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Voices From the Heart

a collection of writings from those touched by adoption

"Open Adoption: The Story of a Special Bond"
by SST, Managing Editor

Glancing at my calendar I am reminded that November is Adoption Awareness Month. Adoption. The word conjures up so many emotions, opinions, fears, and joys for people and yet, few understand the world of adoption. For most it is a language so beyond comprehension they don't even try to grasp its true meaning.

Our journey began with the Adoption Fair at Overlake Hospital on a drizzly morning. We had no idea of what to expect and we had come fully armed with deep reservations and fears about the whole adoption process. Misinformation gleaned from made-for-TV-movies and sensational headlines. The conference rooms and auditoriums were abuzz with activity. Everyone involved in adoption was there or so it seemed. With "deer in the headlights" looks, other potential adopters were easy to spot. Inside their booths adoption professionals were ready to answer any and every question. What questions should we be asking? We didn't even know where to begin and every new turn added to the already overwhelming and intimidating experience. Luckily a kind-hearted social worker with light gray hair and a years-of-experience-air about her noticed our tentativeness and offered comfort and advice, "Take a bag. Pick up every brochure, flyer, business card and piece of paper you can get your hands on. It won't mean anything to you today, but down the road it will."

And she was right. By the end of the day we were exhausted and overwhelmed, but we also had hope. Yes, it was possible to build a family through adoption. In the next few weeks we sorted through the mountain of information gradually narrowing our focus to a few pathways and options. "Open adoption." The phrase came up repeatedly. Yikes. Agencies actually expected adoptive families to have ongoing contact with birthfamilies? Our fears of openness in adoption were mirrored by family and friends as they too questioned the idea while giving us the same expressive look of shock and sadness we might have received upon announcing a terminal illness, "Open adoption? Oh, I'm so sorry." They would become silent as they envisioned "our" version of the next movie of the week.

Open adoption and openness in adoption can be frightening terms to those entering the world of adoption and are usually completely misunderstood by those outside of adoption. Even the word open is ambiguous and is used by different people in different ways. We began reading everything we could get our hands on about openness in adoption. We began talking to other adoptive families and joined a local support group. We soon learned that open adoption was not co-parenting, neither from a legal standpoint or an emotional standpoint and that it works for those families, both adoptive and birth, willing to make a commitment of faith to the process.

Certainly when we began our adoption journey we had no idea that we would move from not expecting any contact with a birthfamily to fully embracing contact on a regular basis. It was a slow shift in thinking, an evolving process. And, like a snowball charging down a steep slope, once the idea picked up momentum there was no option left but to run with it.

Run with it we have. We have been blessed with two beautiful children both through open adoptions. Our children are wondrous individuals. But, perhaps surprisingly, the greatest joy comes from sharing that wonder and special moments with our children's birthfamilies. When all is said and done, no other family on earth is as excited by the small milestones that our children reach as are their birthfamilies. Each birthfamily has been with us for baptisms, birthdays, Santa pictures, and just playing in the park. They are as respectful of our right to parent as we are of their desire to be a part of their children's lives. We are all richer from the experience and while not always easy, open adoption does work and works successfully for those having the faith to make it work.

Adoption. The word conjures up so many emotions, opinions, fears, and joys. And like my children, it is a story that is ever changing, growing, and evolving. Adoption is a story in our lives, not the story of our lives. For me and my family, it is the story of a special bond between parent and child and between our family and our children's birthfamilies.

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