Every so often this website for open adoption bloggers posts a writing prompt asking a question that is related to open adoption. A few of the blogs I follow answer these questions on a regular basis. I never took the time to answer one because none of them have ever really inspired me to want to answer it. Until now. This week's question brought back some memories. Here it is...
"Write about open adoption agreements. Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?"
For those of you with no ties to open adoption, an open adoption agreement is something like a good faith statement signed by the adoptive parents and birth parents saying that the adoptive parents aren't going anywhere after the baby is born. Our open adoption agreement stated that we would have four (or maybe 5, I honestly don't remember) visits a year with Kim. I believe they were to be some time in the last two weeks of November, March, July, and then within two weeks of Shiloh's birthday. Our agreement also stated that we would send pictures twice a year.
Because of the fact that I bought and read just about every book on open adoption while we were going through the process, I was familiar with open adoption agreements before the topic came up during Kim's pregnancy. During our very first meeting with Kim we discussed the level of openness that we were all comfortable with. I'm fairly certain that we even decided on 4 visits a year at that initial meeting. We never discussed visits again until about a month before Kim's due date when the the signing of an open adoption agreement came up.
I'm going to stop here before I continue with the story. My reaction to our attorney's email regarding the agreement was not very good, so before I get into it I want to explain some things. Richard and I decided before we met Kim that our child's adoption would be open. We never wanted adoption to be a secret in our family. Our goal was to make our child's adoption as natural a thing for them as possible. Because we never intended on keeping any secrets from our child, we wanted our child's birth parents involved. We never want Shiloh to question Kim's love for her. We never want Shiloh to feel like she was just some inconvenience that Kim dealt with. We want Shiloh to have answers to some of the inevitable, hard questions she's going to have that we won't be able to answer. We want Shiloh to feel loved and nothing else.
Back to the story. I don't remember if it was a phone call or email that informed us that Kim wanted an open adoption agreement, but I do remember a very angry me sitting at Arby's with Richard that night. We both worked pretty late into the evening/early night back then. When I received the email/phone call, we decided to meet up somewhere close to where we both were so we could talk. This might not make sense to a lot of you, but I was very hurt by the news that Kim wanted an agreement. Kim and I had spent the last four months getting to know each other and bonding. Her request for the agreement meant (to me) that she didn't trust me. Yes, that was all I could think about. Kim was about to place her firstborn child to be raised by people she had only known for four months, and I was upset and angry because she wanted some kind of reassurance that we weren't going to take her baby and run (the agreement is not legally binding in our state). Looking back, I'm a little embarrassed by my behavior/feelings that night. Instead of trying to put myself in her shoes and think about how she was feeling, I could only think about myself. Fortunately, I've grown a lot as an adoptive parent since then.
Back to the actual questions for the roundtable. Obviously, yes, we do have an agreement. Does it effect our relationship? No. At this point, we might as well not even have the agreement. We see Kim whenever she wants to see us. We see her around Shiloh's birthday, at Shiloh's birthday party, we meet up for lunch dates, and she even came over for Halloween and Christmas this year. I see Kim as a member of our extended family. She recently thanked us for allowing her and Shiloh to form the closeness that they have. My response was an even bigger thank you to her. Kim has always respected mine and Richard's roles as Shiloh's parents, and that is something we appreciate more than we can say. She is the reason for her close relationship with Shiloh.
On a side note, still no news. Kim messaged me yesterday to discuss some things, but she ultimately still has not made up her mind. If she delivers around her due date (Shiloh and Will were both born within 2-3 days of theirs), we have about 2 1/2 weeks at most until we know for sure.