Before we really considered adoption too seriously I had all sorts of ideas about what open adoption was like. Actually, I guess I just really had one idea, and to be completely honest, it sort of scared me. My impression felt a little like co-parenting and seemed sort of bothersome. Let me be the first to point out that my initial impressions were very ignorant on my part. After we started to learn about it, and the different forms that it takes, it wasn't nearly as scary. In fact, in very short order I was able to see and embrace the short term and long term benefits of open adoption. What's important to know and remember is that there are varying levels of openness and also the timing of the openness. Some adoptions are open up until placement of the child, and some remain open for some months or years afterwards. Some of you might not know what open adoption even is. At it's most basic, it means that the birth family and adoptive family know something about the other, even meeting in person or over the phone. It also means that there may be an agreement between the families for communication after placement, whether it be by mail, phone, or in person. Most important, after the adoption finalization all degrees of openness are totally within the control of the adoptive parents. If contact just isn't working out for the best interest of the child then the adoptive family has the right to stop contact.
For us, we have found that our open adoption has even changed from where we were a year ago. When we met Andrew's birth parents last year, (let's call them John and Jane) we thought we knew what to expect. What has transpired hasn't been better, or necessarily worse, just different. At the time John and Jane weren't too sure about how much contact they would want to have later. They were mature enough to know that their needs and desires may change over time. We promised that we would never ask for more contact than they were willing to live with. At the time, as per the recommendation of our agency, we agreed to provide monthly pictures for the first year, then 3 times a year until Andrew is 18. We also agreed to in-person visits at 3 months and then every 6 months.
Our situation was a little different in that Andrew was born a month early so our attorney hadn't had a chance to draft our contact agreement. John and Jane agreed to sign termination papers before the contact papers were ready. However, very shortly after Andrew's birth John and Jane split up, and have since divorced. Due to some actions on the part of John, both our social worker and attorney advised us not to have any sort of contact agreement with him. So, our contact agreement is solely with Jane. We haven't seen John since leaving the hospital almost a year ago. We also have not provided him with any pictures or letters. However, each month I have carefully and thoughtfully prepared a package for Jane and we last met with her in December.
I've thought quite a bit about how all of this will affect Andrew as he grows up. I want him to have positive feelings about John and Jane. I want to be able to tell him about how much they loved him and cared about him having a good life, one that they felt unable to provide for him. I know in my heart that this is true of Jane, after all, we spent a lot of time together and talking before Andrew was born. Also, our visit in December was wonderful, Jane is so proud of her decision to place him with us. As to be expected, Jane has taken steps to get on with her life. She has remarried and moved out of state. So, it's seeming pretty unlikely that she will be calling the agency to set up a visit now, or anytime soon. I feel like the more time passes the less likely it will be. However, when he learns the details (the ones I haven't shared here) I worry about how it will make Andrew feel. I want to protect him.
Something unexpected happened yesterday. B was home, so I left Andrew with him while I ran an errand to the drug store. I usually go through the drive thru to pick up prescriptions, but since Andrew was at home I went inside since I had some other shopping to do. I shopped for several minutes, before finally making my way with a shopping cart back to the pharmacy. There were a couple of people milling around the counter, as if they were waiting for something. I really wasn't paying attention since I was still shopping around. Eventually I looked towards the counter and saw the guy in profile. Something looked familiar, but my gaze continued to scan along the counter. He turned the rest of the way around and I caught his eye. He recognized me in the quick second before I recognized him. Before I could even think to say anything he and the girl had high-tailed it out of the store. It was John.
It really bothers me that he didn't want to talk to me. I'm sure he has no idea about what I do or don't know about what has happened with him since we last saw him. I had no desire to bring up any of that. I had no desire to ask anything of him. I just wanted him to know that Andrew is wonderful, and we have been so very blessed to have been chosen to be his parents. The fact that he ran away makes me feel like he doesn't care, like he was rejecting Andrew. That's not what this adoption was supposed to be like. It makes me a little sad. OK, a lot.
So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the nature of open adoption can change over time. A year ago I thought it was all about what would be good for Jane and Andrew. Now I realize that I have a part in it as well, that I'm missing out. Right or wrong, I don't know. What I do know is that it is likely that my ideas about open adoption will evolve as we continue to go through it. And don't get me wrong . . . I'd do it again in a heartbeat!