To help bring some more awareness this adoption thing, I'm going to let you in on some things adoptive families talk about when hanging out online with only other adoptive families. As I said in Part 1, its a sort of inner circle, and I think being able to be a fly on the wall of these conversations is an amazing way to see what's really going on in the hearts and minds of those parents who have adopted or are adopting children.
I'm going to paraphrase and not give names, because no one wants their privacy outed. And surprise, surprise, you get to hear what I think too. I'm never short on opinions.
"We are debating going from being ok with a semi-open or closed adoption, to being open to an open adoption. We're just scared that it will be confusing for our future child. What do you think?"
I think that open adoption has been an incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding experience for us. But the reality is, that we didn't chose open adoption for us. We chose it for Abraham and for his birthmom.
Let's take 2 scenarios.
Scenario 1: Abraham grows up and we have no contact with his birthmom. He potentially has questions about where he came from, what she's like, how she made her decision, what her health history is, or whatever else. He has no way to get answers to those questions.
Scenario 2: Abraham grows up hearing about his adoption and birthmom on a somewhat regular basis. Her name is used freely in our home without and shame or secrecy. We are excited to share his milestones with her and he gets to witness us loving her and caring about her. When he has questions we text or call her and ask them.
In which scenario is Abraham more likely to experience confusion?
"We're talking to an expectant mom tonight who may chose us and we're so nervous! What do we say???"
My first thought when I read this is just thankfulness for correct language. A woman who is pregnant is an expectant mom regardless of her plans for the child post-birth. She's not a birthmom until she has given birth and relinquished her rights to that child. Incorrect usage of the term birthmom for a woman who is pregnant and not placed her child yet, is a pet peeve of mine.
This is a huge source of stress for basically every potential adoptive family. The first contact with someone who has such power in your life and who will potentially be such an immensely important part of your life is not really describable.
The first time we talked to K (Abraham's birthmom), was over the phone with our adoption agency the phone as well. That really helped, but even with that, it was an adrenaline-loaded phone call. The reality is though, that I think she was more nervous than we were. She wanted to make sure that we were what she was looking for, and was facing such an enormous decision of picking the right family for this baby she was growing. I'm sure she felt fear of being rejected by us as well.
"I'm not sure what I would do without this group."
"I'm so happy I have you all to go through this with."
"This week has been unbearable, I don't have anyone in real life to talk to about all of this, thank you for being here for me."
I hear this all the time from other adoptive families, particularly those in the period of waiting to be matched or waiting for a child to be born. That time is hard, and there's really no comparison for it. It's not like being pregnant and waiting for a baby to be born. There's little to nothing you can do to speed up the process of being chosen. And in the end, there's no guarantee or timeline that the wait will be over.
Having other people around you who GET IT is invaluable. No one is offering platitudes or giving unhelpful advice. Just commiserating and encouraging as only others those who have been there can. So if you're starting in on the adoption process, I highly recommend finding a community in real life or online where you can talk openly.
"How do I respond to people who say things like, 'I just don't know how those moms do it, I could never give my baby away!'?"
I saved the best for last.
I've heard this one multiple times in real life, and have responded in a variety of ways. I want to have a really succinct answer to say to strangers, but even though I mostly have one, it never seems to come out right when the grocery store clerk decides to say something like this.
The long answer is this.
"Placing a child for adoption has never been your reality, that's most likely why you feel you could never do it. During our wait for Abraham we heard of many babies being placed for adoption for a myriad of reasons, most of which many of us will never face or begin to truly grasp.
So while I may not understand what it feels like to walk in the shoes of an expectant mom who is debating if adoption is the right choice for her, I can chose to not vilify her. I can chose to not "other" her by putting her in a category of women apart from myself who must be detached or not truly love their child because how else could they "give them away."
Instead I can be empathetic to a woman who is thinking long and hard about what her child needs and whether or not she is able to provide that. I can be gracious to a woman who is not putting her own self-interest above that of her child. I can be humble and realize I don't have to understand why everyone makes the decisions they make in order to respect that person.
The reality is that birthmoms are not super-human nor sub-human. They are no different than you and I. They love their children dearly whether or not they are in a situation to parent them and are making a decision based on what they know of themselves just like you and I do each day.
It's ok to not understand that decision. But, the wording you use to talk about it (giving away versus placing for adoption) speaks volumes of how you view that woman and her choice."
But in the grocery store I usually say something more along the lines of, "I guess I'm just thankful I've never been in a place where I had to make that kind of decision."