I have always pictured a big farmhouse table surrounded by people. Upon entering our home, I want visitors to take a look at our diverse table and question, “how does this all work?” I love that we don’t fit a mold, I have found joy in the realization that all you need is intentional love.
There is no mistake or question of the divine intentionality of God building this family, we all have had quite the journey getting here. Upon arriving, even if just briefly we all connect on the basis that love is the language we speak in our home. At times I have more Baby Mamas and Daddys than I know what to do with, yet our family would be impossible without them. Adoption is a beautiful, redemptive, challenging experience. Adoption is messy and is the epitome of bittersweet.
As a foster parent your journey shows you the varying perspectives of the struggle of raising a child born to someone else. You find yourself getting territorial, receiving babies who have been hurt by the very people who should protect them best. You hear their stories, collect their tears on your shirt and cast many judgements on those terrible people, who did these terrible things. You find yourself positioned in between your children and their birthparents, with that protective bulldog stance.
You find yourself superior you know best, you do best and you love best. While maybe elements of this are true it can be a slippery slope when you start to define best. Most of the time our birth parents are not monsters, they are broken people. People with stories, wounds, addictions, people who never knew unconditional love or ever saw it modeled. They are people swept up in their addictions, themselves and the lies they believe to be true. I believe they do love their children to the best of their ability.
You find yourself ignoring birth parents. In between visits and encounters you simply forget they exist. We stand quietly in offices with them, we sit silently behind them in courtrooms and we look past them with eye rolls of judgement. We have the tendency to just wait them out, hoping they relapse and go away soon. Life is easier without them, with them out of the picture we win, the behaviors die down and victory is ours.
My question is this what is the price tag of those three thoughts? Honestly, my default wants those, those to me are easier routes to take but at what cost? I have realized that the cost is not mine to bear but the little faces I kiss and wipe clean. My attitude towards birthparents, directly affects the path of healing for my children.
In our training we are asked to build relationships with birth parents, to model parenting and to co parent with them. Honestly, that may be the hardest part of this all. That request at times feels heavy. That request causes us to evaluate our calling, our commitment and our pride. It is costly.
I have learned what exactly I agreed to with adoption, I have always said I was for open adoption. You feel good saying that, of course I am open to someday having a relationship with birthparents, I am not a monster. However, secretly deep down you hope they just go away.
Open Adoption is not merely being open to communicating with birth parents but choosing to co-parent. Encouraging our children to have a relationship with their birth family and creating space for that to happen. Open adoption costs the adoptive parents a lot, yet I believe the very price tag is the future health of our children.
This does not mean we should open up our children to their past pain without preparation. Open adoption must have boundaries, it only works well if those are placed. Each family finds their own versions of what that looks like. We have began our journey to fully embracing open adoption, next month we will begin visits with birth mom. It has been a year since they have seen her, our last visit was filled with emotion as they watched their birth mom sob and say goodbye forever.
That pressure cooker of emotion left very little room for my crew to process anything in that room. Our termination happened so fast at the end, we had less than 24 hours to prepare. We have had a year of processing that day. Reaching the safety of our van following the last visit, I listened as my babies experienced the grief no child should know. The car in that moment was filled with the weight that foster care has on a little soul.
Adoption happened and we celebrated, yet it has never been simple. I was their mom, a role I had filled two years before adoption was finalized, our story would never be simple. We will never move forward fully forgetting the past, for it was the very force that shaped us.
For a year we have healed, processed, grown and bonded. We have experienced stability, safety and so much love. We have loved others, celebrated life and grieved our baby sister. We have spent a year learning our new roles, identities and healing from our past.
Yet there seems to be something we can’t quite resolve, this well of confusing love for our birthparents. This we are unsure of what to do with, love that is complicated and overwhelming to a seven year old. It just sits there and we can’t quite figure out how to let it out or where it should go. We have decided it should go where it belongs, to our birthparents.
Early on in our adoption process I told the kids I would keep track of birthmom, so that they could focus on being kids. This was one of the best pieces of advice I had received from an adoptive parent. So I kept track, reminding them that when we were ready and it was time we would see birthmom again.
I know we are blessed in that fact, for I know the story doesn’t always end that way. Sometimes we lose our birthparents or the damage done to little hearts needs more time to heal. As adoptive parents I feel we must fight to keep the door open for our children. We must protect and preserve that connection. Even if they are not ready now, even if it is uncomfortable there will come a day when the questions will come and we will need to walk through that door.
So here we are, we have arrived. It looks different that I thought, but as I told them we will do this together like we have done it all before. From that first night together when we were all strangers to now, we have grieved, loved, grown and changed together. That day when we take the next step we will do it together.