Roundtable #48: Why Has or Hasn’t Openness Worked for You?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

In her OAB blog post this week, Kat Cooley wondered if there is some way to predict whether (adoptive and first) parents entering into open adoptions truly understand the importance of openness and are really committed to doing what they can to make it work. She asked readers to comment on what drives them to maintain their open adoption relationships. It sparked some great–still ongoing–conversation in the comments section. I encourage you to read the post and comments for yourself.

Reader Racilous suggested that we continue the conversation in a roundtable, which I thought was a great idea. (And for those of you who left comments on Kat’s column, you already have your roundtable post started!). In Racilous’ words:

Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?

If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?

What a strange and appropriate time for me to get this prompt; Mr. Book and I are in the middle of a long conversation about whether to tell Ruth and Nora that we may need to officially switch to a semi-open adoption (I say officially because Mr. Book contends that we are already in a semi-open adoption). I’ve also been working on a message to them about this, which is a much-gussied-up version of: You break promises to us over and over again. That sucks, but we can deal with it. But once Kit is old enough to notice (being as Joey doesn’t care at all), if you’re still not doing what you say you will, we’re done. Send us pictures if you feel like following through on that part of the agreement at some point, and we’d appreciate an email once or twice a year about how Cricket’s doing; we will send him birthday and Christmas gifts, and will make sure that you have our contact information. But that’s it. I will stop writing to him, we will stop badgering you to Skype, don’t visit us, don’t contact our children, and don’t help Cricket contact us.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever send that message. If I did, we would still talk to Joey and Kit about Cricket—we’d say that his parents aren’t able to make a relationship work right now, but that we can try to get to know him when he’s grown up. Or something like that. Even if we do decide to pull back, there’s probably no need for an announcement: If I stop nagging, I am confident that contact will dry up entirely. The other night, I got a text message from Ruth containing a question from Cricket, and I was just angry—contact only happens when it is useful and convenient for them. Please, interject yourself into my evening and then vanish again for months. No, really, feel free. (I answered the question and was friendly.) I could run down a list of broken promises from them, but really, what is the point? They cover all the bases, from visits to contact to photos to Skype.

The most likely outcome, I think, is that I will send a message that—if there is an assertiveness scale from 1–10, and if the last message was a 2—is more like a 4 or 5. Here are things you have promised to do and failed to do, here are my concerns, I can imagine that in a year or two we may end up mostly cutting contact with you because of this and because of Kit and Joey.

How did we get to this point? Well, I don’t think Ruth and Nora think that we have a failing open adoption, so this is just to note that they would give a hugely different answer from mine and ours. But I would say that when we all agreed that we wanted to be like family, it would have helped to know that Ruth has cut off most of her family; since the adoption happened, she has also ended her marriage, and her best friend has ended the friendship. She doesn’t seem able to sustain relationships, and ours has lasted this long only because we want so desperately to have a connection to her son—but as that feels less and less likely, we too are thinking about walking away. I still believe that Nora never wanted an open adoption, and sometimes wonder whether she ever wanted to be a parent.

Roundtable #36: Agreements

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. 

Write a response at your blog–linking back to this post so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

Open adoption agreements are the documents signed by placing parents and adopting parents that establish post-adoption contact expectations and boundaries. Discussions often focus on their legal weight (e.g. Are the agreements enforceable in court?) or the practical details (e.g. How many visits?), both very important issues. I thought it might be interesting to also take a more personal look at how they have influenced the relationships in our personal adoption constellations and how our views about them may have changed over time.

Write about open adoption agreements. Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?

I have a legally binding open adoption agreement—there’s a copy in a box in my closet. It’s hard for me to know how much that affects our adoption, since Ruth and Nora don’t keep to it. But it is certainly possible that we are only having a visit this year because the agreement requires them to travel to us for a visit once per year. Hard to know.

