National Adoption Day

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The month of November is National Adoption Month and today, November 21, is National Adoption Day.  The significance of this month and day are not lost on our family as we are a family built through adoption.

It is my family that I am truly thankful for and at this time of year really feel the gratitude of how my family came together.  I know for our girls this is all they know and for us our family grew beyond just adding our two girls.

Because a family doesn’t have to be made from blood, just love, lots of it!

Is your family created through adoption?

Day 21, #NaBloPoMo #BlogHer

 

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Why Open Adoption?

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We are asked from those who do not quite understand about adoption, Why Open Adoption?  I think first we need to explain the general thoughts/definition of Open Adoption –

This is an excerpt from What Is Open Adoption? by Brenda Romanchik. Ms. Romanchik is the birthmother of Matthew, born in 1984 and placed in a fully open adoption. She is one of the founders of Insight: Open Adoption Resources and Support and is the author of A Birthparent’s Book of Memories, Birthparent Grief, Your Rights and Responsibilities: A guide for expectant parents considering adoption, Finding Our Place: Birthparents in Open Adoptions and the upcoming Birthparenting. She lives in Royal Oak, Michigan with her husband and the two children she is parenting, Katarina and Daniel.)

What is Open Adoption?

“Ask five people what their definition of open adoption is and you are likely to get five answers. Some may think that allowing an expectant parent to choose the prospective adoptive parents from a profile of non-identifying information is an open adoption. Still others may say that those who met prior to placement and who exchange pictures and letters after the child is placed in the adoptive home are participating in an open adoption. This definition is, in fact, a variation of a semi-open adoption or openness in adoption.

So what is an open adoption? The primary difference between a truly open adoption and a semi-open adoption is that the adopted child has the potential of developing a one-on-one relationship with his or her birth family. It is not about the adoptive parents bestowing birth parents with the privilege of contact, nor is it about birth parents merely being available to provide information over the years. Direct contact, in the form of letters, phone calls and visits between the birth family and the adopted child, along with his adoptive family, is essential if they are to establish their own relationship. After all, how can we honestly call an adoption open if the child is not involved?

For many who are just beginning the adoption process, the concept of open adoption appears to be another complication they would rather not deal with. One prospective adoptive mom, weary from years of infertility, asked me at an adoption conference, “I am pursuing an international adoption because I don’t want to have to deal with my child’s birthfamily in any way. What can you say to me that would make me change my mind and pursue, instead, an open adoption?” My answer to her was simply this: “No matter where your child is adopted from, you will, as adoptive parents, need to ‘deal with’ your child’s birthfamily whether you know the birthfamily or not. This birthfamily is a part of who your child is. Open adoption allows you to know your child better by knowing his birthfamily.”

Expectant parents considering placing a child for adoption are often just as leery of the prospect of open adoption. Many are told, or feel, that ongoing contact will make it difficult to move on with their lives. Some are afraid that seeing their child will be too painful. Many worry that their involvement might confuse the child.

Making open adoption child-centered.

Many adoptive professionals encourage prospective birthparents and adoptive parents in the pre-placement process to choose the level of contact “they are most comfortable with having.” The philosophy of comfort does not take into consideration several very important factors, one being that open adoption should not be based on making the adults involved comfortable; rather it should be about providing for the needs of the child. Much of the open adoption experience is uncomfortable and awkward, especially in the beginning. While it is true that many children are only as comfortable as the adults around them, it is also true that many of us do things for our children that we are not totally comfortable with because it is good for them.

The other factor that the philosophy of comfort does not take into consideration is that adoption is a lifelong process. Many birthparents in the crisis of planning for an adoption look upon continuing contact as an option too painful to contemplate. Many adoptive parents, on the other hand, just want to be a family, without the added complication of visits with their child’s birthfamily. Most open adoption agreements are based on these feelings that occur around the time of placement. These agreements do not allow contact to ebb and flow according to the needs of all involved, most importantly the child. As time goes on, many birthparents, adoptive parents, and the adopted child find they want more contact, but feel they are not able to ask for more because of the original agreement. In cases such as these open adoption becomes a contract instead of a covenant.

According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, covenant is defined in part as being one of the strongest and most solemn forms of contract. It is also described as being sacred. For open adoption to work best, birthparents and adoptive parents need to see their involvement with each other as a sacred commitment, or a covenant they make to each other for the sake of the child.

