If you have read any of my posts, you'll know that I sometimes base my topics on questions from a site called "Open Adoption Roundtable", a community of birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees who blog about whatever side of the adoption spectrum they're on. When I was pregnant and reading whatever I could find about open adoption, I stumbled across an interview project set up through this forum, which paired different bloggers together to interview and post each other's Q&A's on their individual blog sites. Well now I'm excited to be a participant in this project, and I was paired with Amy, who is a birth mother of a 7 year old daughter. This was the first time I've ever spoken or had any communication with another birth parent involved in an open adoption, so I was pretty excited to ask some questions. My hardest problem was getting the number of questions down to an amount feasible for a married, busy, hard working university student like Amy to tackle. So without further adieu, here's my interview with Amy.
(If you want to read my answers to Amy's questions, visit her blog, http://www.amyrschumaker.com/)
Answers to questions:
1. What were your preconceived notions about adoption or open adoption before you became pregnant?
a. I did have preconceived notions about adoption before I became pregnant. I had friends growing up who were adopted and they both didn’t know who their birth-families were. I always asked them if they would want to know and one said, “NO” whereas the other one said she wished she could know her birthmother, only to have the chance to thank her for giving her a good life. Before I became pregnant, I never thought I would be one of “those” women who would enter that kind of life. I also thought that the women who placed their children into adoption were addicted to drugs or where just bad parents who had their children taken away from them.
2. How did you go about choosing the parents for your daughter?
a. I went through an agency to choose Kaylee’s parents. I wanted to go through an agency since I knew they would have a better idea on what to do rather than rely on a blood thirsty lawyer who just wants another case off of their desk. My adoption counselor, Amy D. (yes her name was Amy as well), gave me a book of probably 50 prospective families that were through the agency. I took the book home and knew I had to do this in a systematic way. I read through the book and chose my top five, and then my mom read through the same book. We came back together and told each other our top five. The crazy thing is that we choose the same exact families! I was looking for a family who didn’t have children already, who had the same religious beliefs, and who were outgoing. I contacted my adoption counselor to let her know which families I had chosen and was told to choose three families from this narrowed list. I was then given full detailed profiles about each family. Once again, my mom and I choose our top three separately and found that we had chosen the top three. We called Amy to let her know and she had said that one of the families was already in process with another birthmother. So out of the two that were left we chose the next favorite. We met a week later and I just “knew” that they were going to be the parents of Lil Miss who was growing inside of me. Since I didn’t have a name for her, I started calling her Lil Miss to help me not extremely attached.
3. Why did you decide on open adoption rather than a traditional closed adoption?
a. Kaylee’s birth-father actually sent me the site to the agency that I chose to go through. It was an agency that specialized in open adoption. I felt like this was the best way to go since I wanted to know where she was and that she was living a good life. I read up on all the different options that were out in the adoption world, and open adoption seemed like the best option.
4. I don’t know how your decision to place came about or what your situation was in choosing her parents, so this question may not apply to you.
a. But if you were on a search for adoptive parents, what kind of reaction were you met with from potential candidates towards openness?
i. The only potential family that I met was Kaylee’s parents. I knew the minute I walked into the counseling conference room that they would be the ones who would parent her. They were so much like myself and the birth-father.
5. What is your relationship with her parents like now? Do you have established rules of etiquette for communication/visitation?
a. The relationship with her parents now is on the positive side. We are all very busy and so over the years, the constant communication has dropped off. I will admit that I am slow at getting presents out on time or even cards. I use to be really good at that, but then when I got married, things started to slip.
b. We had established an open adoption agreement before she was born. The agreement was to have 4 visits per year until the age of 5 years old and then 2 times a year after that until the age of 18 years old. This went along same lines for any other type of communication (email, letters, pictures, phone calls, etc.). Even though we established those rules…they are really just ground rules. The first year of life, I was seeing Kaylee about once a month for the first several months, but then it became too much and so we backed off to every couple of months. Now that I do not live in the same state as them, I get to see them whenever I go back home to Oregon. This tends to be once a year due to the price of airline tickets. Her mom told me though to just let them know when I would be in town and she would try to make sure that I would get to see Kaylee. As for pictures and everything now, I tend to get pictures around Christmas time along with a small gift that Kaylee picks out for me. I send her a gift as well.
