This past Sunday, Don, De, and Deanna stopped by my new house for the first time! Don called me on Sunday afternoon because they were in town for the NC State football game and for Deanna's cousin David's baptism. On their way back to South Carolina, they first stopped by Robbie's house because they agreed to adopt his dog, Bear. Robbie has been keeping Bear at his house in Raleigh until his family gets settled in their new home in Dallas, but he can't take care of her anymore because he is constantly working, traveling, coaching, etc. So Don and De agreed to "adopt" Bear until the Leonards are all moved into their new Lone Star State home. Kind of ironic, isn't it?
After picking up Bear, Don called me to see if they could stop by to see my new house. He told me that Deanna had been asking to see "Amy Hutton." That made me feel really good. So, a few minutes later, the Dollars arrived at my house. Deanna ran up to me and gave me a big hug. She told me about how excited she was that they were taking Bear and how she thinks Bear will really like their dog, Hank. I laughed. Hank is a 150 lb Great Dane who's very mellow and likes to spend his days lounging on a big blanket in their garage. Bear is a young, female Black Lab with loads and loads of uncontrollable energy. I'm very interested to see how the dogs will adjust to living together.
So I gave Deanna the grand tour of my house, and I brought her upstairs to see my room. My room is actually a bonus room that was refinished. It takes up the entire upstairs, so it's pretty big. Deanna exclaimed, "I want to have this room someday!" I told her, "If you study hard and go to NC State someday, maybe your dad and mom will let you live in this room when you're in college!" I could see the wheels turning in her head, as she excitedly thought about the possibility. She quickly turned her attention to a picture on the nightstand next to my bed. "That's me!" she said excitedly. I walked across the room and picked up my huge photo album. Together, Deanna and I sat on the floor and we looked at pictures from the day she was born. That was the first time I truly knew that she understood our families' evolving relationship. She loved seeing pictures of Don, De, Robbie and I together at the hospital. Deanna has an amazing memory, and she remembered every person I pointed to in the pictures, including people she hasn't seen in years.
Then her attention turned to a small box under my desk. Precocious little thing pulled it out and began sifting through it. It was full of random junk that I still hadn't unpacked yet. Her eyes got wide as she reached in and pulled out my old pink cell phone. I haven't used it in years, but I always saved it just in case. She asked if she could have it. I asked her why she needed it, and she told me matter-of-factly, "because I want to play mom and dad." Sold! After Don and De said yes, she was absolutely thrilled. Of course it doesn't work, but she loves that thing. De sent me an email today that said,
"You should have kept the mobile phone until Christmas - that has been the best gift! Deanna has called you 1,000 times, along with everyone else we know. She even puts it beside her bed like she expects a call!"
While our afternoon encounter only lasted a short while, it's one of those fun little memories that I'm going to remember for a long time. Open adoption doesn't have to be a forced, awkward relationship. It has the potential to be something so much more! Whether it's a long weekend at the beach or just a quick visit on a Sunday afternoon, open adoption is fulfilling and constantly-evolving. I think every time I spend time with the Dollars I feel even more blessed to have them in my life. Open adoption is the process of learning to become a part of something that is so much greater than yourself.
My relationship with Deanna and her parents probably doesn't seem very normal to most people--but when you're a birthmom, this is what normal is. It's just another story of a day in the life of an incredibly blessed birthmom. And yes, it's still 100% worth it--even if it means sacrificing my beloved pink cell phone...