Category Archives: Adoption

Open Adoption: When what you know is wrong

When Roger and I embarked on the journey of adopting a baby a few years ago, everything we “knew” about adoption was from decades past:

  • You waited on a long list until the agency matched you with a situation. Top of the list of criteria for the match? Your place in line.
  • You tried to make the building of your family as close to “normal” (read: biological) as possible. You didn’t talk much about the adoption, either inside or outside of the family, and you certainly didn’t have any contact with birthparents. The goal was to make it seamless, almost as if adoption were never part of the story.
  • As the child grew, you continued not talking about adoption. Surrounding my friends who had been adopted was an air of secrecy. When we did speak of adoption, it was in hushed voices. These friends didn’t know much about their birth families, their birth story, or their origins. And it would hurt their parents too much to wonder too much. So they tried not to.

In the early part of the 21st century, our agency introduced us to this newfangled thing called “open adoption.” Wikipedia (a shared consensus rather than a definitive pronouncement), at the time of this writing, defines open adoption as, an “arrangement allowing for ongoing contact between members of the adoption triad.” It adds, “an adoption is open when the biological mother (and/or father) may make the actual decision on who is chosen to parent their child.

It may seem, then, like closed adoptions were the “default setting” of the ages. Wikipedia further explains, “all adoptions in the United States were open until the twentieth century. Until the 1930’s, most adoptive parents and biological parents had contact at least during the adoption process.”

Far from being newfangled, it turns out that open adoption had always been the norm, with closed adoptions the aberration. Adoptions became closed when social pressures mandated that families preserve the myth that they were formed biologically.

Roger and I learned all that we could about open adoption. Over the years, we have replaced the myths with these ideas:

  • Adoption isn’t about waiting passively in line — it’s about who we are. A couple in an unintended pregnancy would make a conscious decision about us parenting their baby. The criteria for their decision would be our values, our bundle of experiences, and our vision for the future — US!
  • Why try to deny that our family was built by adoption? Is my ego so fragile that acknowledging the birth mothers of my children takes away from me? Loving and respecting our children’s birth parents is just another way to love and respect our children.
  • Walking a fine line between dwelling on adoption it and denying it, we tell our children (now ages 8 and 6) their adoption stories once in awhile. We encourage them to talk with us about it as their cognitive skills grow. I believe that anything kept under a rock can get moldy, and I want their adoption tales to bask in sunshine.
  • There are many more benefits to open adoption. Our children have access to their medical histories and to clans who look like them and love them. Also, our children will not have to go through the potential minefields of search and reunion just to get answers to their wonderings.

In public, Roger sometimes kicks me under the table me as I proudly reveal the way we became a family. After all, he reminds me, I am merely caretaker of my children’s stories. Someday they will choose what to tell and to whom.

But it’s my story, too, and I am so happy about our story I share often and a lot, in an effort to combat myths from a bygone era.

Triad View: “Adoptions are meant to be closed!”

I have a close family member who was very candid with his thoughts recently.

He was adopted through Catholic Charities in the 1960s. He says he has never wanted to search for his birth parents. He says his “real” parents are the ones who brought him up. He says once his biological mother decided to give him up she should lose all rights to think of him; likewise he doesn’t think of her.

Regarding our open adoptions, he fears that one day as a teenager, Tessa will find it too easy to blame normal teen angst on adoption. Further, with Crystal being so accessible, Tessa will play us against each other and the situation will be even more adversarial than it usually is during teen years.

Reed, he believes, should never think about his birth parents. We are his parents — no ifs, ands or buts. The birth parents might as well have never existed.

He says, “Adoptions are meant to be closed. What you guys are doing is freaky.”

Triad View: Through Anifish’s eyes

I’m curious how my children might view their adoption stories when they are grown. Here’s an example of how adoption looks to Anifish, a woman who was adopted as an infant in the late 1960s.

This post can be found in its original form at Soul of Adoption on a thread entitled The Picking and Choosing of the Perfect Child. Anifish blogs here.

Adoption today is turning into a swap meet.

I picture this dirty swap meet a place where people go to shop for a child. Different vendors are everywhere, all of them making promises for the perfect setup, the perfect agreement. They specialize in one type of product. Theirs is better then the rest, and they promise to be competitive, but some still believe even though this is a swap meet that “You get what you pay for.” Some products are just downright cheap. Depends on the product. And there are many to choose from.