6. Do you ever feel like they are ‘doing you a favor’ by allowing you to still be a part of your (their) daughter’s life?
a. At first I think I may have thought that. I try not to think about this as we all signed up to participate into an open adoption. The agency that we went through – Open Adoption & Family Services (openadopt.org) – provides lots of counseling sessions for each side to ensure this is the choice they all want to get involved in. I though am very careful to not overstep the boundaries as I don’t want to ruin any type of relationship that we have already established.
7. What was the hardest thing for you to deal with…
a. while you were pregnant
i. I think that the hardest thing to deal with while I was pregnant is trying not to get so attached. It is natural though for everyone involved with this process (especially the birth-mother) to not get attached. I felt every move that she made, I was the one who was up at night peeing every two hours because I chose to indulge in a super big gulp coke slurpee from 7-Eleven at ten o’clock at night. I was the one who felt the first contractions. It was my time to enjoy the pregnancy as it was going to be one of the only moments that I could honestly call her my own.
b. Immediately after she was placed
i. The hardest thing to deal with after she was immediately placed, that I knew that she was not with me anymore. That I made the hardest decision that any parent would have to make. I had a hard time listening to people tell me to move on with my life as the chapter is closed and a new one is about to open. I though, had (and still have) a very supportive family. I lost some friends as they wanted to know about my life but not about my adoption. Adoption was and is always going to be part of life. My friends who stood next to me while I was pregnant are still there for me on those hard days in life.
i. The hardest thing now, is that I am not in the same state as her. I wish I could see her more often, especially now that she is getting older and participating in sports and little school activities.
8. What has been the most wonderful thing about your adoption experience? (Feel free to apply the three time periods listed above to this question if you want. J)
a. while you were pregnant
i. The most wonderful thing about my adoption experience while I was pregnant was the support system that I had. I always had someone who I could call or email if I needed to talk to.
b. Immediately after she was placed
i. I would still say that the most wonderful thing about this part of my adoption process is again the support system. I may have lost some friends, but I was told that I will know my true friends, as they will be there to offer support when I am sick, happy, or hurting. This was and is very true.
i. The best thing now about my adoption experience is that I have fully come to terms with my choice. I know that placement of Kaylee was the best thing I could have done. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I chose to parent. I made sacrifices and will have to live with emotions that are attached to the choices I made.
9. Has her birth father been involved in any way?
a. When I first became pregnant, he wanted me to have an abortion. Since I personally do not agree with abortion for my own self, I told him I was going to carry this child for the entire nine months. He wanted nothing to really do with me for the entire pregnancy. He was there at the hospital in the waiting room from the time I went into labor until the time she was born. He held her for a little bit as well, so we do have pictures of her with him. He then went to Afghanistan as a paid contractor
10. How do you think the media plays on the general public’s perception of adoption or open adoption?
a. At times I think that the general public perception is that birthmothers are either drug addicts, bad mothers who are unable to care for their children, or as charity cases. I also think that this same perception is portrayed on today’s television shows. Friends, Brothers & Sisters, Teen Mom, Juno…the adoption lifestyle is made out to look cool or that the women are no good people who are in a screwed situation, when most of the time it is the complete opposite. We as women want to give the best option to our children and that is we choose adoption.
11. If there were one thing you could change about…what would it be?
a. Laws and regulations about (open) adoption
i. I would change and make that all 50 states have a legally binding adoption contract between the birth-parents and adoptive parents. With a contract being legally binding, the birthparents would have the right in each state to go back to the adoption agency or court if the adoptive parents back out on everything that was agreed upon before the adoption was final.
ii. I would change that the birthmother’s do not have a wait time to change their mind, and make the relinquishment process instantaneous so that women cannot go back up to 30 days later in some states to say that they are choosing to parent their placed children.
b. Attitudes and perceptions about (open) adoption
i. I would change the negative view that most people have about adoption. I would not allow people to tell birth-mothers, “wow…I could never do that to my own child.” When they haven’t walked in our own shoes. I would change the thought process of outsiders of those who think that all women involved into an open adoption are going to come back and want the child back. I would also make sure that any movie, tv show, or anything else that is going to be in the media about adoption would shine the good light on adoption and not sugar coat it as if it is a humorous situation.
c. Your own experience with adoption
i. I wouldn’t change much with my own adoption experience. The friends who do not talk to me anymore, I am ok with that. The friends who chose to stay with me and support me is what I need. I would change the
fact that I am so far away from Kaylee. I wish that I was closer so that I could be more involved with her life.
