Sometimes I Leave My Happy Place to Interact with People I Disagree With
There is a cocoon I wrap myself in sometimes, where I interact with amazing people online and I am in a safe zone where people understand that birth-moms aren’t necessarily any of the stereotypes, that adoptees are the children of four parents (or three if there is a single person adopting) and that openness is about the child. I realize that mentality isn’t prevalent in our culture, that sometimes I have to step outside the circle of those who understand to the circle of those who don’t.
The truth is, when I first began down the path to adoption, I didn’t believe any of these things, I thought I was an exception so different from those other birth moms – the young uneducated poor ones, I thought openness would just be confusing and difficult for my child and would be a selfish choice to pursue on my part, and I assumed when I signed over my rights that my child would no longer be or even feel like mine. I was naive, and entrenched in these beliefs – now I have no idea where they came from, I guess they just had been ingrained in me through pop culture and the adoptive parents I knew growing up.
But I was willing to listen and learn, from those in different roles in adoption – about what openness really means and how it was okay if I didn’t heal right away, if I still felt connected to my son and that he may feel connected back.
I think (hope) I learned quickly, and that now I have a much more full and true view of my son’s adoption, but I also know that in five years or fifteen years I might read a post I made this month and have to take a deep breath to not judge myself because what I believe now may not be what I believe then. Openness is an evolving thing, there is no formula that is positively going to work and there is no answer as to what it should look like. With that I try to keep listening, to keep learning, to find my own path for me, for my son, for our whole family.
Often I hear from or about PAPs that seem only interested in what is easiest for them (a common comment may be “maybe we’ll do a few letters but we would never give them our last name or meet them”). Other times I hear from emoms who are saying the same things I used to say. In truth I get a little frustrated by those who say things about not wanting openness, usually the reasons have to do with the comfort level of the parents or what they think is normal and less about the kids, but when I’m faced with those starting the process I try to remember where I was 2 years ago. I know not all adoptive parents or emoms will get to where I am, will find a belief that openness in adoption and when possible having a fully open adoption (information exchanged, communication between the child and the birth family, and visits as possible) is ideal. Please don’t misunderstand, I fully recognize that it’s not always possible, I know there are extreme cases where openness isn’t safe, where boundaries have been crossed and things need to be tempered, but I do believe a missed visit, issues with addiction, or not making choices in their life you agree with necessarily equates to them being unsafe. I have learned a lot from adoptive parents who have found a way to include openness in their child’s adoption even when the child was taken from the parents, even when the birth parents were dealing with addiction. I have learned that it not being a voluntary TPR doesn’t need to be the end of the conversation about openness.
But now we’re entering the area where it gets hard. When I’m introduced to someone who is associated with adoption, whether it’s reading their blog, meeting in person, or any number of ways, and their beliefs don’t fit with mine I feel in a tight spot.
You see, I want to make sure everyone out there has gotten the benefit of being educated to the positives in open adoption and had access to examples of successful open adoptions. I’m not saying open adoption is all positive, it’s scary, and a lot of work, and has it’s own set of problems, but for me it has been an amazing thing and one where if people out there hadn’t opened up about their experiences and challenged me I might never have experienced. I want to help people get to where I am, not because I think I know more about them, their family, their child, but because I know where I started and where I am now and it was a few big steps to get here and I wouldn’t have done it without some guidance and education along the way.
That being said, I also realize that when I’m approaching a stranger, I don’t know their fully story, maybe there is a past I don’t know about, maybe there are reasons unstated why they have the beliefs they do, I am not trying to judge those. I don’t want to step on toes and make someone defensive, I don’t want someone who has heard the perspective I am coming from but needs to make different choices for his/her family to feel at odds with me. I kind of wish in cases like this there was a secret code, something to tell me “I heard you but for reasons I don’t share publicly I am going down a different path”. Because the truth is I don’t want to appear to doubt anyone’s parenting skills.
But there is another breed of adoptive parents out there, those who refuse to listen period. Usually they have been validated in their belief by someone, other adoptive parents, an agency, their church, or maybe family or friends, but they just think and know their way is correct, that they are the child’s parents (they may even stick the word real in there) and he/she won’t need anything but them. They spend 18 years objectifying the birth family, nullifying any connection, and then when the child is an adult says “well I would never do anything to stop you from searching now”, never acknowledging that they spent 18 years drumming it into a child’s head that they shouldn’t care about who this other family was. These kinds of adoptive parents make me feel really bad for their kids. I know no matter how much time I spend trying to craft a way to explain my point of view, no matter how much I try to generalize so they don’t take offense, or talk about my own situation so they may start to see a birth parent as a real person, there are those people out there whose minds are closed to change.
I guess the only thing I can do is approach the subject with respect, and hope all others do the same. We in this adoption constellation may be in very different places, but I hope we can all listen to each other, and in a respectful way challenge each other to do more for the adoptees we love so much. They deserve to never be caught in the middle of an us verse them mentality of nature v. nurture, birth v. adoptive. That sort of competition has no winners and the biggest loser I believe is the adoptee trying to balance it all.