We have been reading (and re-reading, in some cases) books recommended by our adoption agency to prepare us for adoption in general, and specifically open adoption. I think our agency does really well with their training and support, and obviously an information/resource hound like myself is impressed by a required reading list! Currently, I’m re-reading Children of Open Adoption and Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother. (The latter boasts a recommendation from Jamie Lee Curtis on the cover, so that has to win some bonus points, right?)
Not surprisingly, neither book includes perspectives of adult adoptees from closed adoptions who are now seeking to adopt in a country where open adoption is the norm for private, infant adoption. That scenario wording is too cumbersome even for a proper acronym! Coming from this perspective, I find some of what is in these books (and similar blogs, articles, etc.) to be unrelatable at best, and challenging-to-a-tad-enraging at worst.
A close approximation of our “fantasy child”: pale-to-transparent skin, prone to stress vomiting, allergic to a wide variety of things. Just add darker hair and a pair of glasses.
In order to be effective adoptive parents and to accept adoption realities and issues, adoptive parents must first come to terms with infertility. … Infertility is a loss–it is loss of the imaginary or fantasy child (the child the couple imagines would have been born to them). -Children of Open Adoption
Adoption involves saying good-bye to dreams, hopes, and real people. One woman says good-bye to her baby. Another woman says good-bye to her dream of giving birth. -Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother
When I read this one recent evening, I turned to Cory and let him know that we’ll need to make time to grieve our “fantasy child” that we cannot have due to our supposed infertility. He agreed to pencil that in. (In all fairness, we did once make a list of attributes that a biological child of ours would likely have, and the result was a slightly modified Wendell Borton. We are not grieving his loss.)
Lots of people come to adoption because of infertility challenges or medical issues that aren’t compatible with healthy pregnancies. That’s what led my own parents to adoption–and I’m selfishly glad that it did! People who find themselves in this situation should certainly be given the time and support to grieve in whatever they see fit. But infertility is not the only reason people choose adoption. The blanket assumption that only a person or couple physically incapable of bearing a biological child would adopt isn’t flattering to anyone. It’s also a false assumption in many cases.
For our part, we think adoption is pretty swell. Neither of us feel as if we need to pass our DNA along in order to expand our family, and we have no concerns about loving an adopted child any differently than we would a biological one. As an adoptee, I look forward to being able to share the adoption experience with our own child one day. We’re also both very pro-choice and appreciate the opportunity to support a woman in the adoption plan that she believes is best for her and her family. Adoption has always been our Plan A, and there are probably more people out there in our situation than you may think.
Funny–I don’t feel damaged
The adopted individual lives with a multitude of questions. … The secrecy inherent in traditional adoption practice provides no answers to these questions. What results is endless wondering with no available answers. Many adopted children become troubled (yes, some even become emotionally disturbed) as they try to cope with these unknowns. -Children of Open Adoption
There are lots of advantages to open adoption. The child’s birth family needn’t be left wondering if they made a good decision, the adoptive family can be appraised of their child’s biological family’s medical updates in a timely fashion, the child can have questions answered directly by their birth parents, and so on. I’m partial to discussion about open adoption that focuses on the many positive aspects, rather than those that denigrate closed adoption. Oftentimes, the latter is achieved through attempting to show how emotionally damaged the children of closed adoption are.
Here’s the thing: I’m no more emotionally disturbed than the next person. (You’ll just have to trust me on that one.) I know a good number of other folks who were adopted as infants through closed adoption and the times adoption-related problems seem to arise are when adoptive parents aren’t honest with their children. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that if you wait until her 18th birthday to tell a child that she was adopted, she may develop some trust issues. Likewise, if a white couple raises an Asian child and refuses to talk with him about race or insists that he is also white, he may develop identity issues. I just don’t buy that a child raised in a loving home that openly talks about adoption in a positive light is destined to be emotionally scarred simply because they don’t have all the answers about their biological family–in large part because of my and my adopted friends’ experiences.
Similarly, not all birthmothers lead a life of emotional instability post-adoption. The stigma they endure from a society happy to both put birthmothers on a pedestal and somehow simultaneously denigrate them for “giving their babies away” seems unfathomable to me. Again, it seems to come down to honesty about their lived experiences and the ability to be open among family and friends that would make the difference between a positive and negative adoption experience. I haven’t checked out their full site, but the vlogs by this group of birthmoms about “redefining the stereotype” are a step in the right direction on this front. It’s awesome to see empowered birthmothers who are encouraging other women in their struggles, and showing them that despite popular assumptions, they can go on to live full lives after an adoption.
It can be challenging to strike a balance between supporting open adoption and trying to combat misinformation about adoptees of closed adoption–especially when we sought out and are signed on with an open adoption agency. But I’m confident that if we were with a closed adoption agency, I’d be working just as hard to combat the stereotypes about children of open adoption or birthmothers there.