Much to my delight, Heather has opened up the Open Adoption Roundtable. Periodically, she will pose a question, to which we respond in detail at our own blogs. I think this is a great way to network and share ideas and stories about adoption. It brings so many perspectives together!
The question for this first round is: What one thing about open adoption would you tell your past self, if you could? (For more detail, I'd recommend taking the link over to Heather's post.) This is a little different for me than it would be for an adoptive mom, but here goes.
It was pretty early in my pregnancy that I decided I was going to place my baby for adoption. Getting married just wasn't going to happen, abortion wasn't an option, and I decided I wasn't going to single parent. So I started looking at profiles of adoptive couples. Even these are a lot more open than they used to be, and contact of some kind is usually encouraged. I read through a few, and even emailed a handful of couples. One of the most important questions (to me) I asked was, "How do you feel about openness?"
I got lucky. Or rather, there was more than a little divine intervention. I hear adoptive couples and caseworkers talk about networking, and it is SO TRUE. I looked through the profiles and emailed couples that seemed close to what I wanted. But networking found the true results.
Late in the summer, when I was about four months along, my friend Ashley hesitantly approached me. She told me that her sister knew a couple who were hoping to adopt. I told Ashley to pass along my email address. Lo and behold, I soon had a lengthy email from Jen, telling me about her and her husband, their lives, the cruise they'd just gone on, and how they wanted to know all about me.
Those emails continued. They were usually long (as were mine back to them), they were usually fairly casual, but they were always loving and always interested in me and how I was doing. They were perfect, and I loved them. To be honest, Jen became a HUGE support to me throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I knew that she cared about me, and I knew that she cared about my pregnancy. I shared with her the details of my discomforts and my joys regarding my pregnancy, because she was curious and excited for me. In some ways, Jen went through that pregnancy, vicariously! And by the time I realized that she was supposed to be the mother of our "little monkey", I realized that I wanted her to share those experiences with me, because she was his mother.
I know that adoptive couples often feel anxiety about openness with birth parents. Particularly if it's their first time adopting. Always there's just that edge of nervousness when you think of including another person in your little family. I cannot commend Jen enough for her compassion, her curiosity, and her open, honest engagement with me. That was what I needed. I hope I'm not making an assumption to say that she needed it too. And I don't think either of us had even begun to realize what we needed from each other before it just happened.
I will relate an experience. It was late November. Jen and I had been emailing since August. I had prayed about it, my ex/the father had prayed about it, and I knew without any doubt that the little monkey was supposed to belong to Jen and Joe's family. I was planning to tell them over Christmas break when I met them for the first time. But out of nowhere, Jen and Joe got an offer: another birthmother had chosen to place her baby with them. Immediately.
I can't even begin to imagine what Jen and Joe went through during this time. It seems so brief, looking back, but at the time it seemed like an endless agony. Jen and Joe considered the offer, and my caseworker talked me through the possibilities, and what might happen if they decided to accept this other child, and not mine. Jen and Joe considered the possibility of taking both children. We all prayed.
We had a conference call--Jen, Joe, their caseworker, my caseworker, me and my ex. I was on pins and needles. I knew. I knew my baby was meant to be with them. And I didn't want to share them with some other person! I didn't want my baby fighting for their attention! It was just supposed to be us right now. Other babies could come later, but right now, it was about me and my little monkey.
Jen and Joe knew it too.
You can't imagine the relief I felt when they told me that their prayers had been answered, and that they knew they were supposed to have my baby, and that this other child was supposed to be with a different family. I wept. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about what might have happened, if they hadn't been in tune to the Spirit, if they had been tempted by the offer of a baby right now. But our Father in Heaven knew where these children were supposed to be, and He made it possible.
We still met over Christmas, and though it was no longer a surprise of any kind, I still gave them my gift--a stuffed monkey, to hold them over until they got the real little monkey. Over the coming months, our emails continued. I shared my ultrasound pictures. We met again. We talked about names for the baby. We discussed the birth plan. In every way, I tried to include them in my pregnancy, and then in the birth of their son.
I know that I've strayed a bit. But what I would tell my past self about open adoption is to trust. I would tell me to trust myself. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to choose the right parents for my baby, but when the real time of trial came, I knew. And I would tell myself to trust them. Jen and Joe have been so kind and generous, through every step and every day of this experience. They continue to share with me, and they continue to tell their son about his adoption and his birthmom, who loves him. Open adoption works. It is about trust, and it is about love.