Adoption is complex and messy. It is never as black and white as we would like it to be and it IS personal. Understanding and ACCEPTING our rights, roles and responsibilities are the only way that we can maintain healthier open adoption relationships.
And that is the goal right? But who are the open adoptions really for? The parents? Yes. BUT I think we forget that this is about the children, not us!
I placed my son for adoption over 11 years ago. When I made that decision I made it for me. I told myself it was best for HIM, but it was really for me. (I have always claimed to be the only selfish birth mother) Maybe he is better off, maybe he isn't. I don't pretend to know what our life would have been like, but I am also not going to claim that he is worse off with them.
But we are getting off track because this isn't an US vs. THEM thing. It is a family thing, a WE thing.
Really up until the last 2 or 3 years our open adoption relationship has been dictated by two women...the mothers. All of our thoughts, opinions, conflicts, insecurities and jealousy (mine not hers...although I know they exist on the other side too.) were brought to the table and it determined the kind of openness we would have year after year.
If I was in the throws of grief, the relationship was non-existent. If they were making plans to be in town, we must have a visit. If we were missing each other, we would contact each other.
We made the decisions for him. We determined what was best for him.
Now he is older. He has a voice and his voice matters.
Lets no pretend that even at a young age that these children don't understand loss, grief, abandonment, biological connection and family. Lets not pretend that they can't express feelings or desires for understanding and connection.
Lets stop using "protection for our children" as a form of avoiding our own insecurities and jealousy.
So why the disconnect? Why are so many open adoptions changing from what was "agreed" upon at delivery? Well I am sure we could list ALL the reasons including adoptive parents backed out of their side of the arrangement, the birth parents went crazy and we need to do what is best for the child, we were blocked from social media, she stopped responding to messages so we just stopped sending them, we have one child with a closed adoption so we feel it is fair to close both so there are no hard questions....
Seriously I could go on and on and on through the blame game of why dynamics of open adoption change.
BUT I believe that the issue is that none of the involved parties clearly understand the concept of adoption.
If it is really about the child we must honor the 3 R's of adoption:
Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities
RIGHTS: This is an easier one to explain but a harder one to accept. When it comes to the legal rights of the biological parents we know that rights are relinquished at birth or time of placement depending on state law. I know that when I relinquished my rights that it literally meant that I have NO rights to the child. I have no rights to visits, opinions, parental advice, treatment, care etc etc etc. I do not exist as far as legal rights to a child are concerned.
Openness in adoption does not provide a loophole in that relinquishment. It isn't about getting around the law to regain rights. Openness in adoption is a privilege given to the birth parent from the adoptive parent. We are not owed anything and we don't have the right to anything. Legally speaking. Those rights have been passed to the adoptive parents. AND they are granted full authority to make decisions for the child based on their instinct as the parent.
When I placed my son for adoption I asked ONE thing of the family "please take care of him and love him...and make sure he knows that I love him." IF THEY ARE DOING THAT, THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING!
Having acceptance in that right will be crucial to know your role in the life of the child(ren)
ROLES: Now having said all that I have said about rights I think we leave out a HUGE piece. We all play a ROLE in the life of the child and every role is EQUAL in importance. There is not ONE person in the life of the child that holds more value than the other.
THE CHILD HOLDS ALL THE VALUE and so every role matters in the development, health and understanding in the life of the child(ren) placed for adoption. Whether someone has legal rights or not is irrelevant when it comes to the needs and desires of the child.
Let me be clear. If there is real danger in the openness of the relationship, close it. If there is a real threat of long term damage, close it.
But you have to live with yourself. Only you know the truth. Is it danger or damaging? Or is it insecurity and fear? THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE.
You can still honor the role of the birth parent even if that open relationship is not possible. You can still love them well and honor their role in the life of the child even if a physical relationship is not possible. The question is, will you?
As a birth mother, I have a roll to play. Whether you want me there or not...My part of his story matters. You can't escape it and you can't cover it up!...We are not the bad guy of this story. Yes I know, there are awful things that birth mothers have done, maybe even damaging to the health of the child...but there is more...and we are all battling demons.
RESPONSIBILITIES: We have a responsibility to each other, and we have a responsibility to the child.
Forget the legal rights. Forget the roles. WE OWE IT TO EACH OTHER TO BE BETTER!!!
We are in this....we are a part of this together whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not...so we can do more, be more....
When I went through my "Jerry Springer" years of grief I closed myself off from the adoption, from him. I said no, and I never showed up and I ignored calls and texts and meetings. As I started to heal I wanted more...I needed more...and when I asked for more THEY SAID YES! They had been waiting for me, they had been waiting until I was ready and the door was always left open. The only reason that we have the relationship that we do is because THEY SAID YES...they were better for me when I didn't deserve it.
It is not about obligation, it is not about "owing", it is not about responding and giving out of guilt or forced to show up because of manipulation (yes, birth mothers are master manipulators).
This is about love. A deep and undeniable connection of love and respect. A connection that doesn't exist in any other relationship. A dynamic that you wont find any where else.
We know that adoption is built in grief and pain. But why can't adoption continue to grow in love and support and healing?
So much of the damage that is done through adoption is done through hurting each other. "Hurting people hurt people." So, if we know this to be true then why don't we stop hurting each other, why don't we support each other in healthy and healing relationships...not just for us but for our children!
Always show up. Always educate yourself deeper on the 3 R's of adoption. Even if there is a disconnect....don't let that be because of you. Show up for each other and show up for the children. After all, isn't that what we all claim that adoption is about??