thoughts. They had him dressed in the most hideous clothes: a collared golf shirt that old men wear, and bright kelly green pants! And since he’s 9 1/2 months (I read that baby fat peaks at 9 months) he’s looking like a fat little doofus of a kid. His hair is also very light, which surprises me. I have light brown hair, but not that light, and David’s is dark brown. Anyway, just in case anyone thought I was a nice person: I’m actually an asshole, and I think they’re a dorky little family. Yep.