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. We’re up to Open Adoption Roundtable #45.
Write about open adoption and time.
I bet you’re thinking, “What?!?! Hold the phone there!”
But the title comes from some specific forum and group posts that I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks.
- On a Facebook group, adoptive parents of a child under age 2 are annoyed that the birth parents are calling their child by the name the birth parents gave them. They are thinking of discontinuing visits because “it’s too confusing to the children.” (“The children” being their own child, plus their child’s biological siblings who live with the birth parents.)
- On a forum, an adoptive dad of a 6-month old has complained of a birth family overstepping boundaries by texting, wanting to be Facebook friends, and wanting to Skype, when their open adoption agreement only stipulates 10 pictures every 6 months and 1 visit per year. Oh, and he’s horrified that the birth family refers to the child as “my daughter/granddaughter.”
On the surface, it’s easy for me to say that these people are a$$holes. Discontinuing visits over a name? Complaining of overstepping boundaries when the birth family wants more than 20 measly pictures a year? And I hate to break it to all y’all, but those kids are the birth parents’ kids too! So, yes, if they go on Facebook and write, “I got to visit my daughter today!” they’re right!
But I can say that stuff, because I’m 7+ years into open adoption. I’ve had the benefit of time. I know that adoption doesn’t make me less of a parent. I have bonded with my children and I know I will continue to do so.
There’s an adult adoptee blog that I used to read (the author hasn’t posted in almost one year), and she wrote about adoptive parents pulling the plug on open adoptions. Before the adoptions, the expectant mothers were saints, but after, they were bipolar, crazy people who had to be kept from their children. I commented that adoptive parents aren’t given a lot of support as to how to navigate open adoptions. Some people probably do go into adoption promising something to get a child, but I think many people who close adoptions just don’t have the support in how to “do” open adoption.* That’s where networks like the Open Adoption Bloggers come in.
Many of us have been around a long time, and we can say, “You know, it seems like a big deal right now, but in a year or two, you’ll realize that it’s really not.”
For the people who were considering discontinuing visits because of the name thing, I almost verbatim said, “It’s not a big deal.” Because it’s not, unless the name is something highly inappropriate, like a racial slur or an alcoholic beverage.** I’m pretty sure the parents are still feeling a little new at this. They may be feeling possessive. They may not yet realize that a child can never have too many people who love him. They need to take a step back, and think, “why am I really upset here?”
For the people who are concerned because the birth parents want more contact than they do, well, they’re still parenting a new baby. It’s overwhelming for them. Instead of placing all of the blame at the birth family’s feet, they need to sit down and say, “Why is being Facebook friends a problem? Why is Skype a problem? Why are the text messages a problem?” Are there too many text messages? Well, don’t reply to all of them. Explain that you have a new baby and you’re not always going to be texting. Are you feeling possessive of the new baby? That’s understandable. But ultimately, you have to come to understand that she does have two families. I hope that this family seeks some counseling help from a person with experience in open adoption. You don’t want to make hasty decisions in the first year that come back to hurt you – or your child – years down the road.
Successful open adoptions take time. I wish there were more people out there who knew that, and could help new parents and birth parents navigate those relationships.
* I was then attacked in the comments by a crazy woman, who accused me of cutting off contact with S because I couldn’t stand that the “child I covet would always be someone else’s” or some such crap.
** I recounted a story I read on a forum of a birthmother who had named her daughter “Karma” because “Karma’s a bitch.” I don’t think that’s really appropriate either.