This is how open adoption grew my family in unexpected ways.
They say it takes a village.
When we first began to pursue adoption to build our family, I’ll admit it: I felt threatened by the idea of a birth mother. The concept of maternal strings tying us together forever terrified me. I was afraid she would altogether change her mind, or question how we chose to raise our child. I thought about living up to her later in my daughter’s life as she grew to understand more, and I wondered about being to fully move forward.
However, my fears were assuaged the moment I met my daughter’s birth mother. At risk of sounding clichéd, I had the overwhelming sense of partnership–we were in this together. Even if it was the best day of my life, and perhaps the hardest of hers, we both wanted the same thing for this little girl. I knew that would unite us forever.
How open adoption has taught us about selflessness.
I was surprised when we first adopted our daughter how everyone seemed to exclaim “Oh, she’s sooo lucky to have you,” when I felt the opposite. They meant well. But, I simply couldn’t believe that this tiny human was going to be our daughter. Even more so, I was in awe that her birth mother was bestowing this gift upon us, entrusting us to be her parents. We began telling our daughter her adoption story from the time we were rocking her with a bottle to present day. Adoption inevitably involves complexities around loss for one or both sides involved; it’s part of the story. Also part of the story is giving and seeing something that is bigger than oneself. Though she may not be giving time outs, kissing boo-boos, and doing other daily parenting things, she did perhaps one of the toughest parenting jobs right from the beginning.
It’s an open channel.
I have a unique relationship with our birth mother. We text each other several times every week. She has lovingly begun to call me “Mom.” When we can, we FaceTime and my daughter knows that this is her ‘tummy mommy.” Though she’s too young to fully grasp now, if in the future my daughter decides she has questions about her biological family, medical history, her birth family’s culture and traditions, I can ask. Or, maybe she can. We have tried to incorporate as much of her heritage as we can–and it’s multifaceted–from her middle name to her first birthday, celebrating traditions that are derived by her birth family, to ones that come from my family lines and my husband’s. Our daughter also happens to have two half-sisters out in the world. She may want to know them one day. I hope she does and respect her if she doesn’t. Just the other day, my daughter saw a picture of her younger half-sister. My daughter exclaimed “that’s me as a baby!!” To say I felt a lot in that moment is an understatement. But that’s part of her story, our story, and I can ask more if I need to.
We have an adoption network.
Though open adoption specifically has not created this aspect, a note about our village: we have friends that adopted from the same attorney and the same city where our daughter was born. That has only grown our friendships, our connections. Not only does cultivating these relationships help our daughter to see that families are built in similar ways, it has provided families who just.get.it. If I’ve learned anything from adoption, it’s that family is more than blood, it’s about the family we choose–the family that we create.
They say it takes a village. This adage has become a mantra of sorts in our lives. It absolutely does take a village to raise a child. Though our birth mother lives across the country and in another time zone, she is part of our village.