April 20, 2010

On Paper, In Reality

I have to say, I really appreciate the comments and emails on my last post. I admit was uneasy about writing it; I'm constantly feeling out where the privacy boundaries (both the kids' and their first parents') are in talking about our family's open adoptions.

One small follow-up: Many of you commented on how hard this must be. It's true that it's not easy to watch someone you care about in crisis. And obviously anything I've felt pales in comparison to what they are going through. But I think I may have given the wrong impression. If I had to rank the four different relationships we have with the kids' first parents, from smoothest to roughest? Our relationship with the parent in that post would come in as the easiest. Hands down, no contest.

It's true that the instability in their life and how it affects their relationship with their kiddo sometimes weighs on me. I worry about them when things are bad. The practical side of contact can be tricky. The money stuff stresses me out sometimes, because deciding boundaries sucks and generosity is still a discipline in many ways for me. But the actual relationship at its core is really, really good. For the simple reason that they trust and respect us enough to be honest with us, and vice versa.

I'm not saying we know every detail of their life or their thoughts on the adoption, nor should we. Not at all. But if we call to invite them to visit--or even just to chat--and they aren't in a place to deal with adoption, they tell us. They've gently offered ways we could be more helpful in our triad role and extended grace when we've fallen short. If they're going to move or their phone is getting shut off, they try to let us know ahead of time. There may be things to work through or figure out, but I'm never second-guessing myself or wondering what they are thinking about this open adoption we've got going. I don't worry that they're picking apart my letters, looking for hidden meanings. There's no manipulation or evasiveness. If they're out of touch for awhile because of life stuff or for their own mental/emotional health, I usually know why and I have faith that they'll be back when they can. That kind of communication means so much to me.

We've got a good foundation started. I really do trust that we're all in it for the long haul, because we care about and enjoy each other and--most importantly--we care about our shared child's well-being. None of us are going to storm off forever in a huff because of some real or imagined slight. And that makes all the difference in the world.

You don't know how much I wish I could say the same about some of the kids' other birth family members.

Now that I think about it, had we been handed little written profiles of their first parents when we were matched, they way they were for us, it's the ones whose write-ups would have included "red flags" or "challenges" (to use two favorite adoption agency phrases) who have ended up being our best relationships. By far.

It just goes to show you that there's really no formula to open adoption, no way of predicting how any particular open adoption will turn out. And our family's adoptions are still so very young. We've yet to see how things will shift and change as our lives continue, and as the kids grow and add their own choices to the mix. There's a lot of story here still left to be written. But right now I'm very glad this particular first parent is part of it.


Wishing 4 One said...

Just read your last post too. You are amazing man.

Miriam said...

Wow. A scenario I don't think would have ever crossed my mind in the context of open adoption. I came to your blog recently through several recommedations- my husband and I are hopefully going to start the adoption ball rolling in the next 6 months. I'm really looking forward to reading more about your story and catching up on your journey.
Happy ICLW!
~Miriam (ICLW #7)

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Wow... I am always so impressed and humbled by the road that those in open adoptions walk. Thank you for sharing your journey.


daega99 said...

Amazing. I didn't even think about the extent of te situations that could be encountered. Sending you many good thoughts for the amazing things you do!


Geochick said...

Thanks for being so open on your blog. I can't stress enough how much I'm learning from your posts. ICLW

cindy psbm said...

Ya know, that thing about a 'write-up' makes me remember that I(as a first mom) was required by the agency I placed through to complete a 10 page questionare. Now, I thought that this info was going straight to the adoptive couple, but I was wrong. For some reason the agency just wanted to know things about the first father and I. I honestly think that adoptive parents should be given as much info as first parents recieve of them.

Oh, and I just have to say that personally, I think the reason that your relationship with those 'particular' first parents is because of YOU. You(and possibly your husband) are the one(s) that are being a 'friend' to your childrens first parents.. Like the old adage, if you want friends, BE one! If your relationships with them are 'smooth' it is because you are talented at being a friend.

Heather said...

@cindy.psbm - If you give me credit for the smooth relationships, then you have to blame me for the rough ones, too. :)

Crossed Fingers said...

What a great POV in open adoption! Thanks for sharing!

ICLW #119

Holly said...

wow thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It seems that open adoption is rarely discussed and when it is, it is often one sided and tainted with negativity. It is great to read a more complete and accurate account of what it is really like.

ICLW #107

susiebook said...

Thanks for writing more about this--it's interesting to see an open adoption with such obvious challenges that is also built of healthy relationships. "Good on paper" can be weird in adoption from all three sides, which I sometimes forget.

Busted Kate said...

Happy ICLW! #100 :-)

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I need to learn so much more about adoption, and I appreciate hearing first hand the ups and downs of it all. Looking forward to reading more!

Shazz said...

Thankyou for educating me on open adoption. We don't really have alot of it in Australia so it was good to learn about it.
Your fantastic people.

Happy ICLW

Tammy said...

"We've got a good foundation started. I really do trust that we're all in it for the long haul, because we care about and enjoy each other and--most importantly--we care about our shared child's well-being. None of us are going to storm off forever in a huff because of some real or imagined slight. And that makes all the difference in the world."

See this. This is, as you say, truly the foundation of a healthy open relationship (okay, any relationship, right?). Knowing that regardless of homelessness, or anything of the like, or better or worse, you're going to be there. That is our determination in our relationships as well. We just hope and pray that with time our kids' other families, whose hearts have been broken so many times by so many people that makes us know WHY they just can't commit most of the time, with time...they will know that we're not going anywhere. The work and the time can sometime be excruciating, as they "wait" for us to give up. But we won't. And the hope of the possibility in it all makes it worth it!

Thanks again for sharing this part of your journey with your kids' families. It sure makes me feel less alone in it all.

Mia said...

Beautiful. A good reminder that people may present "red flags" on paper and still be willing to do the work of maintaining a respectful and caring relationship through thick and thin.

awomanmyage said...

Ours is not a truly open adoption, more semi-open as we don't plan on having contact for quite a while. Of course, I realize that this will likely change sooner rather than later. You serve as an inspiration and example on how it's possible to have a beneficial relationship for the sake of the child. I already know it's not easy, but necessary.

Erika said...

THanks for sharing your point of view on open adoptions. What a blessing you are in your child's life! I hope you're able to continue to keep contact with the birth family even though there are financial and stability issues. I'm so greatful you're able to keep such a positive attitude. Happy ICLW!

SustainableFamilies said...

To me, as an adoptee and a first parent, I think the circumstances of Puppy's first family would make it feel like it's a lot less sticky as far as ethics go.

I think it's easier for first parents (harder in some ways) but on a certain level, easier to feel happy with an adoption situation if they know that they are totally unable to parent.

The pain is the same pain, but I think feeling that ultimately the adoption could be seen visibly to be giving the child a better life makes it easier for many first parents I know to feel like at least, if nothing else, the pain had a purpose.

familyofthree said...

Nodding along with you. Almost three years into it, I think some people are still genuinely surprised at how drama-free our relationship with FirstMom is.

TakingChancesLovingLife said...

Awesome. Your story is so amazing yet simple and complex at the same time. My friend is in the middle of openly adopting - I'm recommending your blog to her!

Browniris said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences! My husband and I have started talking about adoption, so it is so helpful when others are willing to share their stories.


sharon said...

one day you will write a book about your experiences that will help so many people.
kudos to you for sharing.

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