At the same time, it feels as though the important things in our relationship are wholly untouched by the agreement: And how could they be? Ours is not a relationship that works very well, and that has to do with our personalities and our different hopes and plans. Ruth and Nora were distressed that we had Joey, and the agreement is (naturally enough) silent on the subject; now it’s our turn to be upset that Ruth is deciding whether to have a baby with the man she has recently started seeing, and of course there is no agreement that we could have come to about that. We don’t get a vote in her family-building decisions, just as she has no voice in ours—but oh, how strongly we all feel about these things.

At their best, I think open adoption agreements give both families a chance to make sure that their expectations line up; if the expectant parents want monthly visits and the adoptive parents want one visit per year (or vice versa), this may not be a good match—or it may be an opportunity to talk about why the different parties want what they want, and try to find common ground and a common understanding. Our process involved my nervously suggesting the most that I thought I could ask for, and Nora and Ruth looking uncomfortable when I asked for hard copies of pictures twice a year—they decided that they could send pictures in May and December, but have not been able to do that. Perhaps there was something behind that look that we could have talked about. (Mr. Book wasn’t present for any of these conversations, although I talked with him about what went on.) I didn’t really know what to ask for, although I was comforted by the idea that I had the legally enforceable right to see the child (I couldn’t let myself think of him as my son: poor Cricket) once a year. Now, if Ruth closed the adoption, I think we would more or less let it go—I’d send a Christmas card and a birthday gift for as long as I had their address, but certainly we can’t afford to take them to court and have some discomfort with the idea of trying to force them to see us in any event. If Ruth felt strongly enough to close the adoption, what must she be telling Cricket about us? In that scenario, it would I think feel kindest to step back and try to reach out when he was an adult.

It’s a terrible time in your life. I think there must be some terrible parts for prospective adoptive parents, too—as much as Mr. Book and I now feel that they have a hostage, they must have felt some of that, seeing me pregnant with the child they wanted so much. We all (I see now, but couldn’t then) felt pressure to agree to what the others wanted, because we all felt that we needed each other. Ideally, after their need was satisfied, we would all have grown to love one another, to feel like real family, and been able to work closely with affection and understanding. Instead—well, I really don’t know what things are like from their points of view. Nora has had no contact with us since the last visit, which is what we’ve come to know as normal, but since they are now separated, it feels a bit different. Ruth has reached out to me and talked more about her life and relationships, but that isn’t connected to our talking more with Cricket or hearing more about him; when last we talked, I tried to turn the conversation toward the boys and failed. And she’s going through huge turmoil and changes, and that makes some sense—but she doesn’t act like someone who believes that I am primarily interested in Cricket, not in her. For our part, we are prioritizing keeping her happy and as close as she would like to be, but not for her own sake. It’s a lousy way to behave, but I don’t see a better alternative. Seeing a friend’s tweets from a talk by James Gritter, it was brought home to me just how badly our open adoption has failed: “Three necessary attitudes of hospitious open adoption: goodwill, respect, courage”; “Your arms are either open for embrace or pushing away. No in between gesture.” This isn’t what a conventional failed open adoption looks like: in just over a week, Cricket and his mother will be here. We will be polite and interested, we will have carefully prepared their space, and after they have gone, I will send a card letting them know how much we enjoyed having them. And there is such distance and emotional dishonesty between us adults that I am ashamed.

Open Adoption Roundtable #35

We brought something back with us from Missouri; I’ve been affectionately referring to it as the “death flu.” I haven’t been this sick in a long time, but we’re getting better now—I’m still barking like a seal and sleeping sitting up, but otherwise just tired. And just in time, too: there is a new Open Adoption Roundtable!

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. 

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

We’ve written about siblings in open adoptions twice before. Now we’re going to look in the other generational direction: grandparents. While the legal processes of placing and adopting focus on the triad of first parents-child-adoptive parents, the reality is that adoption involves extended family, too. So this time we’re offering up a nice, broad prompt to reflect on the influence of, relationships with, and experiences of grandparents in our open adoptions (whichever grandparents you choose).

