November is National Adoption Awareness Month. As I mentioned in my Celebrate Adoption post, Hubs and I knew we were called to adoption. Our daughter is adopted from within the family. Robbie is my cousin. Hubs and I are honored that Robbie (Sister’s natural father) and Michelle (Sister’s natural mother) chose us to parent her. Because of their loving gift, our family is complete.
Long before we knew who our child’s natural parents would be, we had decided we wanted an open adoption. We prayed nightly for them for years before she was ever even conceived. We wanted our child to know where he or she came from. To be proud of his or her adoption heritage, confident in their identity, and confident in his or her place in our family.
That became even more important to us when Robbie and Michelle chose us. We all want our daughter to know where she came from. It is HER heritage, and she deserves to know it. Robbie and Michelle did not cease to exist when we adopted her. Just because they have no legal right to make parenting decisions, nor do they want to do so, they still have love to offer. The last thing we would ever want is for our daughter to look at us and believe that we have attempted to deceive her, or withheld such a vital relationship from her. Or worse yet, to think that she was unwanted. Nothing could be further from the truth.
With that in mind, we are working at keeping family ties and have attempted to maintain a degree of openness that surprises many. We have both of her birth certificates, the one with her first last name and the one with our family name, along with all of her adoption records in her baby box. We pray for her birth-family with her every night. We have a photo of us with her and Robbie and Michelle in her bedroom. We send pictures (albeit, not as often as we should), and converse on Facebook and text. We maintain contact with her other siblings and have pictures of her with them.
Raising any child provides challenges. Raising a child that happens to be adopted from within the family presents unique challenges. When Sister was born, we were faced with trying to decide what to call everyone. Should my Aunt and Uncle, who are Sister’s grandparents (via Robbie), be Auntie Bird and Uncle Grouch or Granny Bird and PawPaw Grouch? Should Robbie’s brothers, who are my cousins, be Uncle or Cousin? After praying about it, we decided to let THEM choose, with one stipulation. Whatever they chose to be for her, they had to be for Mister. Since Mister was only fourteen months old when Sister was born, we thought it would be too confusing to have to keep track of two sets of titles. Because we let them choose, our kids are blessed to have more grandparents than most kids, and a plethora of Uncles to spoil them.
Open adoption is a lot like marriage. It is a lifetime commitment. You have an idea of what it will look like when you go into it, but have to learn to navigate the relationship as you go along. You don’t always know what to say. Sometimes you don’t say anything, when you should pour your heart out. Sometimes you say the wrong thing. Sometimes what you say is misunderstood. Sometimes it doesn’t look like what you thought it would. Often times, it is far more beautiful than anything you could have imagined. Sometimes your heart aches with fear, and other times it bursts with joy. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always neat. But, it IS ALWAYS worth the effort that it takes to make it work!