I’ve posted before about 1F’s daughter, who she gave up for adoption (I called her AG – Adopted Girl, get it?). The adoption is an ‘open’ one, which means that the birth-mother and the adoptive family know who each other are, and at least the possibility of a relationship between the birth and adoptive families exists. This is a very different arrangement than my own adoption was, and it presents a few unique challenges.
1F essentially chose the adoptive family herself. If it were possible, she wanted her baby to be adopted by a family from one of the Christian communities related to the one our family belongs to (and in which 1F was raised). So, she asked our community’s leadership to ‘put the word out’, to find a family looking to adopt. They found a couple who had been married seven years, with no children up to that point; they lived in a town close enough to OurTown to be reasonably convenient, but far enough away that we weren’t going to be running into each other, both of which were desirable parameters. The couple was even a fairly close ‘ethnic’ match to 1F and the baby’s birth-father. We knew roughly who they were – both the husband and wife had spent some time in our community before they were married – but we didn’t really have a close relationship with either of them.
Anyway, in order for the adoption to go through, they had to pass an evaluation by the agency which was handling the adoption, which they did, with flying colors. They were in the hospital for AG’s birth, and the adoptive mother cut the umbilical cord. When she was two days old, AG went home with them, and has lived in their house ever since.
The adoptive parents (I’ve called them AM and AF – Adoptive Mother and Adoptive Father; other than Molly and myself, clever pseudonyms aren’t my strong suit) have been extremely gracious about extending a relationship to 1F, and also to Molly and me. Early on, 1F was going for almost monthly visits, although lately, they’ve been more like quarterly. Molly and I were invited for AG’s baptism, and they pointedly called us forward to stand with the family during the baptism. It was very heart-warming.
Interestingly, having not conceived a child for the first seven-plus years of their marriage, virtually as soon as AG came into their home, AM was pregnant, and their son was born before AG was ten months old. They had another boy before AG’s second birthday. Give ‘em a baby, it seems, and they don’t wanna shut off the faucet. . .
The first and most obvious challenge of an open adoption is the simple matter of names and identities. From the very beginning, 1F has been very clear that they – AM and AF – are AG’s parents, and she makes no ‘parental’ claim on her. Their family has taken to calling her ‘Auntie 1F’, like one of those close-friend-of-the-family ‘aunts’ that many of us have grown up with. I don’t know what plans they have for letting AG know that ‘Auntie 1F’ is her birth-mother. But that’s a decision that doesn’t need to be made for several years yet, anyway.
Molly and I have tried to be especially solicitous of the integrity of the adoptive family. We’ve had, I think, four visits with them (AG is two-and-a-half). Molly would just as soon have no contact with them, I think, out of a concern to stay utterly out of their parental way. But, adoptee that I am, and having met my own birth-family, I’m too keyed-in to my genetic connection with AG to just leave it alone, if her parents are willing to let me have some contact with her.
The only ‘restriction’ that AM/AF have placed on our family has to do with our other kids – they’ve asked that we not bring our kids to see AG. I understand their concern. Our kids have friends in their community, who they’ve met at Summer Camp and various other places, and they’d rather not advertise to the whole community who AG’s birth-family is (even though, by now, it’s something of an open secret). Moreso, they don’t want our kids coming by saying things that would be confusing to AG (“Hi, AG, I’m your Aunt 6F”; for one possible example).
But, all things considered, the ‘open’ adoption has worked really well. AG is growing up secure in her family, her parents are secure in their relationship to her, and 1F, Molly and I are gratified that we can know her, and see her grow up. A lot of that depends on us – the birth-family – being clear on what our relationship to her is, and what it isn’t, and being utterly respectful of the integrity of her family. If 1F thought of herself as AG’s ‘real mother’, it could cause serious problems, but that isn’t remotely the case, and it’s worked really well.
The last time Molly and I were down to visit with AG’s family, we were sitting and talking with AM and AF, when AF said, “We’ve got to come up with something for AG to call you guys, besides ‘Auntie 1F’s Mommy and Daddy’. That’s just too awkward, and we need to come up with something better.”
We agreed, and I was about to suggest something like ‘Uncle Desmond and Aunt Molly’, when AM said, “We’ve been thinking of calling you ‘Grandpa Desmond and Grandma Molly’; would that be OK with you?”
Was she kidding? I would LOVE to have her call us ‘Grandma and Grandpa’, but ohmigosh, are you sure?
She was, with one proviso – we couldn’t just be AG’s Grandma and Grandpa, we had to be ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ to the two younger boys, also.
We were stunned. We had come for a visit, being just a bit shy about our relationship with our ‘grand-daughter-who-isn’t-really-our-grand-daughter’, and by the time we left, we had three grandchildren. Such an amazingly gracious, generous offer to us. Honestly, they don’t have to have a relationship with us at all, but they’re happy to have us be ‘grandparents’ to all three of their kids.
I’m thinking, when 1F chose an adoptive family for her baby girl, she did even better than she knew. . .