As published in the Spring AFTH newsletter — click my mama column logo at the right to access the complete newsletter:
Every so often I read — or even am told by virtual strangers — that adoption is scary. Some of these folks are prospective adoptive parents considering whether or how adoption fits in their lives, and others have little knowledge of adoption outside of the relatively rare — considering the number of adoptions annually — stories of scams or situations gone awry picked up by the media.
So, is adoption scary? Yes.
But not for what might be considered the “obvious” reasons. Let’s start at the beginning.
Adoption means opening your heart to a child that didn’t come from your womb, loving a child not created with your own genetic contribution.
(Nope. Not the scary part.)
Although my husband and I did the obligatory research at the start of our adoption process, we actually brought to the table experience from another side of adoption. My husband was adopted in the 1970s, the era of closed records, and knows very little about his story, his own nature versus nurture, and the people responsible for bringing him into the world. Between everything we learned about openness in adoption, and everything we already knew about being part of a closed adoption, our choice and preference for openness was clear.
The agency classes that followed explained the practical parts of an open adoption: a minimum of letters, photos and an annual picnic visit.
(And no, that’s not scary either.)
After all, my own longing to become a parent and the loss in not yet having a child in my life made me acutely aware of the intensity wrapped up in motherhood. As much as I wanted to be a mom, I couldn’t let my own motherhood somehow negate another woman’s. So cultivating a relationship between my child and his or her other mother was something I hoped for.
(Still not shaking in my boots.)
Truth is, after placement, I made it through all that without any trouble. After all:
• Loving Maeve? Piece of cake!
• Writing long, lovingly detailed letters to her first mother? Not a problem!
• Sharing copies of the loads of photos we were taking? Nothing to it!
At our first picnic, I watched with awe as my 11-month old interacted with her first mom. Like the paparazzi, I snapped photos all afternoon, capturing moments I knew only they could share.
When it was time to say goodbye, the tears pushing themselves from my face reflected the sadness I hadn’t realized was building inside me that day. My daughter would have no recollection of that sweet afternoon in the park, or the time spent in her first mother’s arms.
(Now that? That scared me.)
I was scared of losing contact with Maeve’s first mother, scared she would decide it was too hard and pull away, scared she would decide to close any openness we had and Maeve would lose the vital connection to her story.
Since my daughter was born two and a half years ago, our relationship with her first mother has grown — especially so in the last year.
Although Maeve’s first mom may need a break periodically, I’m trusting in the conversations we’ve had about communicating that and other needs as they arise. While I’m aware there will be an ebb and flow to this special relationship, I also know we all have Maeve’s best interests at heart. Last week we sent a rainbow Maeve painted to her first mom, as well as a little gift for a special member of her first family. We’ve exchanged full names, addresses, phone numbers and I created a special e-mail address just for our communications.
We’ve chatted by instant messenger — sometimes just to simply say hello — and we’ve begun to talk about getting together this summer for a weekend.
Doing these things erases nothing from me — rather, it brings me more fulfillment as Maeve’s mother because I see all the parts of her present in her life and know I’m doing everything in my power to raise a happy, whole child.
Go ahead. Ask Maeve whose belly she grew in and she’ll tell you.
Ask her how much I love her and her arms fly open wide.
These are the moments and conversations of her truth that remedy even the most scary adoption goblins.