I was hanging out with a friend the other day when I mentioned that we’d be hanging out this coming Friday at Ky’s great grandma’s house for a fun Easter day of an egg hunt and then dinner with our family.
She replied that it was really generous of us to make the effort we do with Ky’s family.
I had to take a few breaths before I responded. More on my reply in a minute….
Generous is not a word I use when I describe the relationship that we have with her birth family. That implies that I’m doing something that is “showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected” as per Google dictionary.
It is necessary and it is expected. You bet it is when you are living in the world of open adoption (OA).
I struggle sometimes in talking with other adoptive parents in various degrees of an “open adoption” because let’s face it, I’m judgemental about it. I’ve got a strong opinion about OA now and I’m not afraid to talk about it. Actually, I’ve never been afraid of it.
My main issue stems from people who say they are in an open adoption and they really are in a semi-open one and using the word “open” as a pretence to imply that they ARE being generous in keeping their birth family involved in their lives.
That drives me up the wall.
While everyone goes into adoption with an idea of what they want in mind, its so important for prospective adoptive parents to *really* research what openness is (if that is what you are considering) by way of talking to families who have adopted, adoptees, and birth families. You truly have to comfortable with expanding your family beyond just the child before agreeing to anything with prospective birth families. If you aren’t, clarity and transparency is a MUST or you are without a doubt setting everyone up for hurt down the road.
There are so many things that need to change in the education of parents who want to adopt domestically and the definition of what open really is needs to become a priority. Yes, when you take that baby home – legally he/she is yours. The degree of openness cannot be enforced it is entirely up to the adoptive parents as to how they navigate the relationship with the birth family. Adoptive parents do get to set the rules once those papers are signed (in most provinces/states) and unfortunately birth families (outside of the birth mother and father) never really get a chance to voice how they feel.
Monika over at Monika’s Musings wrote an amazing post recently about what openness means to her. I LOVE her thoughts and think that Ohana is about the most accurate and thoughtful definition of what openness really should be in adoption.
In my experiences in talking with other adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents, I’ve realized more and more that most people only really *think* about what the relationship might look like with the birth mother and father after having a child placed with them when they are considering an OA. There is very little talk about what it can mean to the entire birth family who *also* relinquishes that child.
I can’t imagine not having Ky’s entire birth family in our lives, but it just wouldn’t have occurred to me to consider them if we hadn’t met Ky’s birth grandmother the night she was born. I will never forget looking at her minutes after Ky was born and realizing that she didn’t want to touch Ky because she was so unbelievably sad about what was about to happen to her granddaughter that day. Her granddaughter wasn’t going home with her daughter, she was going home with strangers. It was she who put Ky in my arms before they all left the hospital the day she was born and it was she who made me see just how much loss is involved in adoption.
It was that moment that I knew that couldn’t let them lose her. I couldn’t just leave and take their baby away. Let’s face it, our baby girl isn’t just ours.
She is everyone’s.
And you know what. That’s exactly how it should be.
I find it sooooooo necessary to point this fact out clearly to everyone who asks about our relationship with them.
My reply to my girlfriend was this…
I’m not being generous. I’m being a mom. That means making sure I take care of all my family, and her birth family is my family now.
Adopting a baby domestically goes way beyond maintaining ties to a birth mother and father only. Family can be huge and the loss of a baby can go generations deep. It’s that point that I emphasis when I talk about adoption now. In domestic open adoption, you aren’t just adopting a baby, you are gaining another family.
Cherish your families and remember that the baby that may be on its way to you though adoption comes from a family that is grieving their loss.
Family is everything and your baby can reap the benefits of knowing and loving them all.
Intend on loving them all.
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Tracy is a mother to a gorgeous girl whom her and her husband adopted at birth in January of 2012. She holds a Master’s degree in Guidance Counselling and is a high school counsellor by day, self-admitted know it all by night, and gate-keeper of three enormous families on the weekend. She formed her new family by way of an exceptional open adoption and now spends her weekends making sure her family, her husband’s family and her daughter’s birth family all get to shower her with as much love as she can get. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org