Write about grandparents in open adoption.

Yesterday, I broke the news to my mother that Ruth and Cricket are planning to visit, and that they have timed the visit so as to avoid her. (My parents, who have wanted this for the last couple of decades, are finally taking a trip to Greece together in late April/early May.) I explained that my hope is that next year, assuming we have a visit next year, I will be able to talk Ruth into having a meal with my parents before we take off to an undisclosed location for the visit proper; I was apologetic about the whole weird thing.

“So she really, seriously just doesn’t plan to let me see him ever?”

“I—yeah, I think that’s right. I’m sorry. But I have this plan for next year?”

My mother was angry, but not particularly worked up or surprised; Ruth has said this to her before, in a card she sent to my mom around Cricket’s first birthday. My mom had hoped that things might change, since she wrote back very politely and has sent timely and tasteful birthday gifts each year, but I don’t think that anything has changed for Ruth.

There’s no question but that my mom is a problematic figure: she opposed the adoption, she made a couple of cracks about kidnapping Cricket in the early days, and she abused me as a kid. At the same time, I’ve been able to watch her with Joey, and while she isn’t perfect (she is seemingly unable to receive feedback from him, and doesn’t tend to listen to what he’s trying to communicate), she’s very warm and loving and clearly delighted by him. They don’t spend much time alone, but while we do things differently than she did, she is respectful of our parenting decisions and invested in Joey’s happiness. In our conversation, my mom said that if Ruth saw her with Cricket, she might change her mind—and that could well be true. Certainly that is a hope behind my meal plan. But I’m far from sure.

As for the other birth grandparents, my husband’s father has been dead for almost six years, and his mother pretends that Cricket is dead. It’s hard to know what exactly her relationship to Cricket would otherwise be—but I don’t think Ruth is interested in maintaining those kinds of connections, based on her total lack of interest in my completely awesome, stable, and available sister, Kate. (This is a real mistake, I think; maybe “birth aunt” doesn’t sound important, but if there is any way at all to get Kate involved in your life or your kid’s, you take it. She’s one of those people.) I want to write more about Cricket and my husband’s family, but that’s a separate post that I’ve been picking at for something like a month now.

Watching Joey really has helped me to understand at a gut level that more people loving your kid is a blessing, whatever else it brings. Watching Joey bolt toward the door at the end of a work day shouting “Oma, Oma, Oma!” with his arms outstretched toward my mom? That is amazing. It seems unlikely that Cricket could have that even with support from his moms, but I wish that he could get a little closer.

Open Adoption Roundtable #34

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

It is likely that we’ve all had that experience at some time: someone asking us to speak to the choices or feelings of others in our adoption constellation. Perhaps it is someone asking a first parent how their child feels about being in an open adoption. Or someone asking an adoptee why their adoptive parents chose to adopt. You get the idea.

How do you handle such questions when they are asked of you? How would you want the other parties in your open adoption to handle those questions when they are about you?

On what must have been our first visit to the Emerald City post-relinquishment, we ran into a friend of Ruth and Nora’s while driving from one place to another. “Oh, hi Susie!” she said. “I recognize you from the pictures!” I actually cringed, not just a mental cringe but a real life, actual muscles, socially awkward cringe. What I really want is neither fair nor possible; I want never to come up in conversations between Ruth and Nora and their social circle. I don’t want people to know my name, or why I relinquished, or who could give up such a perfect child, or whatever other answers to questions I never want asked.

Setting aside my unrealistic wish, I would choose for Ruth and Nora to be as close-mouthed as is practicable: Why did she place? She thought it was the best decision at the time. What is she like? Quiet. I’d honestly rather that these strangers-to-me assume that I’m a drug-addled prostitute than have any real information about me. Ruth and Nora have never asked my preferences, and I’m sure that Ruth is pretty free with details, because that’s her nature. I try not to think about it.

