It’s the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project! Everyone who’d like to join in will be paired with a fellow open adoption blogger. You’ll have two weeks to get to know their blog and send them some interview questions by email. On March 22, you’ll post the interview on your blog and your partner will post their interview of you. It’s a double benefit to everyone who participates: you’ll get to know a blogger better and introduce them to your readers, and your blog will be introduced to their audience. Hooray for networking and cross-pollination!
My interview was with Maru, a woman who has had a very different experience with adoption than I have. One note: I use the phrase “settle on,” as in “decide on,” as in “How did you settle on June 13 for the wedding date?” I think Maru may have heard it as “settle for,” which would be unfortunate. I came to Maru’s blog for the interview, but stayed for the pictures–her daughter is a beauty!
How did you settle on semi-open adoption (pictures and letters, but no visits)? Well, we didn’t “settle”. Our daughter’s birthparents chose us when they were at the hospital. We’re not exactly sure when we were chosen – before or after the birth – since she was giving birth prematurely and they were not working with any agency yet. From what we gathered, they talked to the hospital’s social worker and she put them in contact with the agency we were working with. Our agency’s social worker went to visit them at the hospital the day our daughter was born. We got the call the next evening, got in a plane and arrived at the hospital the following morning. When we got there the birthmother had already been discharged and we were told she didn’t want to meet us. The birthfather wanted to, though. Later, she changed her mind and we met them, briefly, only for 3 hours, when our daughter was 3 days old. They asked us not to bring our daughter for this meeting. I think that we might considered an open adoption and they just wanted a semi-open adoption – only letters and pictures. I’m not sure if it was their choice, or the agency’s choice. I feel like this was decided for us. Talking to my husband about it, he brought to my attention an interesting detail I had completely forgotten. When we got our family profile together, we expressed our feelings about openness, something along the line of “We want you to be a part of your baby’s life”. The agency reviewed the profile and suggested we removed that from our letter. They explained that we hadn’t met the birthparents yet and were afraid we might be overpowered by our feelings. The best way to go was to wait and see how things panned out after we met them and then talk about it. That never happened. When we signed the legal papers at the hospital they gave us an agreement and everything had already been decided. I can describe such agreement as a schedule of when to send letters and pictures. That’s what it mostly is. We never had the opportunity to talk to them about openness. We were so busy being in complete shock that we didn’t even mentioned it when we met them. If it was in fact the birthparents’ decision to have a semi-open adoption, we totally respect their wishes. I think about them often and wonder how they are doing. It’s a little frustrating sometimes to send pictures, letters, albums, and not hear from them. I wish we could meet again someday and hopefully bring our daughter this time. Now, even if the agency handed us an agreement where we didn’t have a say, for whatever reason, the final or long term agreement about openness will be made between us, the birthparents and the adoptive parents. They might respond to our letters years from now, when they have come to terms with this whole process. If we want to meet, it will be our decision. The agency followed their guidelines considering their experience. It was the wise and healthy way to handle such a delicate process under the circumstances, where our feelings might get in the way. When the moment comes we’ll also have to think about our daughter. We’ll always do what is best for her.
You’ve mentioned lying when people ask about your daughter’s nationality and appearance, lies which seem designed to protect your daughter’s privacy: do you think you’ll handle those questions the same way when she’s old enough to understand what’s being talked about? I don’t lie about her nationality. People who are close to us know we adopted in the US and it’s very obvious from her gorgeous looks she’s from Asian origins. However, we’re still in a place where we struggle with privacy. We don’t know yet when we’re sharing too much. I know she should be the sole owner of her story and even when we embrace every aspect of the adoption – it’s how our family came together – we’re not sure where to draw the line. I might explain to some stranger who asks about her looks that my daughter was adopted, but from my experience so far this just opens the doors for uncomfortable questions or remarks, and while I’m all up for educating and being an adoption ambassador, sometimes I just need a break from insensitive comments. If you’re asking because I said she inherited her looks from my mother in law, I just did that to keep people off my back when they start to pry into our personal lives. I know I need to handle those questions differently when she’s older, and why not start now, but at that moment I felt as if we were on display. It’s an uneasy feeling I can’t explain… I don’t resent these questions as much now. And, of course, we’ll talk to her about it and let her decide how to handle the same questions on her own. Adoption is a growing process, one where you learn in stages, and we’re still learning.