Patricia Martinez Dorner, author of Children of Open Adoption and Talking to Your Child about Adoption, encourages us to see open adoption as just another form of blended family. In adopting, adoptive parents are welcoming the member of one family into their own. This “blending” of families is not without its share of uncomfortable moments, but the beauty of birthparents and adoptive parents accepting each other as family is twofold:

One, birthparents and adoptive parents really get to know each other. It allows them to see who the others are outside of their adoption experience. Birthparents can be seen as more than someone who found themselves in a difficult situation and adoptive parents can be seen as more than an infertile couple. Being able to know each other as complete human beings allows for greater acceptance. The adopted child is also able to know his birthparents as they are, rather than creating a fantasy birthparent. Instead of spending countless hours conjuring up an image of a person they do not know, they can use that energy for other things.

Two, it gives the child a sense of wholeness. There will no doubt be times when birthparents and adoptive parents take up the responsibility of maintaining the connection with each other. An infant, a toddler or a child cannot carry the burden of maintaining the connection between his two families. An adopted child whose birthfamily and adoptive family come together in a familial way, will grow up with greater certainty. There is a saying that the greatest gift parents can give their children is to love one another. I think it is inclusive of all parents, not just married couples.

So, what does a family blended by open adoption best compare to? In their book, The Open Adoption Experience, Sharon Kaplan-Roszia and Lois Melina state: “In practice, the relationship in open adoption is…comparable to that between in-laws.”

In marriage, a spouse accepts his or her in-laws because he or she realizes that they are an important part of who his or her spouse is. In open adoption, the adoptive family and birthfamily make a commitment to stay in contact because they also realize that the birthfamily is an important part of who the child is. As with in-laws, relationships vary. Some open adoption relationships develop into friendships while others are more distantly involved. All, however, recognize that they are family to one another, and important in the life of the child.”

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I chose this explanation as I felt it most reflected our family and beliefs … we are a family made through adoption … My husband and I are the parents of two girls who are now age 9 and 7 years old. We have very open adoptions with each of their birth families. But you see when we first started this journey to parenthood through adoption we were scared by our early readings on what open adoption was/is. You see living as a family in open adoption is not for the faint of heart …

Why you ask? Well it’s a human relationship for one and these need work and love to develop and prosper, if you don’t like the person you are in a relationship with how will you continue in your relationship? Two any relationships have their ups and downs, but being a family means you work through the downs to walk through the ups together … you see when you enter into an open adoption relationship you become family! So for those who may be faint of heart or for others considering this as a family-building option you need to learn what it is and not let your fear overtake your emotions … open adoption is not just about us, it is about our children, our girls and all of their family!

We began our journey to parenthood through adoption after a time of trying to get pregnant on our own and through many methods working with a group of fertility doctors. But that is not where our story ended, it was only the first chapter on our road to being parents. We realized we wanted to become parents no matter how it happened … it was about becoming “mommy” and “daddy” and it didn’t necessarily have to happen by pregnancy so we started reading about and learning about adoption.

The first books we read did scare us as we didn’t have any connection to any families at that time raising children in an open adoption so we were scared of the unknown. We found an education support group for adoption through our local chapter of Resolve. We attended an information night and met many other couples just like us … hmmm we were not alone (after feeling very alone on our trying to bear a child journey) that was a good start! We then immediately signed up for the 8-week education group to gain as much information and understanding of what may lie ahead for us if we were to take this path to parenthood. Again we were not alone, our group was made up of 6 couples just like us trying to figure out if this was the right path to have a family and quite frankly what it was like. The 8 weeks were filled with lots of information and meeting families who were now parents of children who came to them through adoption. We met birth parents who were part of their child’s family. We met adult adoptees who did not have contact or a connection to their birth family and we could feel their losses. We met older children whose family always included their birth family. We saw it right there in front of us, we saw how regular/normal it was for them we saw it didn’t have to be scary or confusing … we saw that this was a way we may be able to have a family!

It was through our adoption facilitator that we continued to gain more information and meet many families made through open adoption. We found a community of people (again just like us). It was with the wisdom and guidance of our facilitator and the community of these other families we knew this was how we wanted to have a family and what we would want for our future children. We wanted to be sure that when we met or talked with an expectant woman that she too wanted the same; and that being an ongoing in-person familial relationship for all of us. We wanted to be sure that the adults making these initial decisions were all working from the same page, that we all wanted to be a family together for our child/children together.

We saw that in choosing open adoption as a way to have a family, our children would always have a connection and know and be loved by ALL of their families! We wanted them to know who they look and act like, we wanted for them to know siblings and grandparents, aunts and uncles. We wanted to have this family to be there for them to help heal their losses.

So here we are today we are a FAMILY together involved in each other’s lives, we see each other, we love each other, our girls know their families ALL of them from their birth parents through to great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. We realize everyday how blessed we are by the transformation of our family from just the two of us to our daughters and their families together as one family! We are blended together seamlessly as one and for our girls they know no different they just know that we are all family and that we all love and care for them and each other and that’s how we roll as a family!

