I wrote a guest blog about the regional conference for United by Love, and I'll post it below. You're probably already familiar with some it, but I'm not writing it all again. =P
I'm excited to share a few of my experiences at the FSA Northeast Regional Conference in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. It was so interesting! I'm actually from Utah, but my birth-son and his parents live in Boston, and it's really their fault that I got to go out for the conference. But it certainly wasn't a free ride--I was more than a little surprised when they (the regional committee) asked me to be their keynote speaker for the conference, as well as presenting two breakout sessions. It was very humbling, and I'm grateful that I was given the opportunity.
The conference began Friday. We actually started out in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a tour of the Hershey factory and then some chocolate taste-testing. The tour was designed for small kidlets, but it was still amusing. This was the first time that I've seen my son in over a year. You can imagine that living 2000 miles apart cuts down on visits. So it was fun to tour Hershey hand-in-hand.
That evening was the keynote address. I was proceeded by a beautiful musical number by a local adoptive couple. I'm going to see if they have a website, and then I'll see if it can get posted here, because the song they sang about their son's birthmother was incredibly touching.
My keynote address was based on the scripture 1 Corinthians 2:9-11. The main point which I drew from this scripture was that we never know what God has in store for us. Ever heard the saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." But I also tried to impress upon my audience the perils of adversity as well as the power of unity within the adoption triad. That evening was supposed to be the most spiritual portion of the conference, while the remainder of the sessions were dealing with the more technical issues. You'll have to ask any of the attendees if it was any good. =P
There was a little social/dessert afterward where I first began talking to some of the attendees (mostly adoptive parents). I had been forewarned that things would be different than in Utah--but I didn't realize how this mentality really pervaded these people. Over and over as I talked about my experiences or my thoughts, I heard some variation of "Well, it's different out in Utah."
Furthermore, I was treated as an oddity, a rarity. These adoptive couples honestly didn't expect birth parents to be well-balanced, mature, sane individuals. So the fact that I displayed those attributes (I think!) meant that I was an odd one out, certainly not the norm.
As we moved in Saturday's sessions, I tried to--lovingly and respectfully--convince them otherwise. It helped SO MUCH that there were other birth parents present! There were only a few, but it was great to have them add their agreement to the fact that the majority of birthmoms are NORMAL PEOPLE, who aren't going to come in the night and try to steal the baby away wearing a ski mask. (We almost brought a ski mask for a demonstration, but decided against it.)
The first session, I co-presented with my son's parents, Joe and Jen. It was called, "Communication: The Secret to a Successful Open Adoption." I actually feel like this was the most important session that I was involved in. We played 'Mythbusters' and talked through common adoption myths that adoptive couples go through. I think it was incredibly powerful to have all three of us up there, together, laughing, agreeing, and talking about our own experiences. My second session was by myself, "What Birth Parents Wish Adoptive Couples Knew", and it was just a rehash of the session from the national conference. Still successful, and I hope it was helpful to those who attended.
What I really gained from this experience (besides hugging my son lots and lots) was the knowledge that there's still a lot of work to be done in the adoption world. There's still a lot of talking and convincing and really showing that we need to do. Those of us who HAVE found success and joy from open adoptions really need to keep talking about it, keep showing other people what has worked and how wonderful it is. Not every adoption is perfect, but not every relationship is perfect either, and that's what this really is--we, adoptive parents and birth parents, have a relationship. And in some cases, that relationship is more like an obligation that you feel like you have to fulfill. But in the best circumstances, it's a real relationship, a real frienship, and a real source of joy. This is a relationship worth having! And I hope that it's something also worth sharing.