I can’t think of a time when I’ve been asked to speak for Ruth or Nora; while it’s certainly true that lesbians can bear children, no one seems surprised that a queer couple might adopt if they want to parent. I also don’t tend to talk about them, and at this point—having moved once or twice—am surrounded by people who wouldn’t know to ask. My birthparenthood is mostly invisible.

Open Adoption Roundtable #31

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought this prompt would fit right in:

Write about open adoption and being scared.

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

There was a question over on Open Adoption Support about why some birthfamiles talk about having lost their placed children, and one woman said that people like me have no right to say that we lost our kids, because we made a decision and signed the papers. Of course, I had already posted that sometimes I say I “placed” my son and sometimes I say that I “lost” my son; more accurately, at those times, I say that I lost my son because I am an idiot. I was upset and scared and self-loathing and determined to have some kind of plan. That scared thing? It turns out, that doesn’t go away.

At least not for me. Cricket is about to turn three, and I’m still scared of him.

I’m not one of those people who is afraid of babies or little kids; I’ve started hanging out in the church nursery on Sunday mornings so that Pete can socialize, and I’m happy to comfort the most fragile and shy babies. (There’s one little boy just a smidge younger than Pete who, when Pete sticks his face in this kiddo’s face to say a friendly hello, bursts into tears.) When I was in grade school, I helped my mother when she volunteered in the church nursery and always liked doing so. In fact, there’s only one baby I’ve ever been afraid of—not a baby any longer—my own Cricket.

Having been made acutely aware of the fact that can lose Cricket—because I lost him—I now am staring down the barrel of decades of being able to lose him again. There are a number of different ways it could happen: his moms could decide to close the adoption, shocking no one; he could tell them in a few years that he wants the adoption closed, something I am certain they’d agree to; and of course he could decide as an adult that he has two moms and that’s it, that these tall people have nothing at all to do with him. This is one of several things that keep me spooky and uncomfortable around him; I look at him (on the computer, Skyping) and feel frozen. Anything that I say could be not just the wrong thing, but the Last Wrong Thing. So instead, by default, my distance is the wrong thing. It’s not just that I can’t win—it’s that I can’t imagine what winning would look like. Can we possibly be close? When I reach out and he responds, I have no earthly idea what to do.

I have an example. I don’t know whether I mentioned it here, since it seemed unlikely to matter, but last month I made a two-minute video for Cricket in which I showed and explained our pool robot. I had learned via Skype that Ruth assumed that when I said “pool robot,” I meant those floaty things that release chlorine—but not so! There is a real robot! So I filmed it and picked it up and described its action. She told me that he is obsessed with the phrase “bear with me,” which I used as I hauled the robot up from the bottom of the pool. And she said this: “He did note that you say ‘love you’ at the end, and this made quite an impression. He talks about this pretty often.” And when she told me this, I didn’t respond directly—I made some inane comment about a different thing that she’d said—because what can I say to that? I reached out a little and he heard me, and now I don’t know what to do.

Open Adoption Roundtable #30

Roundtable time! This one is another chance to think back on the origins of our open adoptions.

Do you remember the first time you heard about open adoption?

If you need some further prompting: What were the circumstances? What was your reaction? If you grew up in an open adoption, do you remember the first time you heard the label applied to your relationships?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

I’ve been a reader of Savage Love for a hideously long time—so when Dan Savage wrote a book about adopting his son DJ, I bought and read it. He and his husband Terry used OA&FS in Seattle, and he wrote about the process in some detail. It wasn’t until after I had placed my son that I read something he wrote wishing his son’s birthmother would die.

Savage made open adoption sound pretty good; it never occurred to me that it might look different from the point of view of the woman sitting across the table from him, eating lunch and waiting to lose her child to the eager couple picking up the tab. DJ’s mother was homeless, no longer involved with the boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant, and only had housing because the adoption agency was providing it. Dan and Terry seem both desperate to like her and very ready to judge her, in an emotional mix that has become very familiar to me after several more adoptive parent memoirs and blogs. (Not, NOT that every adoptive parent falls into this emotional trap. But too many do.) She is so brave/how could she be so irresponsible.

