Every family that has an open adoption faces the trial of defining what open adoption will look like for their family. There are numerous variables within the complex adoption triad that determine what will work best for that particular situation.
For us, we had only decided to change from a semi-open adoption to open three days prior to Turkey-man’s birth. This did not leave us with much time to really pinpoint exactly what both we and his birthmother envisioned for the long-term relationship.
When we had the discussion of changing the status it was left as roughly a couple of meetings per year. In my heart, I knew it would be more frequent than that but it was going to take some blind maneuvering to figure out what was right for us.
Six weeks after Turkey-man’s birth the adoption agency gave us a heads up that Mama-A had inquired about setting up a meeting so she could see him again. I selfishly drug my feet a bit.
One variable for me in the beginning was that I was having a hard time defining myself as his mother. I felt divided in two. The part of me that recognized him as my son from the moment we met him struggled against the part of me that was hyperaware that our joy was coming at the expense of a grieving mother. I was not sure I could handle her emotions when she saw him again. Too much of me was struggling with my own feelings to shoulder her response.
Additionally, I had this probably slightly irrational fear that Turkey-man would recognize her and reject me. Even typing out those words sounds weird, but it hovered in the back of my mind. He had nine months to get used to her voice, the cadence of her speech and her smell. He had only known me six weeks. How would reintroducing him to someone so familiar impact his bond with me? I am somewhat ashamed to admit that in my insecurity, their bond was threatening to me.
Then at eight weeks old he had to be hospitalized for RSV. I was torn. Do I tell Mama-A? In some ways I felt like I had failed our son in not protecting him better. I was afraid of what Mama-A would think. Throughout the ordeal I was emotionally raw. We decided to hold off and let her know when he was doing better. To this day, I am not sure of what the right decision was.
When he was twelve weeks old I finally met up with her. Watching that first meeting was reassuring. It helped me see that she had a separate, but important place in his life aside from the bond that he and I shared. Mama-A shows great respect for the role hubby and I have in Turkey-man’s life. Through the years it has become a relationship that I treasure greatly. We get together several times a year. Often she just spends time at our house playing with him.
In the beginning of our adoption journey, we did not even want an ongoing relationship. I would have never believed that we would become so comfortable that we would be inviting Mama-A to our house.
If you are reading this and reflecting on your own thoughts about open adoption, I will tell you it took the first year or so to define what our open adoption would look like. It did not happen quickly.
I think that even if we had defined it more clearly prior to Turkey-man’s arrival it would have morphed after his birth. It is hard to guess the impact adoption will have in one’s life. Emotions run high and vary wildly. As I have said, I never knew extreme joy and grief could co-exist. I had to get to a point of stability until I was able to adjust to the existence of a third parent in our son’s life.
I had to transition how I identified with Mama-A. First she was an expectant mother possibly carrying our son. Then she became his birth mother which seemed like a remote role in correlation to my role as his mother. But, finally, in my mind I was able to incorporate her into an equally important mother without it undermining my bond with him. She will always also be his mother. Our children happen to have two mothers in their lives that love them unconditionally.
Most families have mom’s side and dad’s side. Ours happens to have two additional sides of the family – Mama A’s and Mama-D’s. It has also been amazing to watch the love that each birth mother has for the sibling to their child. Each has been so welcoming to our family as a whole, not just their child.
Never would I have imagined our family looking as it does today. Now, I cannot, nor do not want to, imagine it any other way. For us, this definition of openness is perfect and beautiful!