Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I finally donated all of my maternity clothes to Birthchoice during my lunch break today. It took me four freaking years to get it done, but I finally did it. Phew. Check! So what exactly does "open adoption" mean? The truth is, open adoption is different in every single open adoption scenario because it is tailored to the needs of the birthfamily, the needs of the adoptive family, and most importantly, the needs of the adopted child. According to www.adoptioninsight.org, "The primary difference between a truly open adoption and a semi-open adoption is that the adopted child has the potential of developing a one-on-one relationship with his or her birthfamily. It is not about the adoptive parents bestowing birthparents with the privilege of contact, nor is it about birthparents merely being available to provide information over the years. Direct contact, in the form of letters, phone calls and visits between the birthfamily and the adopted child, along with his adoptive family, is essential if they are to establish their own relationship. After all, how can we honestly call an adoption "open" if the child is not involved?" When we first met with Don and De to discuss the possibility of having an open adoption, they told Robbie and I to ask them anything. After all, open adoption is truly about "openness" and being completely honest. So that's how our relationship began. "How often will we get to see her?" "What happens if you move away?" "Will you adopt other children?" "How will you discipline Deanna?" "How much will Robbie and I be able to stay involved in Deanna's life as she gets older?" "Why can't you have children of your own?" and "Are you both Christian?" "What religion would Deanna be raised to practice?" Every single question mattered. And we talked ALOT about them. We began laying the groundwork for how our open adoption would work. We decided to keep Deanna at the forefront of all decisions we would make, as it would ultimately be up to her in deciding how much involvement she would want to have with her birthfamily. After Deanna was born, we saw her a few times a week. In fact, the day that we left the hospital we were invited to have dinner at Don and De's house. During a typical week, the Dollars would have us over for dinner one night, or I would simply call De and stop by when I had some free time to visit between classes. It made me happy to have the freedom to see Deanna often, even though I didn't always take advantage of it. There was a peace of mind I had in simply knowing that I could stop by anytime. When I needed time to myself or I just didn't feel emotionally okay to visit Deanna, there was never any pressure, and I loved that. "I'm not really feeling up to visiting this week," I would say. No explanation needed. De just understood. When Deanna turned 2, Don accepted a job in Myrtle Beach, hence moving the family to South Carolina. I was upset at first, but I knew from the previous conversations we had that the possibility of them moving was never out of the question. I knew that we would see less of them, but it actually was a blessing. It gave me a little bit of space to concentrate on figuring out who I was and it also provided me with the opportunity to truly cherish the times that I did get to spend with them when they came to town. Since most of Don's family still lives in Raleigh, and he has lifetime rights to season tickets for all NC State football games, I knew we would be seeing alot of them. And I was right. Over the past four years, I have discovered what open adoption means to me. But the truth is, words cannot even begin to describe it. I cannot accurately tell you what open adoption means to me because it's something so incredibly special. It's something you would have to be a part of to truly understand. (And no, I'm not suggesting that you get pregnant so you can experience open adoption at its finest!) But I do hope that my blog will, at the very least, provide a glimpse of how God has chosen to use our open adoption story to help others and to save lives.