I used to be biased against adoption. Intellectually, I loved the idea, but emotionally, I could not wrap my mind around it, despite the fact that my own dad basically adopted my older sisters and feels as connected to them as he does to me.
It was those stories that worried me. The ones in the sad memoir The Girls Who Went Away, about young women forced to give up their babies because they didn’t have the option to keep them. The stories of adult adoptees, heartbroken because their birth mothers wouldn’t reciprocate when they tried to make contact. It seemed like even when adoption went well, it involved terrible suffering at its core.
My friend Suz adopted her two children in a very, very different way. She used open adoption, which keeps her in touch with her children’s biological family. The idea was mind-boggling at first, but her family is the best ad ever for open adoption. So I interviewed her about how it works for her family.
Amy: How did you come to the idea of adoption in the first place, after writing so affectingly about your fertility struggles?
Suz: I’ve heard people say “I was always attracted to adoption” or “I knew I would adopt someday,” but I was never one of those people. I was really committed to having a baby with my body. We went through three rounds of IVF with my eggs, one round with donor eggs, and some IUIs in there too. When someone would bring up adoption, I would just shut them down. I would shut myself down. It took years and a lot of disappointments for me to have positive feelings about adoption. It took time.
And how did you feel about open adoption, or independent adoption, at first?
I had this vague concept that we’d see this person (the biological mother) all the time, and the child wouldn’t really be mine. Which is so odd, because I have two extended family members who had placed children for open adoptions and were very open about it. I had seen it, yet I thought it wasn’t for me.
At the time, I was seeing a therapist who specialized in fertility issues, and she said, “No, open adoption is what you agree upon with the birth parent.” The more I looked into it, the more I saw that I, as the adoptive mom, called the shots. You can tell the birth mother “this is the level of contact I would be comfortable with,” and she decides if that will work for her.
I came to realize it’s really collaborative. My level of fear and the reality of what we have now – two kids who came to us through open adoption, and it’s all cool and fine – the contrast is amazing. It’s perfectly fine, and I’m perfectly comfortable. My fears were not the reality.
What is your relationship like with these two biological moms?
We have really good relationships. They both live several hours away by car, but I am Facebook friends with both birth-moms and several members of their families. Laney, who is my daughter Eve’s birth-mom, has visited twice in five years, and she knows there is an open invitation and she can come anytime. Traci, who is Rex’s birth-mom, has visited once, and I think she knows she has the same open door.
Yeah, when Laney sent the invite, I posted to ask what my friends thought of it, and most people said “no, don’t do it, you don’t want to be open to her in this intimate way.” And I thought, I’m already open to her in an intimate way. She gave me a baby!
What’s it like when they visit?
There seem to be some very natural boundaries there. When Laney is here, it feels like I have a beloved niece visiting. There’s no threat to my role. The additional surprise was how close I got to her extended family. Her grandmother came out of quilting retirement to send Eve off with a handmade quilt. She was a very, very cool lady who I really dug, and when she died, I was among the first people Laney called. It has been more interactive and pleasant than I thought it could ever be.
Have there been awkward moments?
A few. For instance, when Eve was born, she had to go straight to the NICU. So by the time we got in to see Laney, it was coincidentally the same time they were bringing Eve to her for the first time. In that moment, she looked at us and said “I’m not ready.” And I could intellectually understand that she needed this moment, but what I felt was just – pissed. Really? I’ve been through all these trials and tribulations for five years, and I still can’t hold my baby? But the next morning, we called her, and she said, “Come on over here and hold your baby.” She was completely ready, and just had to get through her couple of hours.
I think what makes it work is that whenever there have been moments of discomfort, I’ve been able to talk to Laney and Traci about it, and they are both very stable women who can work it through with me.
That takes a lot of emotional maturity on your part, though.
I don’t know if I’m so emotionally mature, but I’d say that someone who is going to have a child this way needs to be very, very open, to have some understanding of psychology of self. And should be adventurous by nature. I know other parents who went to other countries and adopted kids who have no hope ofever finding their birth parents because they had so much fear of birth parents showing up and superseding their link to their child. Certainly not everyone could forge forth into this.
The other thing I must point out is that these failed fertility cycles forced me to learn, via a mallet to the head, that I have no control. Control is an illusion. My husband Marty told me, at one point, that we had always been taught that if we want something, we just had to work hard enough and we would get it -- but that wasn’t the case with having a baby, and we had to re-assess how it would happen. And that’s humbling.
I’ve gotta say, giving birth to a baby also reinforces that lesson. Having a child, no matter how it happens, means you give up control.
And I did think I would always have this conscious awareness of my kids being adopted all the time, but you completely forget you aren’t their biological parents.
Well, you’re a great mom. And you’re an amazing adventurer. Thanks for the peep into your life, Suz!
Want to find out more about independent adoption? Visit Families for Private Adoption. But guys, this should go without saying, but do NOT send this article to your friends going through infertility -- okay?
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