Are you living as a family in an open adoption?  What is your experiences?

Day 6 of #NaBloPoMo #BlogHer

Infertile Ground …

This post has been simmering just beneath the surface for me over the last 2 weeks.  Well over the last 10 years really.  There was a post on a forum I follow asking will you ever forget your infertility when becoming a parent through adoption?.

Yes I am a mom, twice through adoption! My husband and I became parents for the first time almost 9 years ago when our first daughter was entrusted to us and two years later when our second daughter was entrusted to us.  There are times, however, that the infertility that we experienced still raises itself as a reminder of what life had been.  Some holidays are also still a reminder for me as well.  Mother’s Day is a day I proudly share with each of my daughter’s birth mothers, but sometimes the day is tinged by my sense of loss.

You would think that now that I will be 52 years old and past my child-bearing years that I still wouldn’t be affected by infertility.  Others think it disappeared when we became parents, well it didn’t, not necessarily.  We worked through our feelings and dreams not happening at that time in our past and worked on our new dreams of becoming parents along a different path and journey.

The things that still tweak me are not necessarily ever going to go away.  I will never be able to share with my husband that we became pregnant and have that experience.  I will not be able to share birthing stories, stories of what pregnancy was/is like or any of that which comes with the experience. When I learn a friend or acquaintance is pregnant I am happy for them, but then I think I’ve never been able to feel or share that news and never be a part of that club.  Conversations with friends that turn to talking about their bodies and what pregnancy did to it is something I have to pull myself away from.  You may see me get up and walk away even to get a drink, but it is the conversation that I am getting away from.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thrilled to have been chosen to be Mom for each of our daughters.  My love for them is non-ending and I am full of love for them everyday!  My husband and I see there could not have been any other way our family was meant to be now growing not by just our daughters but by their families as well.

Now that my girls are nearing adolescence our conversations have turned to sharing with them what puberty is like and why and when this happens. In turn it brings on the conversation led by them about their birth stories, and the what ifs? of someday when they are older, will they be able to have babies through their own bodies?.  It is these conversations that tweak me. That I will not be the one to share with them what the feelings of pregnancy and giving birth will be like.  I will not be the one to share my experience having not had one to share with them.  There it is that feeling of loss hitting me again just a reminder of how things came to be.

I think it’s fair to say that infertility does not disappear it will always be a part of who I am.  What has made the difference for me is the understanding that it was not what was meant to be for me and my family.  That we had to relook at what our dreams for a family were and what we wanted them to be.

I know the infertility memories are not part of my everyday life, they only perk up now and again and far and few between the times they do.  But there are times I am reminded about the infertile ground I am part of.

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the last few days

a lot has happened in our family over the last few days/week.  Our beloved Cody Bear passed.  He was nearly 14 years old.  Our girls are sad as we are too. They did find a shiny penny over the weekend and are sure it’s from our Cody up there running around over the rainbow bridge with our Molly.

My oldest daughter’s 3rd grade teacher shared that she too is an adoptee. This turned into a wonderful discussion learning about her life, her reunion with birth family and how an adult adoptee feels.  I love that she shared this knowing our two girls were adopted as well.  My daughter was there in the room during this conversation at the end of the school day.  It was one that I followed up with her in our car as she, her sister and I headed home.  How did they feel knowing a beloved teacher was like them, adopted at birth?  Hearing her life and love for the family that raised her and the relationships she now has later in her life with her birth family.  Without over prodding my girls, I wanted to see what they understood, heard and thought about learning this information about an adult they know. I think we will need a few more days or weeks to process.

Adoption seems to be the “it” subject of our week.  Yesterday we learned a classmate of my older daughter’s was adopted as well.  She from China.  I again followed up the conversation with my daughters in the car on the way home from school.  Wasn’t it interesting to learn a classmate came to her family in a similar way?  This girl’s mom recently became a friend of mine on facebook and had read my posted links of this blog learning about our family’s story.  I don’t want to overdue the conversation with my girls, but how great is it to learn more about the people in our lives through school that have similar family stories!

Adoption is a part of our lives and it is our family story.  It’s something that comes up in conversation within our family often, sometimes just our two girls talking with each other about their families and our family.  Sometimes it’s their planning out their future lives.  They’ve shared with me they too want to adopt a baby into their lives when they are older.  I think is wonderful and shows me how normal our family lives are that they want to have a family in a similar way.

Time and again I realize you never know when or who you will meet that will have a similar story and share it with you.  I appreciate the honesty of people sharing their stories with us. It give us more to talk about and appreciate the life we have and for our girls to have others in their lives with families just like ours.