Dawn's post today made me want to talk a little about what it was like to work this out with Ms B. Firefly's first mom wasn't keen about the idea of a revocation period when we brought it up. At all. There were a few things going on there that she expressed to us or to her social worker:
- She anticipated that the relinquishment would be emotionally painful and worried that waiting to file the papers would drag that out.
- She read it as hesitancy on our part toward the match itself. Her felt need was to see us excitedly preparing to receive her daughter. She worried that we were trying to give ourselves an out--that we wanted to be able to call the whole thing off if we brought Firefly home and weren't happy with her.
- She was offended that we seemed to be questioning her decision-making process and her commitment to her adoption plan. I did worry about coming off as patronizing. There's a fine line between arguing that the generalized experience of many first parents makes revocation periods a good idea and telling someone, "I know better than you how you're going to feel after the birth."
She was more or less saying, "You've made your point, now you need to balance it with the full picture of what's going on for you." We thought we were sharing our happy anticipation, just tempered by the "if." But all B was hearing was our emphasis on the "if." She was spending too much of her time worrying that if she did place Firefly with us that her daughter wouldn't be welcomed into our family with all the unfettered joy and love that every child deserves. Which of course couldn't have been further from the truth. And B's response was to our perceived detachment was to try harder to convince us that she wouldn't change her mind. Which of course made us freak out and say "if" every other sentence. Without that social worker I think we would have turned into some kind of adoption mediation farce.*
Even with all of that, I don't regret doing it. Once we got past that impasse, the revocation thing wasn't an issue. And working through it actually got us to a more honest point with each other because we stopped second-guessing what the other party was thinking. That's had an impact on our post-placement relationship, too. She knows we're not afraid to hear if she's struggling and we know we can be free to love on Firefly around her.
The thing about domestic adoption the way we did it is that there is going to be emotional overlap between the beginning of one line of parenting and the beginning of the other. Adoptive parents can't bundle up all their love, anticipation and joy for this possible child of theirs and release it only once the relinquishment is final any more than placing parents can turn off their love the moment they sign the consent forms. And in open adoption that overlap isn't completely a bad thing. It can become part of the foundation for strong, lasting relationships. But the overlap also runs the risk of being coercive and hurtful. Finding a balance between those two possibilities was really, really hard for us (and who knows if we succeeded). Which is why I think safeguards like revocation periods and impartial advocates are important, whether they're written into law or otherwise made standard practice. In this one aspect, it would have been a lot easier if the revocation period had just been standard.
* There were a lot of good things during that match time, too, and a lot of topics where we really connected, particularly in our approach to open adoption. This was just one area where we just couldn't seem to hear what the other party was saying.