Our open adoption was one of the most serious and heavy discussions Douglas and I had in our whole adoption process. There are so many different feelings and opinions out there about open adoptions. We needed to come to an agreement about where we both actually stood on this.
For us, this was already an unfamiliar situation and adding this element to it made us feel even more vulnerable. We were dealing with a very young couple that seemed very sweet and genuine but I was still left with a deep fear that maybe the birthmother would change her mind after the adoption had finalized.
That scenario ran thru my mind so many times. With the help of our attorney and social worker they were able to put that fear at ease for me. In our state of Louisiana, there are laws in place for this very situation. When I was able to release that fear, I was then able to focus on the future.
To me, an open adoption would allow us to remain truthful and candid about the origins of where our child came from. We would be able to give Alli Mae the opportunity to meet her birthparents once she became old enough and if she desired to.
Another great point in an open adoption is that this seems to be the direction that American adoptions are heading today. We found that there seemed to be more birthparents wanting open adoptions than closed. We knew that we would hopefully match faster with a birthmother if we were willing to be flexible and allow this process be open rather than closed.
I so vividly remember the evening of our very first meeting when we sat down with the birthparents and our attorney.
We had a list of very important questions we needed to ask them. A couple of them were:
How do you both feel about an open adoption?
We wanted to make sure that all of us were on the same page with this. You cannot make an open adoption work if some of the party involved doesn’t want it.
It pleased us to hear them say that they desperately wanted it.
For our birthmother, she was also adopted. She was from Guatemala and she has no idea where her birth family is or how to even find them. This remained a very emotional topic for her and it was something she did not want this baby to go through later in life when she got older.
This definitely answered our first question. It was a genuine and emotional plea to give Alli Mae the opportunity to find them if and when she wanted to.
Our other question was:
What are the terms you request in having an open adoption?
We knew that we wanted a few visits in the first year for them to see the baby’s growth in person. Thru that first year we would also send updates thru text messages.
After the first year the personal visits would end. Douglas and I both felt like after Alli Mae was one year old she would be able to start recognizing faces and we didn’t want to add confusion as she got older. We both would send updates every so often- 2 or 3 times a year. Summer vacation, birthdays and Christmas are 3 important yearly events that we could use to update with milestones and pictures.
Douglas and I both knew that this process was especially hard for the birthmother. Her situation was particularly difficult and I knew that this would hopefully ease her pain thru all of this.
When I asked them this question it brought tears to their eyes, which then brought tears to our eyes. It was a very tender moment for all of us and their desperation to have some sort of placement in the baby’s life seemed to be visible now.
During Alli Mae’s first year all of our conditions were met. There were a few more personal visits than we had discussed, but to be honest with you, it was completely fine with us.
We had different visits with the birthmother and her family. Time would pass and then we would have visits with the birthfather and his family. It was sometimes emotional for me to think about.
Our first visit with the birthmother was especially emotional for me. She was obviously sad and upset when she handed me a letter for Alli Mae to read one day as she was leaving.
I could not imagine the pain in saying goodbye. All I could do was hug her as tight as I could and kiss her cheek letting her know how grateful we were.
Both families brought Alli Mae gifts at different points through the first year. Some gifts were cute clothes, jewelry and some were stuffed animals. At first it was hard for me to look at the stuffed animals after they left because it was so sad for me to think about. I needed to allow myself to see the beauty in this rather than the pain. Each stuffed animal Alli Mae received was a symbol of their love that would always be with her, just as Douglas and my love will.
Instead of feeling insecure about the toys, I needed to embrace them. This is all coming from places of adoration and the need to know that they will not be forgotten.
Our last meeting was the hardest for me.
It is even hard as I write this blog.
We all developed a friendship through this. As we were sitting on our living room floor, the birthmother handed us a beautifully decorated photo album that was so thoughtfully crafted by her. Every page had pictures of both of the birthparents and their families with all of their likes and interests, hobbies, where they like to travel and details about their lives.
And then, on the last page there was a beautiful picture of Douglas and I.
The happiest picture of the day that we brought our beautiful baby girl home.
It meant so much to me that she included us in this book.
It made me cry then just as I’m crying now.
The unlikely friendships that were made through this process and the love and appreciation we have for everyone involved is a beautiful feeling.
I could not imagine our adoption any other way. I think about them often and I wish all of them happiness and light every day of their lives.
Our family would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for each of them and our choice to have an open adoption.