October 02, 2007

Reality Doesn't Always Bite

Probably the question I'm asked most about open adoption (maybe second-most, after "What is it like?") is why we do it. I usually say that we think it's the healthiest, most ethical approach to adoption. Which is true. But last week a friend pressed a little further on the "why"--why so open, why so adamant.

I thought about everything I've learned and pondered so far about identity, loss, relinquishment, the adoption industry, adoptive parenting, child development, etc. And I realized it all distills down to one thing for me: open adoption deals with reality. It's reality that Puppy has two distinct family trees. That other people can call him their son. That one of the most joyful times my life was one of the crappiest in his first parents'. That Puppy lost something when he was placed. Those things are real whether I want to confront them or not.

In defending the fact that adoptive families are as legitimate as non-adoptive families, sometimes people fall into pretending we're just like non-adoptive families. But we're not, and the process which formed us continues to influence our life together. I'd much rather deal with that reality than waste time tiptoeing around the truth with clichés and secrecy. Why would I ever pretend Puppy grew in my heart? Or that a legal process ends emotional ties? Or that first parents just move on? Open adoption confronts those kinds of things. Sometimes that's tough on me, but it's the openness that helps me deal with that.

So that's my new sound bite: open adoption deals with reality.

In other news, we're meeting with Ms B in three weeks. And K is coming into town to celebrate Puppy's birthday in two weeks. (He's going to be a two-year old!) Lots of adoption-y stuff going on in our house this month.


JJandFive said...

Good post, Heather..
Seems like a lot of pretending in the adoption world, eh? Like, if I don't acknowledge he/she is adopted, then they'd really be "mine". Recently, one of my closest friends freaked about some pictures of a recent visit with my daughter's firstmom. As if she (the birthmom) shouldn't exist in our lives... or at least not to the level that she does... but we TOTALLY celebrate the fact that she does.
It reminded me of the huge task we have before us in educating society around us... starting with our BEST friends!!!! : /

Anonymous said...

This is good. I'd never thought to articulate it this way but it just makes sense to me to be honest about the reality of adoption. I don't apologize to people that my view isn't all roses and sunshine.

Unknown said...

My mom once said to me, "Closed adoption is about denial." (She's a therapist, can you tell? LOL.)

But yes. That is the flip side of what you just said. Closed adoption is about denial; open adoption is about honesty.

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