The Perfect Adoption Story (if there really could be one)
My adoption journey began long before we ever adopted, before I even knew I would adopt, before I knew we were infertile. I was a young woman in my mid-twenties finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. I just happened to take a religion class for fun and as a rest from the craziness of the workload of the last year of school. In this class I met a girl who became a pattern for my own adoption experiences.
Let’s call her Jessica, she was a few years younger than me. She was one of the happiest people I have ever met, her excitement and joy of life was palpable. She had amazing confidence and was the kind of girl that you know is going to conquer the world. She was beautiful and she had given a baby up for adoption.
The thing is, I actually really stink at small talk. In fact, My husband is always amazed at the things people tell me. He wonders how after 5 minutes I can know such deep things about people’s lives. The answer is, I don’t know. I just really love people and want to know their stories. Jessica was no exception. After one evening of being in the class together, Jessica told me her story. In fact, she was eager to tell me her story and gushed with the happiness. She loved having used an adoption agency and being a birthmother.
When Jessica was a high school student she and the father of the baby ended up getting pregnant. It was kind of a big deal being that they lived in a state where the predominant religion believed in abstinence before marriage. (It was 30 or so years ago so birth control wasn’t as widely accepted for teens and sex was still kind of a secret thing people didn’t talk about with their kids.) It was a struggle, but together they decided to put their baby up for adoption. I don’t remember the particulars of why they chose an adoption agency over a private adoption, or how the family was chosen but this was in the early 1990’s when open adoptions were just being whispered about and relatively unheard of. However, Jessica had an open adoption.
When I say “open adoption” that might be a bit of an understatement. Jessica’s adoption was so open that on the weekend before we met, she had just had her birth-daughter over to spend the night with her. She gushed about the adopted family and the connection they shared. She and the baby’s father were invited to all birthday and holidays and phone calls with their daughter were the norm. She had pictures and had personally heard cute sayings and word slip–ups her birth daughter made. She got to personally see her through every stage of her growing up. There was no apparent hole in her heart left from adoption, instead it was filled not only by her daughter, but her daughter’s adoptive family. Because of this, there appeared to also be no sadness on the adopted family’s part that the only way they could have this baby was for someone else to suffer.
I was flabber-gasted. I had never heard of such an arrangement. But I was also listening with the ears of a young woman with absolutely nothing invested into the adoption process. I was happy for Jessica. She made me so thrilled about the idea of mother’s placing their child for adoption and that it could be such an ideal situation. She made it sound like there was absolutely no downside. How could adoption be anything but positive is what I believed after spending hours with Jessica getting her story. I was so excited about Jessica and adoption that I wanted to tell her story to everyone. She was that great of an advocate. Her joy at the adoptive process made me think it was the answer to any unexpected and less than hoped for pregnancy.
What I have learned in the 25 years since that night, is quite a different matter. Having now adopted 3 children of my own (all through different platforms, one an adoption agency, one a private adoption and one foster care. All with different levels of open adoptions), having attended more birth mother groups than I can remember, having birthmothers live in my home, attended a board meeting for an adoption agency, having done foster care, and having read books about adoption, as well as hearing other’s adoption stories has lead me to understand this is the exception rather than the rule. I, for one, wish it weren’t however. Imagine a world where all parties in the adoption could put aside all jealousy and fear and just love each other. Where no one is perceived as a threat but just an extension of the family unit. Where, when problems occur— they could talk out their differences and respect each other’s boundaries. If only this were the reality of the world, but I think for that to be the reality none of us would be human or we would be the most pretentious people on the planet.
This type of open adoption is only accomplished when all parties are on the same page and care more about the child than they do for themselves. It only works when adoptive parents love the birth mother as much as they love the child and vice versa. It only happens when all parties can act like grown-ups most of the time and respect each other’s boundaries and roles. It only happens when hurt feelings can be resolved with true caring for the others feelings. Since there are as many different types of people, with as many different types of problems in adoption as there are anywhere, this can be a great goal but acceptance of reality is also important. So we all just do the best we can. Realizing the ultimate goal is to make this adoption as easy on the child and each other as possible.