Open or Closed?

Adoption is beginning to rear its bright, beautiful  little head in our family again.  Not that it hasn’t in the past.  WE have mulled it over on rare occasions of parental happiness and so has my youngest step-daughter.  But it is the oldest that is taking steps….actually taking STEPS….baby steps…..to add to her family with an adoption.

I remember being at this point.  You think the biggest decision is MAKING the decision to adopt.  Everything after that should be a piece of cake, right?  You want a baby/child so you know there are lots of  parent-less children available and you fill out paperwork and voila!  Instant family member.

It should be so easy.

But there are lots of decisions that come at the beginning of this journey.  International or domestic?  Which agency to use? What kind of funding resources  are available?   What kind of an adoption are you comfortable with?  How long can you wait?

HRH and I were able to make most of those decisions in unison at the very start of our journey.  (We now allude that most of these ‘decisions’ were completely out of our hands.)  The press in our area had been following the Baby Jessica case quite rabidly in those days so an international adoption was much more appealing than a presumably precarious domestic one.  We attended an adoption forum and were able to consider six local agencies at once before settling on the one we decided to use.  We began setting money aside in a special savings account and the right amount always seemed to be there when we needed it. Or the resources opened up.  We asked for a little girl from India and were matched with an infant boy from South Korea.

We know now – that God was totally in charge of our adoption – from the start.  The same was very true of our second adoption.  We were never really faced with the kinds of decisions that my step and her husband are mulling.

The biggest one is whether they would prefer an Open or a Closed adoption.

If you are aware of adoption issues at all, then you know that an Open Adoption is one that allows the birth parents to maintain contact with the child and the adoptive family in some way.  A Closed Adoption is one in which the adoption records are sealed and neither party is aware of the other’s whereabouts….unless there is an agreement to open them at some point and make that information available.

Reality television has given us so many ‘pictures’ of both situations.  We see families that have been split up and adopted by different families and suddenly finding each other on the news.  One reality show – ‘Pregnant at 16′ – has followed several teens as they carried through their pregnancies and made plans for their unborn children and subsequent lives.  One of them chose adoption for her daughter.    ’60 Minutes’, ’20/20′ and ‘Dateline’  have all done exposes on the adoption process from every possible angle.  We have seen tiny little children refer to young women next to them as their ‘birth Mommy.’   We have seen college students studying pictures received from the adoptive family of the babies they never can see.  We have seen the anguish of an adult facing a birth parent wanting answers for their feeling of abandonment.  We have seen adoptive parents thanking birth parents for allowing them to raise a baby.  (My favorite of that was an Oprah segment in which an adoptive mom told a birth mom that the adult daughter they shared had a dimple where she had been kissed immediately after birth.  Aww.)  And then there are the celebrities..both adopted and adoptive.  (Bet there aren’t many that remember the actress – who went on to captain the Enterprise later in her career – that very quietly gave her child up for adoption for real while starring in an afternoon drama.)

Open or Closed.

Our adoptions are decidedly closed.  Internationally closed.  It seemed like a good thing at the time.  We liked our privacy.  We like the finality of it all.  But now with my daughter’s questions about her birth parents and wanting to see their pictures and wondering what they are like or what happened to them, I sometimes wonder if  ‘closed’  is such a good thing.  These are questions we will never have answers for.  Would being able to share pictures and stories and medical facts with her be such a bad thing?

Fear is what guides us in this decisions sometimes.  I think.  Fear that a birth parent is going to come swooping in to reclaim the child or its affections.  Fear that there is someone out there MORE invested in your child and its well being.

I have lived with that fear.  I sometimes wonder when we are embroiled in some teenage angsty moment if my children are thinking that there is a birth parent out there that would be less demanding, happier with their minimal efforts on school projects or more accepting of their needs….and wants.  I wonder if when they are not listening to a raving, ranting me , if they are wishing for that mystical birth parent who would SURELY love them more.   

Its an emotionally scary, scarring thing to have in the back of your mind.

And I came kind of close to facing those fears one early fall day several years ago.  Our adoption agency has a picnic every year and we received a letter stating that the foster mother that had taken care of our son in Seoul was going to be present.  My ultra quiet and shy son was – surprisingly – excited about seeing her.  We put together a little photo album and a quilted pillow with pictures he picked out on it.  I will never forget the way her eyes lit up when this squat Korean woman was reintroduced to the child she had once cared for.  Nor will I ever forget the look on my child’s face when she hugged him, whipped off the carefully selected tee shirt he was wearing and replaced it with a light blue shirt she had brought with her from Korea.  With a collar…..and buttons.  He wore it for the next three hours.

Without complaining.  How did she DO that?

Someone invested in my child’s well being.  It was a little….. exciting….and touching…. and surreal….. and a little threatening.  Sort of. 

I was musing about the whole birth parent/adoptive parent thing for the entire day.  Worried about it, in fact.

But the truth is that YOU are the one they come to with a problem, the one they expect to cuddle away night fears and to make that outrageously embarrassing appearance at some high school event.  You are the one that nixes an oufit, rants about sun screen/ toothpaste/general hygiene and library book fines.  You are the one that sees that they have all of the ‘right’ school supplies and tennis shoes.  You are the one that sees that they are on time for the bus and the practices and the games.  You are the one that knows their favorite restaurant, the spot on their feet that draws the most giggles and the right thing to say when their heart is breaking. 

 Would I like an Open Adoption as opposed to the Closed Adoptions that we have?? 

I would like to have pictures to show my children….and I would like to have someone else that is invested in their well being to share THEIR pictures with.  I would like medical information to share with them.  I would like a little history to share with them.  But I am still mulling over the rest.

Ask me when they are older.

And actually LIKE me again.

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