It can be intimidating for hopeful adoptive parents to see photos of families who have an open adoption with the biological family. It is often assumed that the open adoption started from the beginning. At least for our family, though, it did not.
Open adoption has been a journey for us – with ebbs and flows. When J first came to us there were a lot of unknowns for months. Not only that, but his biological mother was unable due to circumstances to have visitations for nearly a year. I would describe that year of one with a lot of bumps, not because of us or them, but because of the system itself.
The first time J’s biological mother and I were actually able to speak to one another was in a meeting room at the court house. We did our best to make small talk while being surrounded by professionals watching us. One of the biggest attributes to this journey of open adoption was that we all had a mutual respect for one another. Tim and I did our best to always make sure she knew we respected her as J’s mom and as a fellow human being. We sensed often that she also respected us as foster parents and genuinely appreciated how well we were doing in taking care of her son.
Although rare, in the midst of her frustration with the system, there were times that the frustration poured over on to us. I was reminded by friends and family that even though it felt personal, it wasn’t. She was dealing with circumstances that I cannot even begin to imagine. She was fighting for her baby. She was in crisis. When I remembered this, it became easier to extend grace and move past it.
Once?J’s adoption was finalized, something shifted for all of us because our relationship was not dictated by the foster care system. We were able to meet up without professionals watching us and whenever it was convenient for all of us. Instead of meeting up in the court house or in an agency office, we started meeting up at McDonald’s and parks. It made a world of difference! We were no longer “holding our breath” and she was no longer in “fight or flight” mode. We started slowly getting to know each other as human beings who both loved a boy named J.
Over the next?five?years, our relationship continued to grow as typical relationships do. As trust was built on both sides, more openness followed. We went from swapping numbers to meet up at McDonald’s to becoming Facebook friends to inviting them to birthday parties to opening up our living room for Christmas. We all took it at our own pace and within boundaries that we were comfortable with in each season that life brought.
We certainly weren’t the only ones who extended grace, though! J’s birth mother extended?incredible grace?by choosing us to not only?adopt her second baby, but also allowing us to be at the ultrasound appointment and in the delivery room. We didn’t deserve or have the right to be there, but were so honored that she chose us and allowed us to experience those moments with her.
It has now been?seven years?since we?first met in a court room. The typical rhythm for our open adoption is that meet up every few months (and it often involves pizza topped with pineapple cause we’ve found we all love it). There is laughing and playing and lots of hugging. We update each other on things going on in our lives. Not just shooting the breeze but real things like new jobs, health changes, and future plans.
At the end of the day, open adoption isn’t about me or even her. It’s about our kids. I can tell them until I’m blue in the face that their birth mother loves them, but for our kids to experience that love for themselves is invaluable. And from the way I see it, the more people to love them unconditionally the better!