Reunion in an Open Adoption 3: a Different Kind of Wait

“The Wait” tends to mean something in adoption, something that hopeful adopting parents endure.

But because of my lack of foresight, Tessa was the one who had to endure this 2-month wait. And it was not easy for her — and, consequently, for us.

Previous posts leading up to this part of the story
Part 1: Considering Joe
Part 2: Telling Tessa

birth fathers on father's day

Tessa found out about Joe’s desire to meet her in mid-May. Our family and Joe’s family had busy and conflicting schedules most of the summer, until the end of July.

I wish I had taken better care of the photos of Joe, not let on yet that meeting him was coming. I’ve been a mom awhile — I should know this! Never tell the kids something is going to happen — until it is practically happening.

Once the cat was out of the bag, though, I tried to make it a positive thing. She could get to know him over the phone first, the way we got to know him via email. We could ease into this relationship and she’d be able to process gradually and slowly.

That was my hope. It was not, however, the reality.

Tessa and Joe began a telephone relationship. Joe had 7 years of pent-up eagerness churning in him, and he called 2-3 times a week. He always chatted with Roger or me first and asked if it was OK to talk with Tessa. I am very thankful that he was intent on making sure Tessa’s needs were of prime importance. Also that he often asked to speak with Reed, respecting and accepting easily that we are a package deal.

Tessa was giddy with each phone call. She felt very special. I think, perhaps that she had in her mind that Joe was a person who would “fix” whatever was wrong with her life — HE would surely give her a set of real keys (she loves real keys, indicators of power); HE would take her swimming every day because he has a pool RIGHT NEAR HIS HOUSE; HE would let her stay up as late as she wants; in other words, HE would buy her the proverbial pony.

(Please understand that Joe did not plant or water these thoughts. Tessa has plenty of magical thinking all on her own — it’s part of her charm.)

So she had this pull toward him. This idea that Joe was da bomb.

My job, as I saw it, was to keep her grounded with all this fantasy that was going on. Let me tell you that she was very mad at me a lot during this time period. We continued to have chores, bedtimes, rules and limits.

One day I became aware of a push. And I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. I was intent on providing her the freedom to develop a relationship with Joe — so intent, perhaps, that I missed a deeper layer.

One afternoon we had an out-of-proportion argument over chores. She went from zero to steam-coming-out-the-ears in a flash. Her eyes a-blazing, she hissed, “And if I don’t, are you going to send me to Joe?”


Sudden flash of insight: she wasn’t JUST worried that we would keep her from meeting Joe. She was ALSO worried that we might abdicate our place as her parents. This thought, I believe, filled her with terror. Like an earthquake was about to hit.

“Oh, Sweetie.” I came toward her and she collapsed into my arms, her flame doused by her tears. “Do you think Daddy and I would ever let you go? We will ALWAYS be your parents, no matter what. We love you NO MATTER WHAT. Now you just have someone else in your life who also loves you and who wants good things for you.”

I continued, “Your life won’t change a lot when you meet Joe. This is your home. Reed is your brother. Daddy and I will always tuck you in at night and wake you up in the morning.”

“Teddy [Bear] and my babies will always be mine?”

“Yes,” I said. And smiled, “And you’ll still have to eat your veggies and empty the trash and finish your homework and kiss your mother!” as I smooched toward her and tickled her.

Her body relaxed with the release of weeks of tension buildup.

I am still chastened by the fact that I didn’t see the push/pull develop and try to mitigate it. I am lucky Tessa is so resilient and strong.

Too bad there are no do-overs. I’ll need one more before this reunion thingy is over.


Next in this series: Face-to-face.

22 thoughts on “Reunion in an Open Adoption 3: a Different Kind of Wait”

  1. Such a normal reaction but I can see how it wasn’t an expected reaction. Has there been any sort of similar issues with her birth mom? I’m curious. My little sister met her birth mom, dad, grandparents, aunt etc when she was about 13 and there was a lot of drama and arguing back and forth between her and my mom for quitle a while afterwards. That left me feeling worried about the concept of open adotpion. It’s interesting though to hear about how all this occured in your situation.

  2. Wow, I wouldn’t have put this together. But when did this all happen? I thought it was happening now?

  3. Wow, Lori. Reading this story just confirms for me how amazing you are as a mom and as a person. Tessa and Reed are so lucky to have you.

  4. Sounds like classic stuff right out of the adoption books but I probably won’t recognize it in Evie someday, either. When it’s our own kid our feelings get in the way of our logic. Sounds like you handled it perfectly, though. I’m looking forward to part 4 🙂

  5. You may not have seen it coming but you recognized it and handled it perfectly when it did happen.

  6. Poor little girl. It’s so hard to know what’s going on in their little heads especially when they don’t have the ability to figure it out and tell us.

  7. Lori,I often marvel that though our situations are different, of course, there’s a kernel of similarity there — this post made me cry with joy for Tessa, that she has such a loving mom that is living so mindfully with her and her brother in mind.XOLove,Pam

  8. I’ll say it again–I think what you’re doing is so important because while you won’t get the do-over, reading the story will help others who are about to go through a similar experience.

  9. BattyNurse: no such issues with Crystal, probably because Crysta’s been around since the beginning. So there was no “reunion.”And, as challenging as this has been at age 7, I shudder to think how it would be at age 13.One benefit of Open Adoption is that it can help eliminate reunion issues, since there is not really a time of complete separation.

  10. Well, if it’s any comfort to you, I probably would have missed it too. What’s important is that you caught it, and it’s clear she was very, very relieved.This is a lovely post.

  11. You never cease to amaze me. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story with us (I don’t care what Reed says, I’m SO thankful his Mommy blogs! :o)

  12. I think Kristin hit it on the head. I am so impressed with how you handled this.What a gift you are giving by sharing this. I KNOW it will help others.

  13. wow. so very interesting! I agree with mel and I am SO grateful that you are sharing your experience here so others may learn and benefit. this has got to be so tough. yet I’m so happy to know how insightful and responsive you are to reassure T so well. you are such an awesome mom!it’s hard to imagine T so vulnerable in that sense, but it is such a natural reaction to the build-up and uncertainty of the situation. and yes, part of her charm. I like that.

  14. Lori, as someone who only knows closed (sealed, locked tight, don’t even think about peeking) adoption. I am so thankful for these posts. Thank you for sharing as much as you do about your open adoption and letting us all into a world that we might not otherwise know.

  15. I fantasized about the fantasy parents when I was her age, and I wasn’t even adopted. We all appreciate the gift of your hindsight…

  16. I can’t believe I missed this.I think you handled it beautifully. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is so hard to know what other adults are thinking sometimes, I can’t imagine trying to predict how a kid’s mind works.It sounds like all are doing well now? It must be very strange to have this other person enter into your circle at such a late date and with such passion. I love what Mrs. Spock said too.

  17. All of this reading has really made me realize that I always need to make sure that my son knows that he is part of our family forever, and YES he can visit and have a relationship with his bfam but this will always be his home.

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