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At first, we panicked at the thought of sharing parenting
"Great news, the birthmom is pretty much positive she wants you to parent her baby."
It's really happening -- a mom at last!
"Oh, but there's one thing. I told her you'd meet with her on Thursday."
My heart sank. Open adoption was not in the plans.
Why did she need to meet us? Why did the licencee promise her we'd send letters and updates for a year? She had chosen to make an adoption plan, so the parenting should just be left to us, shouldn't it? We had purposely not chosen a social worker who pushed for open adoptions, and here we were, pretty much with no choice at all.
I had grown up as one of the non-adopted siblings in a family with five kids. My two younger brothers were adopted in closed adoptions. They both grew up in the same way that the rest of us did. Their adoptions were never kept a secret, but they weren't discussed often. If they had a lot of questions, they didn't ask them out loud. Our parents were very open about it, but my brothers didn't seem to need ongoing discussions. They both put their names into the disclosure registry. One has his non-identifying information, and the other one has had a successful reunion with much of his birth family. Perfect. Our parents raised him to adulthood, and this was the perfect time for a reunion. No-one's role in his life would be questioned or threatened. Why couldn't our adoption work like that??
Thursday. It was really happening. We drove to our licencee's office, and we were in a panic. What if she didn't like us? What if she changed her mind? What if she wanted ongoing contact? By this time we were very much in love with our tiny daughter, and we were hesitantly ready to agree to anything! The meeting went very well, and we came away pretty confident that we would be taking Nicole home with us within days. We agreed to send letters, pictures and possibly a video at the end of her first year.
Our life as a family of three went along as we had planned. We were completely in love!
Over the course of the year we kept in touch with our licencee, and sent her pictures as we had promised. One day she called us, and the birthmom was with her in her office. She wanted to know if I would speak with her. I was nervous, but I agreed. I told her little things about Nicole, and she seemed happy. This happened several times that year, and each time it became easier. When the year was up, I wrote the update, gathered more pictures, and created a video for her. There was only one problem. We had done what we said we would do, and it was time to cut all ties, but I could not do it. This wonderful woman had given me the gift of motherhood, and I could not bring myself to say good-bye. She was shocked, but thrilled to hear the news. Our contact remained the same as it had been for the first year.
During this time I discovered the Internet and email lists. I joined an adoption list, and most of the members had been parents longer than I had. I went in thinking that we had a very open adoption, but I learned so much from those parents. I was the one who initiated all contact with our daughter's birthmom, because I didn't feel comfortable sharing any personal information with her. The parents on the adoption list helped me to see that she was not an outsider, but a part of our extended family. They helped me to realize what open adoption really meant.
Within the following three years, we were blessed with two more daughters, through birth and adoption. Six months after our second adoption, which was a closed adoption through the Children's Aid Society, we requested a meeting with the birth family. This was something that was pretty much unheard of in CAS adoptions, but we had a wonderful social worker who agreed to help us. We were fortunate enough to meet Kayla's birth father, sister and grandmother. The meeting was wonderful! We took lots of pictures, shared information and promised to stay in touch. Sadly that has not happened, but we remain hopeful.
When Nicole was seven, she started to ask a lot of questions about her birthmom. The time was right to meet again. We arranged a meeting, together with our licencee, at a McDonald's close to her home. We felt it was a good place to meet, because the kids could play while we talked. The meeting was great, and the pictures were absolutely phenomenal. The joy in Nicole's eyes was priceless. At the end of our visit we promised to meet again. From that time on, we started to have visits at Christmas time. We also gave her our phone number, and our calls became more regular.
When Nicole was nine, she started to ask a lot of questions about her birthfather. Until that point, we had no information on him. We shared this with her birthmom, who finally introduced us to him. Nicole was over the moon with happiness! We now spend time at Christmas and birthdays together, as well as a visit in the summer.
In 12 years we have gone from wanting a completely closed adoption to having a fully open adoption, and we can't imagine it any other way! What changed our feelings? We realized that none of this was actually about our feelings in the first place. It has always been and will always be about our daughters' and what's right for them.
This is right.
Marcia Talbot and family live in Bradford, Ontario. Visit "Our Gang" at fivegoofs.tripod.com. Marcia is co-moderator (with Leceta Guibault) of the email lists Canadians-Adopting (groups.yahoo.com/group/canadians-adopting) and AdoptionCanada (groups.yahoo.com/group/AdoptionCanada).
©2007 Marcia Talbot, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published at Family Helper, www.familyhelper.net, on Feb. 5, 2007.
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