Before you were matched, you seemed pretty confident that you would be getting a girl: Did your agency let you choose gender ahead of time? How did you decide on a daughter? Yes, they let us choose. It felt a little awkward when I wrote that down on the adoption paperwork, as if how could I be so choosy?, but I figured that if they were asking we should be assertive and say what we wanted. And we’ve always wanted a girl. I imagined having a baby girl in my arms… I had visions of her when she was older… When we had our baby shower we did it for a girl, and we had already picked up a name for her. It had to be a girl! Interestingly enough, the other agencies we researched and visited wouldn’t allow us to choose.
Were you only open to “baby born” situations? No, but that’s just what happened. We wanted a newborn. The agency explained that the call we would receive could be about a birthmom who chose us while she was still pregnant, or a baby that was just born, or even a baby a few weeks old. We were open to any case. We were really hoping to meet the birthmother while pregnant, but as I explained earlier, we were matched right after birth.
At one point, you refer to waiting for “my Juno”; did you see Juno? What did you think? Well, I liked the movie, but when I saw it I wasn’t even thinking about adoption. I was in the middle of our infertility crisis and could relate to the character of the adoptive mom – she wanted to be a mom so bad. I think the character of Juno was not very realistic. She seemed a little, I don’t know… Aloof? Nevertheless, when I saw the movie it was the first time I heard about domestic adoption. The second time was on the last season of the TV show “Friends”. So we really didn’t know this type of adoption existed. When we were researching about adoption, visiting agencies, reading blogs, etc. we learned so much more about what domestic adoption really is. I don’t think neither Juno nor Friends did a very good job portraying the reality of open domestic adoption, but at least they tried. I used the term “Juno” to refer to a prospective birthmom, just as a friend did when she waiting to be matched. When I told my friends and loved ones about domestic adoption they had no idea of what it was and I always used the movie as an example. Now that I think about it, I hope it was not offensive to other birthmothers out there who might have read my post. I never meant to trivialize their role. We’re not in complete contact with our daughter’s birthmom, but we honor her very much.
You’ve articulated a belief that I know a lot of adoptive parents hold: that “God planned her for us.” I know that for some adoptive parents, that feeling is complicated by the implication that God would plan a crisis pregnancy and the loss of a child for the birthmother—how do you think about this? It’s very difficult to talk about such a delicate subject when so many feelings are involved… The first night we spent with our daughter was both exciting and emotional. We hadn’t met our daughter’s birthparents and I felt as if I was stealing their baby. Of course I wasn’t, but I remember I felt that way, and the idea that we were so incredibly happy to have a baby in our arms was clashing with the fact that they were dealing with their loss. An incredible need to meet them overwhelmed me. I don’t think God planned a crisis pregnancy for our benefit. Complete strangers chose us – entrusted us – with the care and upbringing of their child. What are the odds of that happening? Our agency presented nine families to our daughter’s birthparents. Nine! And they chose us! Of course God had something to do with it! Only God was able to put all the pieces together. I think God had some sort of plan to make every one’s situation better. A crisis pregnancy happened, and that family needed a solution. We’ve always dreamed to be parents and somehow all of us came together. Each of us – birthparents and adoptive parents – has endured, in different ways, the reality of loss. I don’t think God wanted us to suffer when we were battling infertility. However, I think going through infertility, knowing the pain of loss, has made us stronger and more prepared to be parents, and for that I thank Him. I think that I will always be a wonderful mother because of what I’ve been through. No offense to biological mothers everywhere, but women get pregnant every day and they take it for granted – it’s the most natural thing for them! I know they love their children so much it hurts, and I know they were happy to become mothers themselves, don’t get me wrong, but I’m absolutely certain it was different for me. That is precisely the “secret ingredient” that will make me a better mom. I believe the same goes to birthmothers. I think they are strong, exceptional human beings for choosing life for their baby and then going through the pain of losing their child. And I bet this painful experience will make them even stronger for when they become a mother again, and this time decide to parent.