So I see all these shoppers. Some know exactly what they want. There are even some sections that carry slightly used products — but not many — and there are not many shoppers in the used section.

There is a section with warning labels. These products have been sitting on the shelf for awhile in the slightly used section because so many people want to buy new. Just when a buyer is ready to make a purchase warning label section, many change their minds to find a more suitable product that fits their lifestyle and personality the best. I mean really we all want the perfect match, don’t we?

Then there are the vendors who carry the manufacturer along to help with the purchase. The manufacturers stand by their product and will sell to only certain types of clients. This is a different section then the rest. It has a unique spark. Here the buyers are on display, showing all the bells and whistles they have. The best one gets chosen, with buyers’ lining up to purchase the prize that the manufacturers have produced. These manufacturers hold the product with care and love and really do not ever lose the product–they can check in when they want because it is in the purchase agreement.

For the most part this section is very productive and works in favor of both the manufacturers and the product and the buyer. But there are always those who take advantage of this section.Yet this could be great section.

Then there are the imports. These are usually older models, not usually new, maybe a few months old. These usually do not come with a manual or history of manufacturers, and they come from poorer countries. But the worth is just the same. This section is also very busy.

You have to see how the products are shelved by the vendors.

  • by race
  • by color
  • by sex
  • by eye color
  • by temperament
  • by warning labels and potential side effects
  • by age

You get the picture. In the end all these products have the same worth.

The swap meet is busy and prosperous. This item is big, this item is wanted, this item is unique, but they are all essentially the same.

This post is in regards to how adoption makes me feel sometimes. I could have been the one with the warning label on its forehead. “Potential side effects may occur.” I might have been one of the items that did not cut it — no buyer wanted to take a chance with the side effects. I could have been one of the items that ended up never going home with a buyer. And with many others I would have stayed on the dusty shelf. Losing my value everyday after that. Eventually I would not even be glanced at. The vendor would eventually move me to the junkyard. And my value and worth would never be looked at again and eventually I would be worthless with the other worthless items. All because someone was not willing to just love me, take a chance that they were the only thing I needed to flourish and grow. All I needed was love.

And I am sorry the old saying about you can’t buy love. Well it is true, but people want the perfect love. Can the shoppers unconditionally love a product that comes with no guarantee?

Every one of us is different, unique and you cannot put a price on us. You also cannot pick us out. We are all the same, a product of unique creation.

It does not matter what section you purchase us from. To us we are all the same. Priceless and beautiful. In our own unique way. I wish I could create a place that was just as unique as we are, a place that honors each of us as individuals. A place where we are safe from having labels applied to us, where we were not separated by manufacturer or vendor criteria, where the only cost in obtaining us was the pain of our loss to our creator. Which can never be repaid.

That place will never come to be when the buyers are wanting that certain one. There will be a lot of precious items with warning labels sitting on the shelves. In this world they are not looked upon as equal in value.

HUMAN VALUE, THE KIND YOU CAN NOT BUY.

Many adoptive parents have used the “chosen child” concept with their child, the idea that the child was chosen either for them or by them. Anifish’s perspective challenges me to see this explanation through adopted eyes.

The image of sitting on a shelf and waiting to be chosen is haunting to me. Waiting for your flaws to be exposed. Waiting to see if you measure up. Waiting to see if you’ll be accepted or rejected. This is an idea I don’t want to plant in my children.

Much as I hate to admit it, Anifish’s viewpoint makes sense to me. We DID a lot of research about our adoption path. We DID worry about what fate would bring us (as we would have with pregnancy, but this is a nuance lost on a child). There WERE certain criteria we didn’t want to face making a decision about.

I can rationalize and explain everything with a grown up mind, but the same situation looks very different from an adopted child’s mind.

I am grateful to Anifish for letting me see. Through her eyes.

Triad Viewpoints: Adoptees

Periodically, I will bring to this space various perspectives on adoption.

How many people are there — do you think — who were adopted, who have adopted a child, who have relinquished a child, or who know someone who has experienced any of the three?

Well, that’s how many viewpoints there are on adoption.

This starts a series (I use the term loosely, because related posts may or may not be contiguous. I, after all, am the master of this universe) on viewpoints of adoptees I either know in real life, online, or other in some anecdotal way.

I’ll also post some viewpoints of other parts of the triad later on.

Feel free to chime in — respectfully