Well, O Solo Mama put up some questions about open adoption, and I’m one of the people taking a swing—I’m trying out the questions that came before the list, however. I addressed a couple of the others over on Dawn‘s blog, but it turns out I wasn’t quite finished.
No seriously, how do you watch your child being parented by someone other than yourself? Do you take some kind of pill every day? Or do you grieve for a long time, so long, even, that it impairs your relationship with your child or with your subsequent chidren? And then who helps you?
My first impulse is to ask a question in response: Why would closed adoption be easier? Yeah, being a birthparent is hard, and you grieve. But not knowing whether he was alive or dead—that’s not an improvement. I don’t, at least so far, have trouble hearing my son call his moms “Mama” or “Abba”; I was pretty clear on the fact that placing him meant that he was going to call someone else mama. If you place a child for adoption, someone else will be the parent to your kid. Period. Maybe a closed adoption lets you imagine that the child is pining for you always, or thinks of you as his or her “real mom,” or that the child died and that you have no hostage to fortune out there in the world, but I just can’t bring myself to put “birthparents (or adoptive parents, for that matter) can more easily lie to themselves” in the “pro” column for closed adoptions.
Technically I suppose I can’t tell you whether the placement/openness/existence of a Cricket has impaired my relationship with Joey, because I only have this relationship with him; I don’t know what that theoretical, sans adoption motherhood looks like, and never can. But I’m completely in love with Joey, and he seems to be thriving. Here’s a funny thing: one of the reasons that I placed Cricket is that I wanted him to be a longed-for child—I want that for every kid, and since he was born of a crisis pregnancy, I didn’t think that we could give that to him. But the loss of him has made Joey especially longed for, not just by me and his dad but (it turns out) by all grandparents and aunts and uncles and great-aunts and -uncles. This adoration doesn’t, so far as I can tell, have any creepy hint of “replacement child” about it—it’s just that now we’ve all in a sense been waiting for this boy for years, and he’s here, and everyone loves him. If I try to set him down for a nap and five minutes later need to pick him up because just not being held is enough to wake him up, it’s a little frustrating, sure—but it feels so good to hold him, even when I really need to get work done, even if I really have to go to the bathroom.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving for Cricket—I imagine that will go on and on. But shoot, my husband still grieves for his father, who died five years ago; that doesn’t stop him having full and loving relationships now. Grief is. It doesn’t kill you. And again, I don’t imagine that the grief is necessarily any less when you don’t know your placed child’s name.
So who helps me? Well, I talk to my husband and to a counselor; I do some brain work on my own. I have to think that I’d be doing those same things if we were in a closed adoption. And I’m living my life and feeling blessed, so something must be working. I didn’t have any trouble bonding to Joey, and while I do of course think about Cricket and miss him, it isn’t poisoning my parenting or anything like. I wish our adoption was more open, in fact.