...and what it ain't.
Disclaimer: All open adoptions look different. This is how ours looks.
Open adoption is not scary. Weird? You know, I guess it kind of is. It is weird in the respect that those of us who know very little about adoption, and I used to be "us," probably rarely stop to consider how a woman who "gave up her child for adoption" might feel for the rest of her life. Now you're actually going to be friends with her? Yep. Weird. Cool.
I put "gave up" in quotes because it sounds so passive, and choosing a family to parent your beloved child is an active decision and not a passive one.
All right, enough philosophy. Here's what it looks like:
We will go to visit K at least four times a year, and we want to. This woman entrusted her child to us to raise, and we love to see her face as she watches him grow. Do we "owe" it to her? No, I don't think so. We want her to see him. It makes sense to us. It makes sense for the baby as he grows to know his biological heritage and the woman and man who gave him life.
We like her, her boyfriend, and her mom. We had dinner the night before the baby was born. We went to the Olive Garden - a totally normal thing to do. After dinner K took us to a photo shoot with a photographer friend of hers so that we could have some professional pictures taken together. They were the most precious photographs the baby will ever have, I think. They are pictures of his loving mothers together, and his adoptive father - Daddy.
K and I talk on the phone every few weeks. We called her on Christmas day and she was thrilled to hear all about what the baby was doing. Obviously she thinks of him more than every few weeks, but she will never have to wonder for long what he is doing. She has a myspace account, and I opened one for her to look at where I update pictures and occasionally a blog entry. She and her boyfriend are both on my friends list.
We had lunch with the baby's birthdad early last month. We had a pleasant meal including some techie talk between bdad and my husband. It will be important for the baby to know his birthdad, too, and we are very happy that he is in the picture. We don't know him as well as we know K, and we likely never will know him on the same level as we know her. She and I can talk girl-talk and talk about feelings and how sometimes our cats like to drink the toilet water. I doubt I'll ever be talking about those things with P.
I want to buy K a charm bracelet after our 6-month finalization period and include a charm that we will share - maybe a bust of a boy's head or an initial or something. I want her to feel like a mother, because she is one. She is not parenting her child, that's where DH and I come in. We don't see any reason why she shouldn't be able to see him and know him, and him her.
I mentioned how I would share the baby. Here are some things that open adoption is not. It is not co-parenting. I don't share any of the parenting duties with K. K treats us like the baby's parents, because we are. We tell her how cute he is (like she doesn't already know that) and tell her what a good job she did. We hope he has red hair like hers, and green eyes, too. We'll be able to ask her about things the baby likes to do that do not come from us. For example, if he is good with plants, that will very obviously not be our doing!
People who don't feel comfortable with open adoption wonder if they would really feel like the baby's parents if they had contact with his birthparents. In my humble opinion (at least I try to be humble), it makes us feel more like parents. We feel entitled because his birthmother herself entitles us. When she hands him back to me for a diaper change or because he gets to feeling heavy, I feel like a parent. When he gets a fever and I know what to do, and now how to take a rectal temperature, I am the parent. She got to know us and still chose us to parent her child. We are chosen - entitled.
I know I haven't talked much about the baby's birthfather, but as I said I will likely never have the relationship with him as I do with her. We will keep in touch with him and visit with him, though. I always hoped that our child would have a birthfather who wanted to be a part of his life. I think this will be important.
This all makes sense to me. Does it to you? Think about it. Pray about it. Read about it. Might you agree that fear often stems from lack of information?
When I look at our son, 9 times out of 10 I just see a sweet baby. Sometimes I see K, or P, and wonder what they are up to. I don't have to wonder for long though, because I can just ask them. I don't worry about his birthmother showing up on our doorstep, because know she is at work. If she did show up, she would have been invited, so that would by OK, too. This is freeing. I will always honor them as my sweet baby's heritage. They have given us the most amazing gift. I want to remember that.