For what it’s worth, Savage and his husband seemed to treat their son’s mother decently (as recorded in his memoir).

Yesterday I reread Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother, a book that makes me crazy. I keep it around in case I ever need some kind of irritating pick-me-up. The anger that gets directed at pregnant women considering adoption by not all but too many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents really freaks me out. There is some level on which I just don’t understand it. I don’t have any money, but I’m not enraged by the rich people who seem to spend more money than I’ll ever see in what seem to me stupid ways; I’m pretty plain, but I don’t resent the gorgeous. That desire to scratch out the eyes of women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant makes me recoil every time I see it. You don’t deserve a child, I don’t deserve a child—no one deserves a child. Many people are able to parent, and they come to that in a variety of ways. Being poor, or single, or fertile, or all those things and more doesn’t make someone a whore. And yet these books—The Kid, Secret Thoughts, and others—contain ~*~hilarious~*~ “Dear Birthmother” letters that let the resentment and stereotypes flow freely. How handy that these people will end up in lifelong relationships with the people they so despise.

Open Adoption Roundtable #28

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

This round is a smidge different–time for some cross-blog pollination! Lori of Write Mind Open Heart, an adoptive parent in two open adoptions, has up at her blog a set of eleven questions about open adoption which were posed to her by JoAnne, an adult adoptee in a closed adoption. There are some great questions there about the role adoption professionals played arranging contact in your adoptions and how you understand the legal weight of any open adoption agreements you may have.

1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?

Yes, of course. I cannot tell you how many times I have read condescending explanations to the tune of:

If you wanted to have contact/a relationship/some idea of whether your placed child is alive or dead, you shouldn’t have placed that child for adoption.

I don’t think people smugging it up about ~*~real ~*~parenthood on the internet are the only ones who feel that way, either. Heck, I listen to an adoption/infertility podcast every week, and on the last episode, a social worker who does adoptions said that she thinks legally binding open adoption agreements are a bad idea because adoptive parents need to be able to be the real parents. I don’t quite understand the mindset that agreeing to a visit once a year (in our case) stops people from doing more or less whatever they want to their children, but I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

On the other hand: I have a friend who placed a child for adoption only to have the adoptive parents promptly move across state lines and close the adoption. Her son is now in middle school, and my friend has found his older sister on Facebook. I think it’s getting less and less possible to hide yourself and your family forever; while adoptive parents can do whatever they please, the reality is that their kids may very well use available tech to look for birth family without any guidance or help from their parents.

I should also say that in our adoption, which I think is a pretty functional one, the adoptive parents don’t meet the terms of the agreement. (In our agreement, we birth parents are only “permitted” and not obligated to do anything—but we do that which is permitted.)

2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?

In our case, the agency used by the adoptive parents counsels them, but we had very little guidance or mediation for the four of us during the process and have had none since placement.

 

5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?

I don’t believe so.

 

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?

Well . . . nothing. I mean, theoretically we could take them to court, but I don’t think that most birth parents have the resources to hire a lawyer etc. It’s hard for me to imagine that that process would make it easier to have a relationship. And I don’t know of any agreement that has actually been legally tested, so they may all end up not being binding after all. In practice, if things really broke down for the adoptive parents, they would I believe go to their agency for help—we (the birth parents) don’t have access to agency support, and would probably just keep trying to contact them every so often but otherwise give up.

7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?

Manners? Rational self-interest? Not being a paint-huffing crazy lady? I mean, maybe I should turn this one around: What stops the adoptive parents from coming to my house unannounced? Well, that would be rude and destructive to the relationship, and it’s hard to imagine it going over very well. We just aren’t that close. Heck, I wouldn’t turn up at my sister’s house without checking in with her.

