From Closed to Open

I owe a debt of gratitude to countless adult adoptees who have schooled me on this adoption thing in the last year. I’ve learned to respect my daughter’s intersecting and layered identities as an individual, as my daughter, as an adoptee, as someone who has a first family and a life that preceded me. I’m glad that I started reading their blogs, their tweets, their articles, watching their movies (Closure…if you haven’t seen it you should, just Netflix it). I’m glad that I didn’t knee jerk label them as angry, bitter, isolated bad experiences or anti-adoption. I’m glad I just shut my pie hole and listened.

I’m not sure when I really got hip to #flipthescript; certainly it was before the hashtag, but I’m not sure when I really started reading about the adoptee viewpoint.

That, some good therapy with Absurdly Hot Therapist, and lots of prayers to relieve me of anger and fear and to grant me patience and grace have helped me figure out how to pry my and Hope’s adoption open, at least a bit.

Credit: Open Clip Art

Credit: Open Clip Art

To a lot of outsiders, it may seem inconceivable to be inclusive of a first family in an adoption like ours. It’s complicated and I’d prefer not to share the entire story of Hope’s life to protect her privacy, but these were people that Hope knew as a child, visited during the summers, had fond and sometimes complicated memories about. These are people, her family, trigger strong reactions from her. And make no mistake they are her family.

I remember being totally freaked out when they found us on Facebook. Oy! It was hard. But, as I have written before, I had initiated a search for Hope’s family. I was curious. So it stands to reason that they would look for Hope. It was inevitable.

It was so very hard figuring out what to do. I struggled to construct some boundaries, some rules of engagement for the family. I struggled to figure out who in the family was “safe,” who did Hope really remember. I wrestled with what it must be like to be somewhat of a prodigal daughter, but one who didn’t hit the lotto when she was out there somewhere. I wondered whether Hope’s anger about being “lost” would fade; she was so angry about why no one fought for her or why they didn’t even call.

I struggled with how I was supposed to feel about it all. I still do, to be perfectly honest. There are so many things on an adoption journey that make you think, “I didn’t sign up for this ish.” I was deliberate in pursuing children who were in foster care but were legally free. I didn’t want to foster and give a child back (Kudos to you folks who are built for that calling; I am not), and I thought that legally free would mean I wouldn’t have to deal with the messiness of birth families. I mistakenly assumed I would have a closed adoption by default. I was absurdly naïve to miss the fact that Hope had a whole family out there somewhere and what if they found us? I didn’t start really thinking about it until Hope had been placed with me for a couple of months.

It’s nearly a year later. I’ve sent pictures and cards. Christmas gifts were exchanged. I finally spoke to an aunt and recently, after nearly 5 years, Hope spoke with her grandmother. In the moments I was monitoring the call; I ended up stepping away because the grief of missing my own grands was overwhelming. I can’t imagine what it was like for both of them. We hope to visit this summer, but I have a lot of negotiating to do to make sure my daughter is safe. Boundaries people, boundaries.

Recently I was sharing about how Hope and I are negotiating this family thing. My companion went in, ranting a bit about how they didn’t agree with my decision to open this adoption at all. Um, ok, didn’t ask, but ok.

I sat and listened to how this non-adoptee/non-adoptive parent discussed how they would feel in this situation (irrelevant, but ok), and what their friend who’s adoptive parent did (denied the child any information or contact until he was 18 and then he didn’t want it) and how I really should consult with professionals before doing what I’m doing.

Yeah, ok.   Thanks. You know, why don’t you have a seat…in fact, you can have all of the seats.

Opening adoptions that you thought were closed, even had hoped they were closed, is a really emotional thing. I can’t imagine having family, then one day just not having family and getting a new one. This isn’t what I thought it would be. But yeah, I’ve consulted with a lot of folks on how to handle this. Ultimately, I’m relying on my gut and my daughter’s readiness to connect. I’m not forcing it, but I deliberately keep the lines of communication and access open. I’ve got rules in place and everyone seems to be playing nice. Really, I want my daughter to be happy, to be well adjusted to this crazy life and able to love and be loved by as many people as can healthily love her back. And right now, that means a larger extended family.

Based on what I’ve read from adoptees, I think my approach is a good one. This doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it seems like a solid plan for now. My daughter is a kid, but she’s not a little kid. I respect her and understand her need for familial connection that’s biologically rooted. I get it. This isn’t about me, this is about her. It’s about figuring out who she is; Hope’s coming of age. I’m here to help her do that. Sometimes, that process is more complicated than we thought.

So Hope and I are slowly moving from a closed to open adoption, and all that comes with it. It’s complicated, but it’s good.

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2016. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

8 responses to “From Closed to Open

  • TAO

    “Ultimately, I’m relying on my gut and my daughter’s readiness to connect.”

    Pretty sure it will serve you and Hope well…

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  • Valarie Johnson

    You are right. I’m sorry your partner is questioning you on that. It’s always good to ask a therapist about boundaries and “What do we do if this happens…How should I broach this subject…” but Hope needs to see that, on some level, her bio-family WANTED her and they just didn’t have the ability to care for her. That will go such a long way toward healing!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Thanks. I’m fortunate that it isn’t my beloved being critical; on this we are on the same page. But yes of course there is a lot that goes into the decisions and the execution. So far so good. Not always easy, but totally worth it. Tusks!

  • Bits and Bobs… | The adopted ones blog

    […] 8.  Another good post on listening to adult adoptees from ABM and how being open to listening is a good thing.  From Closed to Open […]

  • TheChroniclesofaNonBellyMama

    I’m interested to hear more about this as it continues to unfold. With adopting Mary possibly drawing hearer, her connection with her biological family is pretty intense, and we are struggling with knowing so much about her family and not approving, at all, of the type of people that they are, but also with ackownledging Mary’s feelings and her connection to her bio-family. It’s a tough place to be in because you want to do what’s best for your child (mom perspective) but also doing what’s best for your child (the kids perspective).

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Yeah, it’s an incredibly hard thing to balance. I am really emotional about it and this whole aspect of older child adoption is really lost on folks around us. I was just telling a friend that Mother’s/Father’s day is kinda rough in my home because it triggers a lot of stuff for Hope. She had/has a family and I can’t ignore that.

      So far Hope’s family has been pretty good about abiding by the rules; I think they realize that I’m still capable of cutting them off right now. I have no idea how this will continue to unfold, but I’m just committed to figuring it out as best I can.

      Good luck!

      • TheChroniclesofaNonBellyMama

        Yeah, for Mary it’s especially hard during the holidays. All holidays! But yesterday for Mother’s Day (hope you had a happy one, friend) she didn’t mention her mother ONCE! Which was surprising, but I think she’s grasping this adoption thing more and more every day. I will say though, that Callie and I DO NOT agree when it comes to visits and open adoption. So we’re working through it…we’ll see how this all unfolds…good luck to you with navigating this really choppy part of the whole adoptive parent experience…

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