The Gifts of Open Adoption as published in NW Kids Magazine
It was not until after years of trying to concieve a child that we began to read about adoption options and learn about open adoption. I remember thinking it seemed a little different that instead of being matched with a baby by an adoption agency we would be chosen by expecting parents, who found themselves for one reason or another unable to raise and parent their child. Cognitively we understood why this would be good, but inside we also felt vulnerable, especailly after the distress of infertitly.
At the time we had no idea how life changing this would be for us. Silly really, because becoming a parent in general is life changing and for us becoming parents by way of open adoption became an invitation to grow in new, unforseen ways. The adoption process felt a little like waiting to be choosen by the team captain during a middle school gym class, complete with internal turbulence. But, the moment our daughter Carly Jo was born, everything shifted and we and our new acquatances called “birth family” shined out to meet each other.
In the beginning we sort of meandered through each decision breathing and growing together in an everyday kind of way, almost without noticing the magic that was happening, almost.
Then weeks and months passed to today... nine years later, when I can tell you that we are truly family, in every sense of the word. As in, airport runs, baby sitting, adopted dogs from the same litter, we share holidays, help each other move & vacation together, along with our parents. Carly is always bragging about how lucky she is to have so many grandparents. Yes, this is what you might call a radically open adoption, or you could just call it family.
I know this is a snap shot story, skipping over those moments of vulnerability that we each experienced as the days and years passed. And so it comes across pretty storybook, which it honestly is. I also know from the coaching and mentoring I’ve done over the last 8 years, that there are many stories, where this is not the case.
But what does remain true, is that the children raised with openness in their family, regardless of how open it is, have the opportunity to know and own their whole story first hand. This is very empowering and to me seems like a basic human right. They have the opportunity to love, be loved, and to know they are loved, by everyone related to them. Who wouldn’t benefit from even more people loving and supporting them?
I have seen first hand how confident and self assured my daughter has grown up to be. And I know in my heart that it is the openness, love and respect shared with all of my daughter’s family that has created that. This is a gift of open adoption.
I mentioned earlier that it is not always easy and can feel vulnerable at times. It is however, precisley these vulnerable experiences that connect us to what is important, because they show us what is at the root of what we care most about.
By having Carly Jo and her best interests in common, we are always inspired to show up as our best selves. Each and everytime we get through our fears and stick our necks out in order to be open and loving, we grow our capacity to love.
So, you might ask yourself, what does it look like to expand your capacity to love? I believe it is your heart at it’s most open, accompanied by being present in the moment and being non-judgmental. Together these equal freedom. In open adoption it means that with our most open hearts we are able to, talk freely with our children about their origins and adoption, to love our child’s birth family with compassion and without judgement, to let our children freely love and be loved by their birth family and to talk freely with others in our life and community, about our adoption. If you think about it, there are even ways to do much of this in an international or closed adoption.
These kiddos win to be surrounded by so much love and openness, it allows them to freely love their whole complete selves. So, Love, love, love, what is this 1967 again? Truth is we need all this love to get past the loss and shame historically associated with adoption.
With infertility there is of course also loss. The loss of the ability to give birth to a child of your family of origin, is an experience that makes couples feel very hurt, even broken. It is however, also this exact experience that connects us to our family of choice. You see, both the family that cannot grow a child to parent and the family that grows a child they cannot parent, have experienced loss. This is our connection. It is through this common theme of loss, that we complete each other. It is with these thoughts and the ideas of openness and non judgement, that we are able to meet each other where we are at.
And now a further word about shame... Shame is something we all have the opportunity to feel,
especially in the world of infertility and adoption. So yet another shared experience.
Shame is the worst. We shame ourselves when we feel we have done something that makes us unloveable. So, we punish ourselves, for simply wanting to be loved?
In open adoption, because everyone has been allowed to love everyone, we are all whole and free. When we align with the abundance of love, instead of loss, blame, guilt and disconnect, we blossom, turning our shame and grief, into pride and joy. Another gift of open adoption and perhaps the greatest gift of all, because as we overcome our fears and embrace openness, we are teaching ourselves and the world a new way to be.