Friday, September 5, 2008

All My Grandchildren

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. . .

22 comments:

lime said...

well now, my eyes are just welling up and brimming over. that is really such a tender gift. thank you for sharing it.

Trueself said...

That is so very heartwarming.

I wish for all the world that N could know members of his birth family. Unfortunately, due to concerns for both N's safety and ours (both our attorney's concerns and ours) our contact is limited to letters and pictures passed through the attorney's office. N often talks of his birth family and would like to meet them. I struggle with the right thing to say to him to explain why it is not possible. It is certainly too much to tell him that due to his birth father's chosen occupation (drug dealer and gang leader) that it is just too dangerous for N's connection to his birth family to be known. It would certainly be easier if his birth family were more like your family.

Cocotte said...

I am always amazed by the generosity of other folks. It must be comforting to know that she is being raised by such a gracious family. Great story, Gramps!

C-Marie said...

Truly a HUGE and Wonderful experience - for everyone! I Love reading warm and fuzzy posts!

for a different kind of girl said...

I think it's a testament to their family and yours that they would so graciously open the possibility of "sharing" their other children with you and Molly. Clearly, it can be a bit of a confusing web to children, but I imagine they see it simply as having more people love and respect them. It sounds like this is an experience that has worked out remarkably well for everyone involved.

Bunny said...

What a wonderful situation! It sounds like your daughter chose amazing and wonderful parents for AG and I'm glad the openness is working for you all. I think open adoptions are great so long as everyone understands his/her position in the child's life. It sounds like your daughter got that from the very beginning - that she is NOT AG's parent, she is AG's birth mom - and that makes it so much easier for all involved. I think for adoptive parents, it removes the fear that the birth parents will show up one day, claim some irregularity in the adoption process, and try to reclaim the child. If you know and have a relationship with the birth parent(s), you can feel more secure that the bio parents won't try to void the adoption and the child has some knowledge of the genetic family. The birth parent(s) also can be secure knowing the child is loved and well. There's less wondering about the child and whether his or her life is a better life than the birth parents could have given him/her.

Congratulations on being grandparents of 3!!

Phyllis Renée said...

Beautiful! But it's not fair making me cry . . . it's my lunch hour, for crying out loud!

uh, sorry that was completely unintentional.

FTN said...

That's great. And I just realized, from looking at my calendar, that yesterday was "Grandparents Day." So, happy Grandparents Day to the both of you.

Although this will do nothing to keep us from making fun of you about your age, you know.

Therese in Heaven said...

I had always thought that at least in theory, open adoptions were a risky or ill-advised idea. But yours is an example of it being a blessing to all parties involved.

This is a wonderful story.

Recovering Soul said...

It is a blessing that they were found through the community and not just randomly through the agency, I would imagine. That has given all of you these special pieces that perhaps would have been missing otherwise.

Desmond Jones said...

Lime - Aw, I didn't mean to make you cry. . .

Truey - Wow, that's a pretty heavy bit of knowledge, there. Do you think it means he'll never meet his birth-parents, or just not now?

And, just to say so, AG's birth-father has a couple boxfuls of criminal record, too; and I don't particularly care if she ever knows who he is (altho, I think 1F is a tad more magnanimous than I am. . .)

Cocotte - "I have always relied upon the kindness of strangers. . ."

But, yeah, their generosity pretty well blows me away. . .

C-Marie - Well, we love to tell warm-and-fuzzy stories, too. . .

DKG - Yeah, you can never have too many people to love you and care for you. . .

Bunny - "Open adoptions are great so long as everyone understands his/her position in the child's life"

I think you hit the nail on the head, there. As long as the birth-family is clear on who The Parents are, then the parents have the security and freedom to open their family to the birth-family. The good part here is that we were able to build that level of trust so quickly. . .

Phyllis - Sorry. . . Maybe you could borrow a tissue from Lime. . .

Numb(er) One - Wow, it was Grandparents' Day? Thanks! Does, uh, Hallmark have a card for that?