The assumption that birth parents have no boundaries is pretty insulting. I’m participating in a study tracking birth parents, adoptive parents, and placed kids, and every time they interview me, I get asked literally dozens of questions like: What was the last time that your actions got you in legal trouble? What is the last time that you started a fire? What is the last time that you used illegal drugs? Does your use of illegal drugs prevent you from doing the things you want to do? (Never, never, never, and did you not notice the never? for the curious.) The birth parents I know are living their lives and missing their kids. When I really, badly miss Cricket and wish I could see him, I feel sad; I write on the blog; sometimes I bake.

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?

I don’t think there are, but I’m interested to see what will happen.

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?

Not that I know of. I think that those who oppose open adoption can simply opt out.

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

Well, as to the first question, that’s something that his moms will decide. I will say that if Ruth emailed me tomorrow and said that Cricket said he doesn’t want to have a visit, I would ask whether we could see whether he feels differently in six months—in the meantime, of course, we would be willing to not send him cards or gifts. I would probably keep exchanging emails with Ruth, but we have an independent relationship that I don’t think it would be appropriate for him to control. (Cricket is two and a half, by the way.) If he wants to cut off contact with us, we will accept that; we’d grieve, and we’d hope for an eventual change of heart, but I’d never want to force a relationship on him. At the same time, if his moms agreed, I might ask whether we could keep on sending cards for him to them that they could save and give to him if he ever wanted that.

11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?

Open Adoption Support is a good one—beyond that, I’ve gotten good and kind information just by emailing bloggers.

Open Adoption Roundtable #26

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

How do/would you talk with children about siblings in open adoption? How do you approach this as a (first or adoptive) parent, or how was it handled in your family if you grew up with siblings who didn’t live with you? For prospective adoptive parents or first parents without other children, has this been something you’ve thought about how you would approach? (Other responses can be found here.)

I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile.

I’ve been mulling over some of the comments I got, and am reluctantly convinced that I need to remove the language about hearts being broken; I have a weakness for faerie tale prose, and still think to myself sometimes in phrases from those I’ve read, or most especially some from a pink story tape we had when I was a child: “The wicked queen flew into a rage.” Now I’ve got to figure out the best way to talk about regret.

Mia said in comments that

As the adoptive mother, I wouldn’t want visits where my son might be told that it breaks his mother’s heart that he doesn’t live with her. My son can’t fix that situation, and he didn’t cause it, so he shouldn’t have to feel like he’s part of someone’s heartbreak or caught between two sets of parents when there is nothing he can do about it–he’s just a little kid.

It’s a fair point, and certainly I don’t want to burden little Cricket. On the other hand, I think that the absence of any mention of regret creates different problems: Why did we have and raise another child so (relatively) soon after placing Cricket if we didn’t regret the loss of him? And what birth family doesn’t wish that the placed child could have stayed with them, at least some of the time? Who doesn’t wonder what that would have been like?

I talked to a social worker at Catholic Charities who has done a number of adoptions about this, and she gave me permission to include my regret in the story I tell Joey: “It’s part of your story.” My understanding of the best interests of the adopted child (not thought up on my own, but heard from vaguely remembered experts) is that children own all of their stories, and that it is the parents’ obligation to give them all of their information—in age-appropriate ways, of course, and gently—but all of it. I’m not parenting Cricket, and I honestly don’t want to tell him anything. I want to send him to his moms if he has questions, dodging any awkward conversations until he’s taller than I am. But I want and need to tell Joey what happened, and why, and that it won’t happen to him and that I wish it had never happened at all. I am going to tell him all of that—I just want not to hurt anyone. That may be impossible.

I’m still looking for ways to put it, and hoping, cravenly, that Joey doesn’t talk to Cricket about this stuff. Heck, they’re unlikely to have an unsupervised conversation in the next decade. Maybe I can just swoop in with cake and interrupt. Or start a small fire. Or jump off the balcony.

