Thursday, June 18, 2009

Opening the Door on Openness (Part One)

I grew up during the time of closed adoptions. Birth mothers, fathers & siblings were a piece of each child's history and a promise for their future. Sometimes it was the choice of the birth parents, sometimes it was mandated by the circumstances of their adoption, and often, it just happened that way because that's how adoptions were handled 'back in the day'.

Openness, reconnecting, finding one's birth family: these were all abstract ideas. "One day," was the reassurance. "One day, when you're all grown up, maybe you'll meet your birth relatives."

One day.
One day.

Then came the caboose. The youngest in my eclectic group of siblings. Her adoption was different. She was 'older'. (And by older I mean the wise old age of six!) She not only knew and remembered her birth family, she had lived with them until recently. She came armed with photos, gifts, and very real, very recent memories. She came with a history. When we adopted her, it felt like we were adopting her birth family, too.

It was definitely different. The phone would ring and G's "aunty" or "nanna" or "grandpa" would be calling. This was her first family.... did that make us second? I won't delve too deeply into G's openness; it's her story to share, after all. But it made me think. It forced me to appreciate the value of openness and how much it meant to the adopted child, to her family, and to us.

When we applied to adopt my son, we were asked about our feelings on openness. Other than G, we had very little exposure to the realm of open adoption. My husband's side of the family had one member who was adopted during the 1950's. He didn't know he'd been adopted until he was 16. He fought to have medical records. He fought to learn if he had siblings. He fought just to learn his last name. Fifty years down the road -- not that long in the grand scheme of things, but *forever* in terms of how much adoption has evolved -- here we stand. We talk about sending letters, exchanging photographs, and eventually meeting.

Meeting? In person, as in... face to face? "We're open to openness," we smiled.... one year later, the door is opening. We've shared a few emails. Exchanged phone numbers (I have yet to call.) Invited each other to meet.

Basically we did a little dance. Reaching to connect but not wanting to overstep boundaries. Sending photos was easy. Open the email, click attach, and hit send. Typing out descriptive paragraphs about our son was easy. Open the email, pour out the brags, and hit send.

Meeting in person will be harder. We delayed it -- mostly for my own fears and trepidation, but now that our little man is attached, growing, and disgustingly well settled, we owe him the chance to connect.

So very soon, we'll be taking the plunge and having our first meet.

We're opening the door on openness. Stay tuned for part II to hear how the meet-up went.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Busy First Week

I'm settling into my new role here at AFABC. Getting to know the staff and volunteers -- and hopefully -- getting to know more of the families here in the Vancouver/Coastal area that we serve!

On the family side of things, it's been hard 'letting go' of my role as full time primary care giver to my little guy. I went from part time early morning shifts at YVR to a Tuesday to Friday gig here at my new post. I hate saying goodbye to my little guy at night and have to wait til dinner time the next day to see him again.

I wonder how much of it is "mommy guilt" and how much is "adoptive mommy guilt". He didn't come home til he was seven months... is it too soon now, at 19 months, to be putting him in daycare full time? Has he had enough time to cement his bond with me?

How do other adoptive parents feel at the end of the nine months' parental leave, when they're forced back into the workforce full time? (Yes, this is a not-so-subtle gripe against the disparity between biological parents who get a full year, and adoptive parents who get only 35 weeks of leave.)

The good news is, he's excited about daycare and making friends already. He loves to tell me (-- in all his one word and two word capabilities) all about his day, his little buddies, his adventures on transit with daddy (who -- what a trooper!) actually takes him to daycare on the bus each morning!

The bad news? I want to be in daycare, too!! Well, you know what I mean. I just miss the little man.