12. Your daughter is 8 now (right?). She will be 8 in January.
a. How has it been difficult/wonderful/easy/challenging/etc. to relate to her as she gets older?
i. Since I only see her once a year, I do find it difficult or challenging to relate to her, especially now that she is getting older. I really feel like I have the same questions to ask her and so on. Our visits only last maybe 2 hours at the most due to everyone kind of running out of things to talk about. I do love that she likes to play dress-up and draw. So I can see what she is into, but I feel like the Aunt at Christmastime who is wondering what to get since I only see her so sparse. I don’t want to be the person who sends a gift and have everyone think, “What was she thinking?” I tend to think she is younger than what she is at times, and I now know why extended relatives (grandparents who live in a different state from their grandchildren) buy things that are several years younger than what that child really is. The older she gets though the more she looks like me, and I love seeing that.
b. Do you and her family have a plan for if/when she starts asking serious questions about her adoption?
i. She actually was told at a young age that she was adopted. NaeDean adds more details each year. Kaylee thinks it is pretty cool, I think. In pre-school she told her teachers that she didn’t come from her mom’s tummy that she came from Amy’s tummy. The teacher at that time didn’t know she was adopted. It was cute. I am ready though for the day when she comes to be in her teenage years to ask the serious and difficult questions. When she gets older, I will start talking to NaeDean and ask her what I should tell and so-forth. The last thing I want to do is to step on anyone’s toes.
c. How do you see your relationship with her (and her family) developing in the future?
i. I do see us (her and her family) becoming closer as she gets older. Just like any relationship, it takes time to really develop anything strong. I would love to be more involved with her life when she becomes a pre-teen and teenager as that is when girls start to develop their identity.
13. You mentioned that you and your husband would like to have a child. What are your thoughts about incorporating your daughter’s life into your potential future family?
a. I would love to incorporate her life into my potential family. If my husband and I would have a child together, they will always know that they have a big sister who lives in a different home. She will never be this “secret”. I would love to see her come and stay at my house for a week or two during the summer when she is older and be considered the cool aunt who likes to go to movies and eat ice cream late at night.
14. Do you have any regrets?
a. I do at times have regrets, but only when I am feeling really down. I know that I made a choice, and I have to live with that choice for the rest of my life. I know at the time of placement it was the best choice at that time. No one can predict the future, and so I never thought that my future husband and I would struggle with fertility issues. I have to thank my lucky stars that I found a good family to parent my sweet Lil Miss and that she is happy, healthy and has a house over her head on a nightly basis.
b. Fears about the future?
i. I do not have any fears for the future. I think that any birth parent or any parent in that matter fears of something tragically wrong happening to them or their child. I think that any birth parent fears that their child who was placed will hate them for what they did, but with open adoptions, I don’t see that really happening. I hope that she will live a long life and be successful in whatever she ends up doing.
15. Choose one of your own questions that you are asking me for this project and answer it yourself. J
a. Some people get tattoos as a way to remember their child. Have you ever thought of getting one if you don't have one already?
i. I do not have any tattoos, yet. Yet is the main word there! I have really thought that if I put any art on my body, that it should be meaningful since it will be on me permanently. Since placement I have really thought about doing some type tattoo that acknowledges my adoption. Different designs have came to mind but I need to really think about the placement of the tattoo, since I want to be a Social Worker. The last thing I want to do is put it in a place that everyone can see and not get a job due to having some type of body art.
ii. As for what kind of designs, I have thought about taking her actual baby footprints and having them be put on me, or a pair of baby booties. I have also thought about having footprints (like footprints in the sand poem) placed on my back as that poem is very significant in the adoption world if you spin it as the two prints in the sand is when the mother is pregnant and the single prints are after placement. So there are a tone of different things. I will have one though in the future.