And listen, you should be so lucky as to live to be as old as me someday, young fella! . . .

Therese - You know, I'd have thought so, too. But Bunny highlighted the 'boundary conditions' that have made it work real well for us. . .

Desmond Jones said...

RS - Snuck in while I was responding to the others!

You make a good point. The 'community connection' no doubt went a long way toward helping build the foundation of trust that makes it all work.

But even so, none of us really knew what to expect, at first. There was an initial period where we kinda had to back off and let them be a family together, before we started going for visits.

I should also mention that, to a large degree, Gratitude drives the success of it - the adoptive parents' gratitude for having a daughter, and our gratitude to them for giving our grand-daughter a home and a family. Gratitude really makes it work, too. . .

Tajalude said...

What a fantastic story. Way to catch me on a day when I'm fragile like a delicate flower... : )

Trueself said...

Des - I think it means he'll probably never meet his birth father, unless his birth father makes some heavy duty changes in his ways before he's killed over some drug deal gone awry or by some rival gang. When we met him during our first visit to the hospital to meet N, he regaled us with the story, complete with showing us the ugly scar, of how he'd been shot in the gut and hadn't been expected to live and spent weeks in the hospital. Needless to say, we were impressed.

On the other hand, I have hopes that someday he can, indeed, meet his birth mother. She stands a better chance I think of growing up one day and being the kind of person that would be okay for him to meet. Even if she doesn't straighten out completely, I could see him meeting her once he's grown. At least she wouldn't be likely to put him (or us as the adoptive parents) in danger as long as she is no longer with the scuzzy birth father.

I'm sorry. Is this not my blog? Was I not supposed to write a full blog post here? Eh, your fault. You asked. :-)

Desmond Jones said...

Delicate Flower - Timing is everything, as they say. . . ;)

Truey - Hey, feel free to tell your story; we try to run a pretty open blog around here. . .

I certainly understand why you'd just as soon N never meets his birth-father; there's 'dangerous', and there's DANGEROUS. I'd just as soon AG never meet her birth-father, either, altho it really ain't my call (and, honestly, by the time she's 18, he'll be 65. If, as you say, he lives that long. . .)

Anyway, whether or not N ever meets either of his birth-parents will ultimately be up to him, and what he decides, at whatever future date, he wants to know about his origins. And God bless him, whatever he's up for, whenever. . .

lime said...

no apologies necessary, it was a good sort of welling up, not a sad one.

Xavier said...

That is just an amazing experience, how could life be any better?



And hey, you can be my grandfather anytime you want, just say the word!

Desmond Jones said...

Wo! New comments!

Lime - I thought probably that's what they were; good to know. ;)

Xavier - You know, my life has been full of experiences, both wonderful and awful, that I never would have imagined for myself. . .

And listen, as much joy as I get from the whole 'grampa' thing, I'm willing to take it as it comes. . .

And don't take this the wrong way, but honestly, I don't have a lot of interest in 'adopting' grandsons whose nest is emptier than mine. . . ;)

JodyJ said...

I have just come across your blog, what a heartwarmong story! How it must have warmed your hearts to hear them refer to you as Grandpa, and Grandma. It seems God has restored your relationship with that little girl and blessed you even more so with two others. Wonderful!

Desmond Jones said...

Hi, Jody! Welcome to the Yard!

Yeah, our hearts were pretty warm. And yup, the blessing is the whole point of the story. . .

Just a Girl said...

This creates a little niggle in me. I'm also a child of adoption but have never met the birth parent/s.

I'm a little torn about searching.

I really like how your families story is turning out. :)

Desmond Jones said...

Girl - Welcome!

Searching is absolutely an individual decision, and every adoptee has his/her own reasons for searching or not. Or avoiding the question altogether.

I gave an account of my reasons here, if you're interested. But what you choose to do will be up to you, and for reasons that are yours alone. . .

And thanks; it's definitely heading in a positive direction. . .