Welcome back to Blogville, thanks for joining me. I am sipping on a ginger tea as I find it calming. This blog is really about a question I will never know the answer to, but I’m pretty sure other people have the same question. What if mine had been an open adoption?
Personally, I was not aware of any ‘open’ adoptions when I was growing up. I knew there was a difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’ adoptions but that was the extent of my knowledge of ‘different’ adoptions. Without getting all technical, open adoptions are exactly as the title sounds. There is some openness, or contact, between a child or youth’s new family and their family of origin, or sometimes even contact with a former kinship or foster family. Again, without getting all technical, this openness can range from update letters to phone contact to face to face visits with a million options in between. Ok, not a million, but openness planning has so many facets and possibilities. When I was placed on adoption back in 1960, the rules were quite different. Openness was not typically entertained as an option when adoption was the plan. My parents were essentially told, ‘here is your daughter, raise her as your own and forget about where she came from’. I kid you not.
So, what if there had been openness in my adoption? My thoughts today are not about the technicalities of openness, but rather, of how I think the lack of openness impacted on me when I was growing up. Generally speaking, I feel some openness may have helped me and my parents to manage some challenges that we faced as a new family. For example, I was placed with my parents on the condition that they book a surgery for me to repair an umbilical hernia. The surgery was scheduled to take place a mere 5 days after my arrival into my new family. Not a great step toward bonding/attachment. This plan was an emotional disaster for my new mom and me! In my opinion, the agency should have kept me with my foster family until after the surgery so that I could have been more easily consoled in what must have been a traumatic scenario for an infant. The trauma of my hospital experience followed closely on the heels of other traumatic events already having been experienced in my mere 9 months of life.
My foster parents had had seven months experience in parenting me. My new parents never even got to meet them. Consider the possibilities if my new mom had been able to reach out to my foster mom when I was frantic with pain and fear in the hospital. I believe my new mom and I would both have benefitted from this outreach. Just imagine for a minute, having to cope with a surgery and hospital stay when my new mom and I had only known each other for five days. Through openness, I believe my foster mom could have given my new mom tips on what normally consoled me; such as a favourite way of being held, a special toy, a special song, and so forth. My foster mother might have been able to share that since I had been in hospital for the first 29 days of my life the nursing staff may be better able to calm me as their care was familiar to me. A qualified surgeon was chosen to perform the surgery due to his expertise, yet the expertise of my foster parents was not even considered as it related to my best post-surgical interest.
As an aside, there was a possibility that the surgery could have left me without a ‘belly-button’ and my mother would tell me how the surgeon thought that a little girl should not have to grow up without a belly button. That was a brilliant decision on the surgeon’s part. As an adopted person I cannot imagine the impact of not having birth parents or a belly button might have had on me, perhaps giving credibility to the idea of being dropped off by a stork after all.
Though I don’t remember any of that surgical experience I do recall other times where openness may have benefitted me and my family. When I was young I remember feeling, often in tandem, great fear and great hope at the very idea that my birth mother might find me. I was both afraid she would find me and afraid she wouldn’t bother to look. I think I might have been spared those feelings had I been able to have had some contact with her, or other biological family members through openness.
I may even have been spared thinking that boys were better than girls; thoughts generated by misinformation. My parents were told that my birth family had kept my birth brother who had been born before me. Openness with my birth family, or even my foster parents, would have shed light on the error made when that information was provided to my parents about my birth family. Instead, I was in my thirties, a parent myself, before I learned the truth that my birth mother and her mother had actually given birth to babies in the same year. My birth grandmother had given birth to a son only a few months before my birth mother was sent away to give birth to me. Disclosure file information informed me that the baby actually born to our birth mother three years prior to me was a girl, and she was also placed on adoption. Imagine if our adoptive families had been granted openness for my birth sister and I to get to know each other . . .
Make yourself a nice cup of tea and join me back in Blogville in two weeks for Part II of my thoughts on what openness may have meant to me, and to my sibling(s).
As ever, I would love to hear from you and welcome your comments. If you prefer a private method to reach out please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.