Getting together with birth families remains one of the most stressful aspects of maintaining our open adoptions. The problem is two-fold. First, I want to reassure the birth families that their child is being well taken care of, to help them continue to feel like it was a positive decision to make this adoption plan. Secondly, I desperately want the bond between the child and birth family to be healthy and strong. In this week’s Wednesday’s Wild Chronicles series, we have reached the first meeting post-birth.
About six weeks after Turkey-man had joined our family the agency gave us a heads up that Mama-A wanted to arrange a get together so she could see him again. As I discussed a bit in my post “How Open Is Open?”, I struggled with this. I needed to feel more secure in my identity as his mother and stabilize my emotions regarding the adoption before I was ready to embrace this new chapter in our relationship with Mama-A.
When Turkey-man was twelve weeks old, we arranged our get together. I was so incredibly nervous! I wish I knew how Mama-A felt that day, but I would guess she was less than calm as well. Neither of us knew how our relationship would come to be defined. With no rules we were blindly feeling it out.
We were both tentative at first. I handed Turkey-man to her and waited to see both she and his reactions to being together again. Honestly, I did not know what to think. If he reacted positively to her did that undermine my role as his mother? If he reacted negatively to her did that mean he did not remember her? How would she respond to his reaction?
Although not terribly so, Turkey-man was not the happiest newborn to ever join the human race. His reaction to Mama-A was much the same it was to most anyone –crying. She handed him back to me to soothe. Quieted down, I handed him back. We continued this rhythm throughout the visit.
My ability to settle him reassured me that Turkey-man had begun to associate me with warmth and safety. Watching Mama-A’s willingness to allow me to comfort him helped me recognize that she defined me as his mother. These two validations went a long way in helping me both with my identity and conflicting emotions. It also helped me see that Mama-A had a role in his life separate from mine. It made the thought of a continued relationship easier to envision.
Subsequent visits have gone much smoother than the first, but each comes with apprehension. It is not because I continue to struggle with sharing the role of mother, but because I want to share that role well. I want our children to identify with their birth mothers. I want them to realize that they have two mothers, one who could give them their nature and one to nurture them into the people that they become.
Right now both kids are too young to really understand, although Turkey-man is showing some signs of beginning to recognize that Mama-A holds a special significance in his life that is not mimicked in any other area. I talk with him in little age-appropriate spurts. I try to stop and listen to the “words” he is not yet able to express as he attempts to incorporate her role in his life.
It is a constant source of prayer. I do not always know how to best handle the relationship. Sometimes it is hard to “check my emotions at the door” and be fully available to give him unbiased feedback. I am at times afraid that my desire for a strong relationship will spill over into how he defines it and I know that he needs to do that on his own terms.
The visits are certainly one area that I could use a “How-to” manual! Given that each open adoption looks different I know that it will never exist. Hopefully, as more and more of us speak out about our experiences we are able to provide a network of reference for future families. The prospect of helping future families is the main reason for this blog’s existence!
Open adoption requires a certain amount of faith and flexibility but as long as both parties are willing to put the best interest of the child at the center of the relationship, it is a wonderful asset!