Friday, May 29, 2009

Ongoing relationships in adoption

When I was adopted, nearly 23 years ago now, open adoption didn't exist. My birthparents selected my adoptive parents from a series of profiles. They did not get to see pictures or names. Because I was born through C-section, they got to spend 48 hours with me in the hospital before I was taken by a social worker to my adoptive parents. The adoption agency performed a checkup six months later. My birth parents received the report of that checkup--again, no names were used--along with a handful of pictures. The pictures did not feature my parents, only me. That was the last my birth parents heard or saw of me for 19 years.

Obviously life has changed a lot. Adoptions are now open. Adoptees are allowed to meet and know their birth families, even grow up with their birth parents as active participants in their life.

However, even with open adoptions there is a tendancy among birth parents to drift, in the years following the placement of their child. Birth mothers heal, and they are often encouraged to put their experiences behind them and move on with their life.

I don't want to say this is wrong, because I very much believe that moving forward is a healthy approach to the adoption experience. However, I think that birth parents sometimes lose sight of the fact that their child will always have questions and needs that can only be fulfilled by the birth parents.

I've experienced this as an adoptee myself. I spent 19 years in the dark. Wondering, questioning, doubting. There were many times that I wished that I knew my birth parents, so I could ask them things. As a rebellious teenager, I thought there was surely some genetic explanation for things that happened in my life. All through my life, I wondered if I had siblings, I wondered if my parents had really loved me.

There is no substitute for a birth parent. They will never replace the parent, the adoptive parent. But blood calls to blood. I have grown close to my birth father and his family in the last few years, and those relationships are invaluable to me. And I hope to have an ongoing relationship with my son and his parents.

I think that it is crucial for birth parents to remember the needs of their child, just like the parents themselves. Just because we have moved forward with our lives does not mean that we have no further obligation to our child. Of course we give what we can, when we can, and when it's appropriate. But we still give of ourselves, always.

1 comment:

  1. I am reading The Primal Wound now. That, and viewpoints like yours help me to understand what my children may be feeling/experiencing and without having the ability to express it.