To define an “open” adoption basically means there is contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. Contact can be anything from letters and pictures sent through the agency to phone calls to visits and anything in between.
So, I know what immediately comes to most people’s minds – “I saw this Lifetime movie…” or “Well, on Teen Mom…” But, rest assured, real life is NOT like what you see on TV. There will be no random biological family member coming to our house to steal our child away from us because they “have that legal right.” I touched on this in Vincent’s birth story, but in the state of Ohio, once birthparents surrender their parental rights, it’s permanent…forever. To put it in perspective with a completely illogical example, if Husband and I decided we were getting divorced before the adoption is legalized with the courts, and we didn’t want to keep Vincent anymore, so we told Caring for Kids (our adoption agency) that we were giving him back, the agency could not place him with K or L. They’d have to ask them to find another adoptive family to raise him. Husband and I have the same rights as parents as if I’d given birth to Vincent.
Openness is also not legally mandated. If we chose, we could tell K & L “peace out girl scout” (to borrow a favorite phrase of L’s) and we wouldn’t be legally bound to allow them to see him or know anything about him. It’s not like shared custody/shared parenting at all.
With all of that being said, Husband and I learned the benefits of a healthy open adoption when we were going through our classes, and we both agreed that as long as it was comfortable, safe, and healthy for everyone involved, we’d like our child to grow up knowing his/her birthparents. Some adoptive families put a strict time limit on visits. They say “we’ll meet every June and January on the 2nd Saturday of the month from 1:00-3:00 at a neutral location.” And maybe that works for some people, but the thought of that was so unnatural to me. I can’t schedule my life that far away, and I just don’t think that helps to form a relationship. To me, that’s fulfilling an obligation, and I didn’t want interactions with my child’s birth family to be an obligation. I wanted a relationship. And a relationship is fluid, it grows, it changes, it allows room for different people to come together and enjoy each other’s company.
What we have with Vincent’s birth parents is a wonderful relationship. They’ve said that it feels like Husband and I are them 10+ years down the road, and it’s funny because we do have similar personalities. L and Husband are two peas in a pod. They have similar senses of humor and mostly have a ‘go with the flow’ attitude about life. They both love to bug their ladies, and they have a touch of ADD making conversations very interesting. K and I are similar in the way we handle our men, we’re both a little more serious, but we know how to joke around and have a good time. We both are sort of “old souls” and mostly rule followers. K is much more soft spoken than I am, but she gets her point across when she needs to. I really enjoy their company.
Now, I know it’s early on in the relationship, and we share a very delicate bond between us. They essentially chose strangers to raise their child. And, as I told them in the hospital, I know there will be times when we disappoint them, and I know there will be times when they disappoint us, but as long as we are both thinking about Vincent and putting his needs above our own, I think this relationship will work out fine.
They respect us as Vincent’s parents, and we respect them as the people who entrusted their most precious child to us. Trust me, that’s not something I take lightly. I can honestly say I enjoy our time with them. It’s always a little nerve wracking the anticipation leading up to visits, but once we’re together, it’s like we’re all old friends just hanging out. I’m excited to see how our relationship grows as Vincent grows, and I hope he will always know how loved he is from both of his families. That’s really what it’s all about – adoption is a special kind of love, the kind of love that allows a birthmother to make a choice to truly put her child first, and the kind of love that allows an adoptive mother to raise a child born to another woman as her own. I’m so lucky to be able to witness that love from all aspects of adoption – seeing how much K & L love Vincent makes me able to love him, and them, so much more. I’m so incredibly lucky. Thank you God for bring K, L, and Vincent into my life. I’m truly blessed beyond measure.