We have a very open adoption relationship with the genetic parents of our embryos, Beau and Sheila. We talk regularly, we know each other's full names and contact information, we know about each other's families (and in some cases, have met some members) and we generally approach this entire endeavor as a joint operation. We intend for our kids to know them. Their kids already know us. We intend for all of our kids to know each other, and to have as much of a relationship with each other as they want and as is healthy. Neither of us is threatened by the other family. We generally enjoy each other's company. We talk about all aspects of this adoption-our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our regrets, our desires... and we also talk about other stuff, completely unrelated to adoption, simply because we like each other.
We know that we're abnormal, even as far as open adoptions go. Even open adoptions are not usually in as much contact as we are.
We get asked why we chose open adoption, so I thought I'd share.
The background is that when we started, open adoption terrified me. Petrified. I had the picture that the media and the Law and Orders of this world paint--co-parenting or the kid runs away to live with his "other" family, or one day the other parents wake up and change their minds and take our kids away. And I'm sure that once in a very blue moon, those scenarios happen. But, they are NOT the norm and they should not impact your decision on whether or not open adoption is right for your family.
But over a lot of prayer, reading, education, and talking with a lot of different adoptive families, some open and some closed, we came to the conclusion that Open was what God was fashioning for our family.
Specifically, and in no particular order:
We never want our kids to feel like a part of them is missing. I have no contact at all with an entire side of my family, and I always feel uncomfortable with that. I feel like there are parts of my past that are just "off limits." Now in my case, I don't WANT to know those people, but I still don't like the feeling of this "other" out there. We never want our kids to have to question, "I wonder what would have happened if..." or "I wonder what I would be like if..." or "I wonder what they're like..." We believe strongly that this sets our kids up strongly with a temptation to resent us or Beau and Sheila, or both, for keeping that kind of information from them. It may turn out that our kids have no desire to know Beau and Sheila--I've heard of adopted kids who have no interest in their birth parents. But we think that's the kids' decision to make, not ours. We want to do our best to make sure the kids have everything the ever think they need in putting together the picture of their lives.
We think it will mitigate struggles with the kids, especially in their teen years. If they know Beau and Sheila, there's no, "I bet my REAL parents wouldn't do this or that..."
We want our kids to know that Beau and Sheila love them very much. We never want them to think that they were unwanted, or unloved, or second-best to the children Beau and Sheila are parenting. And even though we could tell them those things until we're blue in the face, it's different when it's coming straight from the source.
We want to have access to our kids' genetic medical heritage, if it's ever needed.
We want all of the kids to know each other.
We think introducing the kids to them at a young age normalizes it. If it's all they ever know, there's no light switch at age 18 or 21 or whatever. It's not abnormal if they've never known differently.
There are other reasons, but those are the main ones. The bottom line is that we thought that it was the best decision for our children, despite any misgivings or fears we may have had. Over time, as we've gotten to know them, God has really confirmed and affirmed that decision.
We know that things will ebb and flow with different seasons and at different times, each family or family member may be more or less able to handle certain parts of this dynamic, but that's why we think our foundation of communication and honesty is so important. When we first got pregnant the last time, Sheila was able to say "hey, I need to process this alone for a while-I'll be back in touch when I am able" and because of her honesty, we didn't needlessly hurt her, nor did she have to feel weird about enforcing her boundaries.
I want to stress that this is NOT co-parenting. Though DH and I have not had opportunity to do MUCH parenting, we have had some. Every decision we've made about medications, transfers, doctors, procedures, thawing, freezing, etc, has always, always been completely our decision. Sheila and Beau have volunteered to be a resource if we ever wanted them to be, as people who have been through this before, not as the genetic parents. When we got pregnant, they celebrated OUR pregnancy. When we miscarried, they mourned OUR children with us. We named our girls, we made plans for future transfers, we made all of our decisions, completely and autonomously (from them, obviously not from God). They are very good at respecting us and our boundaries and affirming that they believe as much as we do that these are our children.
Sheila and I know we're unusual, even among open adoption families. We know that seeing both sides of the same coin, cooperatively, is rare.
So we want to give you the opportunity to interact with both sides of the story. We want to give you the chance to ask any questions you want, and we'll post the answers here in a Q&A post. The questions can be about anything related to EA--they don't have to be specifically related to open adoption. And She and I are comfortable enough that we can answer questions that people might think would hurt the other one's feelings (like if you want to ask her something about what it was like to place with us or something like that). So, whatever you want to know about Embryo Adoption, from one or both of us, now's your chance.
To ask a question, just send me an email. Please include your question, who it's for (Sheila, me, or both of us), and how you'd like to be referred to on the blog when I write "So-and-so asked...." If you have a confidential question, note that in your email and one or both of us will reply via email. Otherwise, we'll assume it's public. Please also know that this same Q&A, in whole or in part, may be posted on Sheila's blog if she chooses.
Sheila and I are really excited about telling our story and we think God can use it to really grow Embryo Adoption. So please, ask us ANYTHING you want! :) We really are looking forward to this.