The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community.
This roundtable prompt was:
I have two adoptions (two and a half, really) to consider when answering questions like this, and I think I would like to address them all.Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?
I have a great, very open relationship with my birth father and his family. My adoption opened when I was 18, and met both of my birth parents. Ever since then, my birth father and his family have included me in all their major life events. We talk frequently, though not as frequently as any of us might like, but that's due to busy lives and distance more than anything else.
My birth mother, on the other hand, has completely closed off. After meeting that one time, she has stopped all communication, and I haven't had any relation with her ever since. I know that she does, very occasionally, talk with my birth father, but that's about it.
In both of these cases, I believe it came down to their attitude regarding my adoption--something that was formed before I was even born. My birth mother "moved on" almost immediately after my birth--got married, started having children, and apparently shut her adoption experience into a dark, tight box that never got opened. Compare this to my birth father, who raised his daughters knowing about me, celebrated my birthday each year, carried a photo of me as a baby in his wallet along with photos of his daughters, and you'll see what I mean. My birth father always wanted to have a relationship with me, and that shows in the relationship that we have today.
This is a little more complex. Before my son was born, his parents and I emailed frequently (almost daily, throughout my pregnancy). We agreed on an open adoption, but we did not specify what all that was going to entail, except that we would figure it out as we went. Looking back, I think a little more specificity would have helped, but I also have to acknowledge that I had no idea at the time what I would need or want six months, a year, five years down the road.
After placing my son, communication immediately dropped off. While I could logically understand--with a new baby in the house, sending daily lengthy emails would be impractical, if not impossible--emotionally, it was very difficult to deal with. And to be perfectly candid, there have been many times in the last seven years when I have craved more from them than I have received.
That said, we do have an open adoption. I can send them an email any time, and (hopefully) receive a response. And if my son or his parents ever needed or wanted to contact me, I would not hesitate to respond.
While it's not perfect, and not exactly what I envisioned when I placed him for adoption, it works. My thoughts on why it grew to be this way? I think part of it is personality, both mine and my son's mother. Part of it is the more general difficulty of maintaining long-distance relationships. There are other factors as well. But it works. While I always want to be there for my son if he has need of me, for the most part, I am content to see pictures of him on Facebook and know that he is well.