I don’t feel as though Cricket is caught between two sets of parents—we’re clear that he’s with his moms forever, that they are his “real” parents (I use this language in real life), and that they are great moms and his family and and and. I want to find a way to talk to my Joey about this without wounding Cricket, and I know there has to be one, but I haven’t found it yet. And if I tell Joey these things and Ruth and Nora close the adoption because of it? I have no idea.

Open Adoption Roundtable #24

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog (including the link http://www.productionnotreproduction.com/2011/03/open-adoption-roundtable-24.html so your readers can browse other participating blogs) and link to your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments or at the new Facebook page.

I waffled between a lighter writing prompt and a heavier, more personal one for this round. I decided on the less personal topic; we’ll save the deeper one for later this month.

Awhile back, out of curiosity, I set up a search on Twitter for the phrase “open adoption”. If someone mentioned open adoption in a tweet it popped up in my feed reader. The search rarely turned up much. For the most part I saw promotional tweets from adoption professionals or prospective adoptive parents trying to “network,” with occasional chatter from folks involved in open adoptions who were talking about their lives. Then suddenly big bursts of tweets started showing up once a week or so. Tweets that were overwhelmingly–although not totally–negative about open adoption: talk of birth parents needing to leave the adoptive family alone or doing something wrong by maintaining a connection to their children, that sort of thing. Like the greatest hits of open adoption misinformation, delivered on a schedule.

I soon realized those bursts were coming whenever MTV aired a Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant episode involving adoption. I typically roll my eyes when another clumsy adoption storyline shows up in a scripted show or bristle when reality tv mines the adoption process for stories. But here was a television franchise with massive reach giving lots of viewers their first (heavily edited and manipulated) glimpses of real-life open adoptions. And it didn’t seem to be doing much for the cause.

For better or worse, open adoption is working its way into mainstream entertainment. Which brings us to our writing prompt:

How have you seen open adoption portrayed on television? What did you think? What, if anything, would you like to see?

 

I’m going to write the opposite of this prompt, because I am a contrary goofus.

 

I haven’t really watched any TV aside from the occasional ball game since I was eight years old. I will watch things on DVD, however, especially now that Netflix is around to make my life better. When I was pregnant with Cricket, I bought and watched the first three seasons of The Gilmore Girls. I don’t know what kind of sense you have of my from the blog, but GG is very much not my normal fare; my other TV DVDs are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes, Firefly, The West Wing, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, and I have my eye on Deadwood. I don’t watch feel-good TV, and I don’t want stereotypically girly TV. And yet, most of the way through a crisis pregnancy, knowing that I was going to lose my baby, I suddenly decided that it was time to watch The Gilmore Girls after knowing only the premise.

 

Funnily enough, the obvious reason for my interest didn’t occur to me until well after the adoption had taken place. I was watching—and sniffling over—a show about a woman who got inconveniently pregnant and while it was hard, she kept her baby and it was the best thing ever and they loved each other like no one else on earth. I sat alone in a room in my parents’ house, watching my stomach twitch and listening to the show and failing to take the hint my subconscious was giving. After I’d watched all the DVDs I bought (massively on sale, I am lamely compelled to point out), I got the rest of the series via Netflix. I craved this faerie-tale product offering me the opposite of adoption. Heck, adoption never comes up on the show; if I remember correctly, abortion is mentioned briefly, but the big decision is whether to marry the father or not.

 

I still have the DVDs. Mr. Book thinks that I should sell them off since I don’t like the show—I don’t like the show!—but I am weirdly superstitious about getting rid of them. I don’t have many relics from that pregnancy, and I feel somewhat obligated to keep a memento, since it feels as though that pregnancy ended in a death. Of course, there is still a child who was born at the end of it running around a few hours from me . . . but as many times as I try to rephrase that, I can’t get away from the fact that to me, right now, it feels like a death.