Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Tough Part of Open Adoption

We have a pretty unique relationship with the genetic parents. We "met" online in an infertility support group before either of us knew what God had in store for us. Eventually they approached us about adopting their embryos. We met in person, mutually agreed on the match, and went forward from there. That was in the summer of 2008. I had a transfer that fall, got pregnant, and miscarried. Then we took a year off and had another transfer in December of 2009, that didn't work. That brings us to now, 2 years after we matched. We've been told by our program that the relationship between our two families is the most open of any of their matches.

Because my first pregnancy was so short (just under 6 weeks), and the second transfer didn't result in a pregnancy, we'd only ever made it so far along in the process of navigating these waters. The last two years were relatively easy in our relationship, because there wasn't a baby to complicate things. Most families don't have two years to get to know each other before things start changing dramatically.

That's been good and it's been bad. Two years to really build a bond between our families has been great. We've built a tremendous relationship of  honesty and vulnerability. The downside is that we've had two years to get used to the status quo. Beau and Sheila only had to go so far in their grief journey so long as the babies were still frozen, and we only had to go so far in our learning process so long as our only parenting decisions were about embryo storage and medical procedures.  Now that there's a baby on the way, it's pushed us all deeper into our respective journeys, and it's been admittedly, difficult.

The hardest part of being an adoptive parent in an open adoption relationship is feeling like there is always going to be this other party watching us and approving or disapproving of our decisions. While Sheila and Beau are wonderful and they don't actually make us feel like we're under the microscope, the knowledge that they are the genetic parents is always there in our subconscious. The other really tough part is knowing that our joy comes at the expense of their pain. That's really, really hard to wrap your head and heart around. again, Beau and Sheila have never made us feel this way and have even tried to absolve us of feeling responsible, but there's just some feelings that exist, regardless of the facts and all efforts to the contrary. Beau and Sheila could say one thing until they're blue in their faces, but I will still always feel this other way. We all, Beau and Sheila included, believe that these children were always intended to be ours. But, no matter how you slice it, the fact is that these are our children because Beau and Sheila couldn't keep them. They didn't create them, intending to place them with someone else. They fully intended to parent these children when this journey started. That's just tough to swallow, for everyone involved. And to a certain extent, I think our feelings are appropriate because we always DO want to be mindful of what they are going through.

Sheila has used words like "anger" and "grief" to describe what they're going through, and I can't even begin to fully grasp what they are experiencing. But, I was finding that the more I tried to understand, the more I felt responsible, and even guilty.

The end result was that we were both walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting the other. I was trying to maintain the delicate balance of including her in the details because she wanted to know them, without wanting to "throw" my pregnancy in her face. She was trying to be honest with her feelings, while still not burdening me too much.

So, we've decided to take a break from communicating with each other. The bottom line is that where we are each are two such polar opposites that they can't really coexist right now if each person is going to be able to fully grasp what they're experiencing without feeling the need for censure or restraint. We've decided that it's probably a good thing that most families don't have communication during this part of the process; the genetic parents need time to grieve fully without feeling like they'll offend the adopting parents, and the adopting parents need time to fully embrace, celebrate and enjoy their pregnancy without feeling like they'll upset the genetic parents.

I will send updates on how the pregnancy is going to the agency, and when they are ready, Sheila and Beau will retrieve the information from them.

All 4 of us are still fully committed to an open adoption, and we know that this is just a season. Their grieving will eventually subside, and we will settle into a place of comfort in parenting. We'll reestablish contact when both of us agree that we could handle it.

The breaking away is painful, but we all agree that it is best for our respective families. The downside of an open adoption is that you get to see the tough stuff too. It's hard to know that someone is out there hurting, and you can't do anything about it. It some ways, an anonymous placement where we wouldn't know a thing about what the GPs are experiencing would be "easier." But I wouldn't trade that ease for the authenticity and vulnerability we have among our two families. It has been a wonderful gift to both our families, and we all think it will be a wonderful gift for all the children involved, too. We just need to be mindful of not biting off more than we can chew at any one time, so for now, we're each giving each other space to adapt. We'd love your prayers for each of us as we deal with our own journeys.


  1. Thank you for sharing this Jen. It is an important part of your journey and the experience of snowflake adoption. I am only familiar with traditional adoption so it is eye opening to hear of this part of the process. Thank you (and them) for being so open and honest.

  2. Hi Jen, we met our genetic family in person for the first time when Amelia was a year old. What a special time we will all treasure forever. However, I'll never forget the moment when Amelia's genetic parents said goodbye to her. It ripped my heart out as I tried to hold it together before we drove off. So many emotions, such a beautiful pain. And some day your precious baby(ies) will know how many people so passionately love them. We know how you guys feel. Hugs to you all!

  3. My prayers are with Beau and Sheila as they navigate their journey, as much as they are with you and Todd. I believe ultimately, the happiness they have given you and Todd will outshine everything else, but it is definitely a mourning period for them to get there.

  4. Wow, thank you so much for sharing with such honesty.

    We too, have a wonderful relationship with the placing parents. We talk regularly through the phone, FB, and e-mail, and they follow my blog. I hope that we can continue to navigate these waters with all of the openness that we have established.

    You are right, this is a season. As your families grow, so will your relationship. I have faith that things will be better than ever some time soon!


  5. Your transparency is moving. It gives us all a lot to consider and to process. We are in prayer for both couples as you both navigate throughout the rest of this journey. Thank you again for sharing your heart.

  6. VERY Similar to our situation. After the birth of our sweet girl, our donor couple is choosing to not have any more contact. It is hard as we were close throughout the pregnancy but they said it is just "too painful" to see. We are praying one day they will change their minds... But it is SO TOUGH on all of us...