Open Adoption Roundtable #51: Does It Get Easier?

We interrupt this week’s series on birthmother expenses for an 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. We’re up to Open Adoption Roundtable #51. 

Earlier this month, Heather was at a workshop with other open adoption participants. Some expressed very real fears and hurts they have had to push through in their commitments to open adoption–something those in the room agreed was not always an easy experience, but always worth it. Toward the end of the evening a woman in the front row raised her hand. “Does it ever get easier?” she asked.

How would you answer? Does it get easier?

The short answer is: Yes and no.

Certainly, the first few months of an open adoption are very hard. I know I was still getting used to being a parent, or a parent of two, and at the same time, my children’s birth parents were getting used to not being the parent. I remember feeling like I had to live up to my obligations or else! Or else what? I don’t know. I just had to be what I said I was going to be, even if parenting two was harder than I thought, or I was sick, or Cassie’s “unknown” birth father appeared.

My relationships with S and her mother have become easier in the sense that I can talk to them more openly. I don’t have to be as guarded in what I say. I don’t have to appear to be perfect. (Because we all know I’m not.) We really are like extended family at this point.

But there are some things that never get easier. S doesn’t always make the best choices. It’s never easy sitting out here in CA and wondering how she and her family are doing in MO. It’s never easy when she decides to make the same choice that didn’t work out well the last time. It’s never easy not being able to bail her out of a jam.

The relationship aspect gets easier, but the observation aspect (I can’t come up with a better word) never does. I can’t live another person’s life for her, nor would I want to. But I can’t do all that much to affect it, either. People are going to make their choices and live their lives, and the people around them just have to deal with that. That’s the part that never gets easier.

I imagine it might be different if my children’s birth parents were in different situations. There wouldn’t be as much to worry and wonder about. It might get easier all around for some people.

After much thinking, the best I can come up with is: Yes and no. Or maybe yes. It all depends.

10 thoughts on “Open Adoption Roundtable #51: Does It Get Easier?

  1. I enjoyed reading your perspective. I don’t know the details of your relationships with your kids’ birthparents, but I imagine that both kids will be appreciative that you maintained the relationship as best you could.

    In thinking of one day navigating the adoption triad myself, I wondered if you would mind speaking to what you do to shield (or do you think it’s appropriate to?) your kids from the not-so-great choices their birthparents have made? I’m wondering how to maintain a positive image of a birthparent around your child while playing the role of observer-from-afar.

    • Cassie isn’t quite 2 yet, so all she knows about her birth parents is that she has them and that they love her. 🙂
      For the most part, I haven’t shielded Jackson from most of the facts about his birth mother. I don’t know much about his birth father, and there is something that I haven’t shared with anyone, because I’m not sure how/when to share it with Jackson. There was an opening to explain S’s choices in questions he was asking me when he was 5. Instead of making something up, or telling him I’d tell him later, I chose to explain, age appropriately, what the deal was. For the record, Max thought that was too early, but I was dealing with similar issues when I was 5, and I felt like lying or stalling was not the right choice. I do make sure to differentiate between S and her choices. S is a great person – loving, trusting, generous – but she makes some bad choices.
      I hope that answers your question.

      • It does – separating the person from their choices is a great way to look at it. As a counselor, that’s something my wife already does with people anyway, but it’s something that I have struggled with – I’m pretty straightforward in what I think, most of the time. In this particular situation, though, where our child’s future relationship with his or her birthparent could be affected, my “thoughts” need to be in check. Thanks for taking the time to answer!

  2. I like this, and it helps me understand: “The relationship aspect gets easier, but the observation aspect never does.”

    You last paragraph shows how something in adoption can be two opposite things and neither, all at the same time.

  3. That is exactly what happen with our son’s birth parents. I have FINALLY come to peace within myself with the fact that they are going to make bad decisions and I can’t and should not help them. The only thing that puts a spoke this is my son’s brother because I hate to see him suffer for their bad choices. Then I remind myself that there are children all over the world that are raised in all kinds of circumstances and manage to come out the other side. I do try, especially when it won’t interfere with his parents, to mitigate what circumstances that I can. For example, last year I gave him a photo album of the pictures I took of our visits throughout the year because there aren’t any pictures for him. However, while I do that I have to remain respectful of the birth parents as I don’t want to hurt the relationship we have with. It is a hard balancing act, but once I found peace within myself it became a lot easier to have a relationship with them.

  4. Your last line is essentially what I came up with in my post. I enjoyed reading your take on it and how you arrived at that summary through your own experiences.

  5. Thanks for your honesty. There are things that I struggle with as part of our open adoption … including some of the things you mention here. It’s nrefreshing to see that there are others who have ups and downs too.

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