Open Adoption? What Does That Mean?

2013011995213748-1_resized

“What do you mean, you have an open adoption?”  “How does that work?” ” I would just take that baby and never look back.” “Aren’t you worried she’ll want to take her back?”  “Is she confused on who her ‘real’ mom is?”  These are just some of the things that I hear when I tell people that we have an open adoption.

There are lots of people on the outside looking in that are confused by open adoption, but they just don’t understand.

In the beginning these comments made me feel defensive and sometimes question my decision.  In spite of all of these feelings I knew in my heart the decision I was making was right and was best for my children.  Plus, the quote “If a mother can love more than one child, why can’t a child love more than one mother?” never left my mind.

You see, I didn’t start out with an open adoption plan.  Our first adoption went pretty quick.  We were matched and our daughter was born all in the same week.  We were supposed to meet her birthmom, Rebecca, the Monday after she was born.  Instead, we all met at the hospital.

I was so nervous and excited on the four-hour drive to the hospital.  My feelings went from “oh my goodness we’re going to be parents” to “what if Rebecca doesn’t like us,” etc.  I remember knocking on Rebecca’s hospital door and her saying “Come on in.”  We entered her room, and that’s where the story really begins.

Our daughter was not in her room.  This gave us all time to spend together to talk and share.  I cherished that time and thought, “I want to remember everything about this amazing, strong, funny, brave woman so I can share it with my daughter one day.”  After about an hour went by we called down to the nursery to have them bring the baby (Riley).  As soon as the door opened and we saw her little purple crocheted hat the tears began to flow.  We were all crying like babies, except Riley.  My husband and I would not pick her up and just kept telling Rebecca how beautiful she was.  Finally, Rebecca picked her up and gave her a little kiss on her head, handed her to us and said, “This is your mommy and daddy.”

One thing I was not prepared for was the love I’d have for Rebecca.  I already knew I loved Riley.  I knew the moment I found out she existed.  Rebecca was a different story.  Her love for Riley was undeniable.  Her strength and commitment to do what she thought was best for this amazing, tiny, 5 lb. 12 oz. angel was awe-inspiring.  I loved her from the moment I walked into that room.  Every book I ever read on adoption could never have prepared me for these feelings; there was no mention of this.  Was this normal?

We moved through the next two days in a blur.  Taking care of the legalities and making sure each other were okay.  I woke up the second day in tears. The tears were not because I was worried she’d change her mind or anything along those lines.  The tears were for her.  For what she was going to have to do that day, for the love I knew she felt for this sweet baby. I wanted to just help her, to hug her and reassure her.  She left the hospital that day arm and arm with her mother.  As she left the nursery I couldn’t let go of the feeling that I would see her again.

In the first months after we were home I grieved for Rebecca.  Songs would come on the radio and I would just cry for her. I sent letters and pictures, but it just didn’t seem like enough.  Finally I got the nerve to contact Hausmann & Hickman and have them reach out and see if a meeting would be possible.  She was open to it.  First my husband and I met with her on our own. During that meeting we set up the next one when we’d all meet together.

A few weeks later we all met up to spend the weekend together.  I remember Riley getting out of her car seat, walking up to Rebecca and saying, “I came out of your belly.”  Rebecca picked her up, breathed her in and said, “I know you did.”  All was right in the world at that time and then Riley ran off to play.

Things have been open now for 5 years.  We spend every Thanksgiving together.  Rebecca is an excellent cook.  We respect each other and our roles in this little girl’s life.

Open adoption isn’t always easy. However, we have made a pact to always share our feelings and be honest. I say it’s not always easy, but keep in mind, it’s worth it. We’ve all grown as a family not only in love, but in size.  The relationship is not only with Rebecca, but with Riley’s biological siblings, grandmother and extended family.  She loves to be with them too.  We all stay in touch and visit when possible. Most of our time together is spent laughing and telling stories.  Just recently Rebecca came for a four-day visit and we kept referring to one another as “My baby’s momma.”  As I write these very words Riley is on the phone with her biological brother Aaron discussing Minecraft and different strategies.  It’s a wonderful place to be, it’s our normal.  Family is defined however you choose.  We define it as love and caring for one another.  That’s our choice and we are all better because of it.

Open adoption is not about having the same political views, or religious views (we don’t). It’s about the child and their happiness.  It’s about the child knowing that they were always wanted by everyone and surrounded by love.  After all, you can never have enough love.  It’s about having your questions answered and not wondering when you look in the mirror where your blue eyes come from, or where you got your cute curly hair and freckles.  Open adoption is about making it work for everyone.  It’s not about co-parenting, or proving who loves the child more. In fact, it’s not about “you” at all.  We know our roles. We love and respect each other.   We share a common goal and are joined together as a family.  But most of all, we love this little girl and want what is best for HER.