Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable Discussion: Being Proactive About Open Adoption

Here's the latest discussion question from the Open Adoption Roundtable, a community of adoption bloggers that encourages and gives voice to all members of the adoption triad.

One year ago many of us answered the question, "How will you be proactive in the area of open adoption in 2010?"

If you participated in the January 2010 discussion, revisit your post and give us the one-year-later update.

And whether or not you participated last year, tell us about your open adoption hopes or commitments in 2011.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was on my from Singapore to North Carolina to see my one year old son, Reed, for the first time in 8 months. I had a layover in Hong Kong, and another one in Chicago. It was the latter airport where I found out that the flight to NC had been cancelled. CANCELLED?!? I've spent the last 30 hours in airports and airplanes, consumed with anticipation to see my son who just had his first birthday one week before, and the last leg of my trip gets cancelled???

My heart sank. I started to feel a little nauseous. I stood in a long line with all the other passengers with woeful stories of not being able to see their families or missing important business meetings, everyone convinced that their own need was greater than anyone else's on the whole flight. Me included. As I watched each person in front of me step up to the counter, in my mind I could see the available seats on the next flight disappearing. I was trying to calm myself, telling myself that things happen for a reason, that it will all be alright, but my stubborn tears were relentlessly spilling over my wall of emotional self control.

Despite my worries, I really did have a sense that everything happened for a reason. I had just read 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho at the Singapore airport, and as it has so many people, it resonated with me on many levels. It spoke of travel, following your dreams and your heart, doing things that others think are crazy and don't understand, and connecting spiritually with God and the things around you. It said that when you want something with your whole heart, it is because the Soul of the World wants it too, and the entire Universe conspires along with you to make it happen. One of the recurring themes in the book is following omens, recognizing things that are put in your path to encourage you along it.

My turn finally came to step up to the counter, where a smiling airline worker told me I already had my seat reserved on the next flight which left in 3 hours, and handed me my new boarding pass. Easy!! Relieved, I went to the nearest bar to have a glass of wine. In time, a woman came and sat next to me at the bar. We started up a conversation, beginning with our cancelled flights; hers to Michigan to visit her mother was cancelled and she was returning to California to be with her husband. She asked me if my family was from NC, and I smiled and said, "Well, sort of," thinking that she might not want to hear the complexities of my family there through open adoption. I've never attempted to keep my son's adoption secret, but I do try to discern when it's appropriate to launch into my experience or not, so I decided that if the opportunity arises then I'll tell her why I'm going to NC. She continued on with her story. She was going back to be with her husband... they had had a hard year. A hard past few years. They were wanting to have a child and tried and tried and tried, spent all of their savings, time and effort into medical treatments trying to get pregnant, even tried a surrogate who unfortunately miscarried. They had been trying to have a family for the past 10 years, and now they were turning to adoption. They were currently in the home study phase, they saw this as their last chance to have the family they had wanted and dreamed of for so long.

"But enough my story... let's get back to you," she said, trying to change the subject (we had also been talking about relationships before, and she wanted to hear more about where I was with that). What, let that pass?? No way! I told her about Reed, about how I was in Thailand, in between jobs, and 32 years old when I found out I was pregnant, about my search for an adoptive family and my insistence on full openness, and how I met Doug and Maura and how the stars and planets and everything in the Universe aligned so perfectly for Reed to be born into the most amazing family with all of his parents around. Her jaw dropped, and with tears in her eyes she said, "Do you realize what you have done for those people?" She was fascinated with my story, and said that she knew little about open adoption and might have been weary of it before. "I just can't get over this. I was suppose to meet you... I flew all the way from California to Chicago thinking I was going to visit my mother, but it was just to meet you here at the airport. I think you're a good omen for me." At that point, I knew that the book I had just read now belonged to her. I gave it to her telling her it was part of the deal of flying all the way out to Chicago just to meet me, and with that I left to catch my flight, happy for the delay, and happy to be on my way to see my gorgeous son.

So how do I want to be proactive about open adoption? In Reed's life, I plan on being proactive by keeping in touch with his family, continuing to share about my life and adventures, and sending him postcards and letters (he already has a special box of letters I've written to him, so far from China, Malaysia and Singapore...the one from Bali was lost). I'm also planning on flying back to the states to spend a week with them again in June.

Outside of my personal adoptive triad, I would like to be be proactive in general about open adoption, just by continuing to be open about it. I want women who are faced with unplanned pregnancies to know about the options they have. Any choice a woman* in that situation makes will be a difficult one, and I do not believe that there are any black or white answers that fit across the board. But I think that so many women choose to terminate a pregnancy, thinking that the only other options are to raise the child herself (sometimes in unhealthy or unsupportive surroundings), or to give the child up for adoption, never to be seen again. Likewise, some women may choose to keep a child even though it's not healthy for the child or parent, thinking that the only other options are abortion or to let her own baby slip permanently out of her life. I want people to know that that's not all there is!

It's hard being a mother. It's hard raising a child, but it's also hard to be completely, utterly, whole heartedly in love with your child that someone else is holding in their arms. At the same time, it's so easy to love him, and it's so easy to love the arms that are holding him, cherishing him, protecting him, and receiving so much joy in return from him. No decision I could have made would have been easy, and I suspect it's the same for many women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. I just want more people to know about the joys that an open adoption can bring. I would like for expectant women to know about open adoption as an alternative to the traditional options (keeping, terminating, or closed adoption), and I would like for hopeful adoptive parents to know more about it so that they won't be afraid of a birth parent who loves her/his baby so much that they just can't let it out of their lives.

I'm not really sure just how proactive I'll be, but I do plan on continuing to be open in conversation with my experiences, sharing and documenting here on this blog, and hopefully someone who needs to hear this will one day hear. And hopefully someone will choose to give this woman in California and her husband, or any of the many, many other people who are wanting to build a family through adoption a chance to make their dreams come true.

*I don't like excluding the father's role in this, and ideally he would have a hand in making a decision for his child together with the woman who's carrying it. Unfortunately this isn't always the case. In our little adoptive family, we are so lucky to have Bill as a part of our lives. He moved across the country for me when I was pregnant, never left my side during Reed's birth, and flew across the country again to celebrate Reed's first birthday.

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