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Time in Open Adoption

clockwall-insideAt the All Adoption Meetings we have participants whose children are grown and others whose children are infants. We have participants who have been living reunion for a long time and others who are just beginning to think about searching. And we have whole ranges of openness. There is so much value in hearing the voices of people who are living across the life span of adoption.

Last Monday, as I listened to one of the women talk about her family relationships pre-reunion — a reunion that has been thriving now for decades — it was a reminder for me that our relationships in open adoption are not stagnant.

At the beginning of our own journey I thought we had to get our open adoption relationship with our daughter’s birth mother exactly right or it would all go downhill. It felt tenuous and fragile and it was a few years into it before I could let my breath out and relax. But once I did relax I relaxed fully and I thought, “There! We did it!” and believed that our open adoption would shine like that forever.

Of course, the only constant in life is change. Our lives happened in unexpected ways (jobs, moves, the arrivals and departures of other family members) and so our open adoption shifted and suddenly I was scared again. Would we able to adjust to new uncertainties? Would we survive the momentous changes we were facing?

Our daughter’s mom no longer drops by a couple of times a month for dinner because now she lives states and states away and we only see her once or twice a year. I feel like I’m learning our open adoption all over again.

Listening to my friend’s life pre-reunion — a life that looked very very different than her happy reunion now — reassured me that we don’t have to get it right for forever. We just need to get it right for right now. It reminded me that all we need to do is roll with the inevitable change and live each moment as it comes.

The prompt for this month’s Open Adoption Roundtable was to write about open adoption and time.

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. Write a response at your blog–linking back.

The Myth of the Forever Family

My article on adoption disruption and dissolution is up at Brain Child (and of course on newsstands now):

When we adopted our daughter, Madison, six years ago, the judge was clear. Legally, adoption bound our daughter to our family as if she had been born to us. She would have the same rights as our biological son. We owed her the same level of commitment. A few weeks later, Madison’s amended birth certificate would arrive, with my name as her birth mother and my husband’s name as her birth father. All of her original birth records would be locked up, sealed away, inaccessible. At the end of the brief ceremony, the judge banged his gavel and officially pronounced us—in the language of the mainstream adoption community—“a forever family.”

That ceremony lawfully inducted us into the myth that adoptive families are expected to live by. Our families are supposed to be “just like” biological families. That’s why we adoptive parents roll our eyes when celebrity magazines talk about Angelina Jolie’s “adopted children” instead of just calling them her kids and we swear up and down that we are the “real parents.” Some hopeful adoptive parents even wear T-shirts that announce that they are “Paper Pregnant,” as if they feel the need to validate their way of building a family by equating adoption with a fundamental physical experience.

In many ways these adoption myths serve us and our kids well. Children should not face discrimination for how they arrive to a family. They should have inheritance rights. Adoptive parents should never question their obligation to the children they commit to parenting.

But in other ways, adoption myths betray our children by giving lie to their origins. They are not born to us. We do not create them. They arrive to our families with histories that precede their lives with us. Embracing our children means embracing their stories even when they are difficult to hear.

The hard truth is that adoption is not just like giving birth. It is rarely as straightforward. And as much as we would like to think otherwise, not all forever families are forever.

via Brain, Child :: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

There was A LOT of great discussion that could not make it into the article, which I am very sorry about. I also talked to families who ended up not feeling comfortable being quoted for the piece but whose experiences informed my process. You can discuss the article here (at the Brain Child discussion blog) and I’ll be checking in there. I’ve also invited the people I interviewed to weigh in but they are busy people so we’ll just have to see.

This was a hard but rewarding piece to write and I just hope that I did justice to the topic.

One more thing — whenever I write about my daughter’s sealed-away birth certificate and the new fake one that she has, the editors stop me and ask me if I’m SURE about that. The editors at Salon even said, “Is that legal?” So many people outside of adoption get that it’s insane, which makes it more bizarre that it’s controversial to people inside adoption.

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