Last weekend, Ellie spent the night with her birth family for the first time. She stayed at her Aunt L.’s house with her uncle, three cousins, and her birth mom.
And yeah….I think that’s kind of awesome.
Ellie thought it was pretty awesome too. Here she is checking out the backyard.
When Charlie and I first started discussing the idea of open adoption, we understood that we would know our child’s birth mother, and that she would know us. We were committed, but honestly, that “knowing” was a hazy, undefined concept shrouded in uncertainty. How many letters? How many visits? What will this look like? For many prospective adoptive parents, those questions can lead to fear and hesitation, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
We followed normal protocol at first. We met at a park with a social worker from the agency present to facilitate our visit. At first, I suppose it looked awkward. Unasked questions hung in the air; we were strangers drawn together by a tiny life.
However, we quickly decided that having to communicate through a social worker was ridiculous and exchanged phone numbers and e-mails. When it came time for Ellie’s baptism, it seemed only right to invite all of her family. Thus, we moved one step closer together as Aunt L. visited our church and then our home. There was still uncertainty, of course. I wrote at the time, “What if she sees dust or doesn’t like my muffins or thinks my friends are weird and thinks I’m a terrible mother?!” But things went so well and felt so natural, I began to understand that we could form our own rules for open adoption. We could make it exactly what we wanted it to be.
From there, our definition of open adoption began expanding, and it keeps growing. We became friends as we learned more about one another’s families. Charlie and I came to better appreciate the unique role of Ellie’s other family and all that they can offer her as an adoptee. We discovered that open adoption means finding relatives in unexpected places, and that there are never too many people to share love.
So, last week, when I wanted to go visit my sister and her new baby and found both sets of grandparents occupied, I thought of Ellie’s birth family. They had never asked to keep her, and I’d never offered; I think both of us were afraid of overstepping bounds. But then it occurred to me, there are no bounds except the ones we make. I picked up the phone.
Thus, Ellie spent last weekend showered in love from her second family. She taught them all the finer points of Baby Signing Time, showed off her mad cat-wrestling skills, and apparently gave her three older cousins a run for their money on taco night. She is still chattering about her adventures and asking every morning if she can go visit again.
Yes, baby girl. Yes you can.
Because truly open adoption can be so much more than letters or agency-assisted visits once a year. It’s more than the knowledge of names, locations, e-mail addresses, or phone numbers.
Open adoption is a commitment to relationship and a dedication to love.