Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reunion and Open Adoption...Part 2

Imagine if you were able to know your birthparents while you were growing up. Along-side, but not part of your family. Visiting, writing, sharing time together. So many of us seek reunion with our birthparents when we're adults. What if we were able to know our birthparents our whole lives? Would that be better? Worse? Given the choice, would we choose that, or would we just rather not know? 

Coming from a closed-adoption experience, I am fascinated by open-adoption. While it feels like it is intended as a step towards making the adoption experience better - after all, it takes away the secrecy and shame - I wonder if it is better, or if it's just the same issues just packaged in a new way? And have we opened up a whole new set of issues that we didn't have in the closed adoption system?

In a some ways, I feel like I've experienced open-adoption in a small way. I've been in reunion with my birthmother, Kate, for twenty-three years, since I was eighteen. So while I've had her in my life for longer than I've not had her in my life, it still has only been while I've been an adult. I didn't know her when I was growing up. And that's the part that pulls at me about open adoption: you see your parents, get to know your parents, but not have them be your parents. 

It took a long time and a lot of work for Kate and I to get to this point where we have a good, solid relationship. We got here after a long haul of going through the reunion process. I was able to explain my hurt, my abandonment, my anger with her - all the issues I have that are a result of her choice. But, I had those discussions with her as an adult. What would it be like if I was a child? Would I be able to talk to her about those things as I experienced them? Can you go through something traumatic AND process it at the same time? 

I recently had the opportunity to interview a birthmother who had just recently relinquished her child for adoption and will know him through open adoption. She was very frank in talking about her experience. It gave me the opportunity to wonder what it would be like to be an adoptee in an open adoption vs. being an adoptee in reunion. How is the same and how is it different? 

But, when I wrote this post about the interview, it spurred a lot of debate. I was shocked by how passionately people reacted. But, I imagine that hearing about a birthmother who is satisfied relinquishing her child for adoption can be disturbing, and that The Lost Daughters would seem like a strange place to post such a thing. Why would an adoptee WANT to discuss adoption with a birthmother who had just relinquished her child? 

For me, it was an opportunity to get the point of view from MY birthmother 41 years ago when she relinquished me. Talking to my birthmom now, I know she wishes she kept me, wishes she found a way. But, I also know that at the time she gave me up, she  felt very satisfied with her choice. So, for me, this was a way to go back in time to talk to the birthmom looking ahead vs. being an adoptee in reunion, looking back, and knowing what it has been like. 

Adoption exists. Not all parents want to raise their children. The more we can question it, explore it and understand the experience, the more opportunity we will have to shape its future into a way that's better.