The Story of an Open Adoption

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Do you find yourself sitting and pondering things? We all do that. I may be outside reading and look up and ponder just where that plane overhead is going and just where all of those people on it are going. That’s a ponder! Well, imagine you are adopted and you look at your face in the mirror and ponder, who do I look like? My birthmother? My birthfather? My extended family? You look down at your hands and wonder, are they shaped like my maternal grandmother’s or perhaps my aunt’s? When you aren’t adopted, it’s often easy to figure these things out. From birth, we say, “Oh! She has your eyes!” or, “He has your nose!”

My daughter is so fortunate in that she is adopted and she knows that she has her birth mother’s eyes and her birth father’s chin. She has her birth mother’s toes. As she is growing, we know she shares so many mannerisms with her birth mother. How do we know this? From the day my daughter was given to me, by her birth mother, we have kept in touch. We didn’t follow the adoption agency’s rules. No, we are rule breakers. We had this beautiful little adoption ceremony at the agency. My daughter was placed in my arms by her birth mother. We hugged, we cried, we shared gifts. What the agency told us was NO PERSONAL information is to be given to each other. All gifts from there on are to be sent to the agency and forwarded to the other person. Well, unknowingly to the other, we each put our email address and other contact information in the bag with the gifts to each other with a note saying to keep in touch. We both felt that connection to one another.

The adoption placement was on August 15, 2006. Hope was 2 months old. It took me a month of settling in before I started emailing her birth mother, Jill. We emailed daily about what was happening with Hope and the family ,and Jill was sharing how she was doing and how her Dad was. Time went on, and we agreed to meet in December, at the local mall.

DSC03853 (The first photo is Hope’s Mom, Jill and I hugging with baby Hope in the middle.  This was taken the day of the adoption ceremony.  We still hug like this, with Hope in the middle, and talk about this hug often.)

We knew that Hope’s paternal grandmother and aunt lived in our town! That was really cool, seeing as Hope’s birth parents are about 1.5 hours from us. We happened to run into them at the mall a month before our planned meeting. It was a surprise for us all. We visited for quite a while. I couldn’t wait to email Jill and tell her we ran into Hope’s Mammy and Auntie!

Our December meeting was beautiful. Hope’s Aunt, Grandmother, Cousins, maternal Grandfather and Birthmother were all there, as well as Hope’s new family, her mom and dad, brother and two sisters. We had such a joyous time visiting!

DSCF1277 (Hope with her Mom and maternal Pappy Dale.  He passed away a few years ago and we feel the void tremendously.  This was taken during our first Christmas visit, in the mall.)

We met again, in the mall, for Easter. Again, we had such a wonderful time together! We felt such a bond between us!

We chatted more online and decided to meet for Memorial Day at a local restaurant. It was, at that point, I suggested Hope’s first birthday party be at our home.

Over the years, since then, Jill and I have become closer and closer. We are like sisters. In 2013, Jill invited me to the beach, a Mom’s trip, she said. She paid for everything for me! I was overwhelmed by her kindness. We had SO MUCH FUN! I kept noticing that little things she did reminded me of Hope. The way she slept, it’s identical to Hope. The way she sipped her drink from a straw, same as Hope. The way she brushed her hair out of her eyes, yep, you guessed it, it’s the same. There are so many more Jill-isms that I learned and each one I kept saying OH MY GOSH, Hope does that! It had me in tears. Not only does Hope look like her, but Hope’s mannerisms mimic hers. Jill doesn’t see Hope regularly, maybe once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. They only spend a few hours together at a time. Yet, they do the exact same things.

It was during this beach trip that my thoughts on Hope’s adoption changed a little. Yes, I’m Hope’s mom. However, Jill is also Hope’s mom. I can’t and won’t ever take that title away from her. Hope and Jill are meant to know each other, meant to be together, meant to have a relationship that is above mine with Hope.

IMG_2737 (1) (These two are so cute together.  I had to capture them walking together.  :))

That brings us to last year. Jill took me to the beach again, but this time we took our daughter Hope and my son Jonathan. Hope was now 7 years old (almost 8) and Jonathan was 17. We had so much fun together at the beach. We enjoyed it so much we planned another trip this year, with just us girls.

Hope started asking questions about her adoption, as we’ve been talking about it since we adopted her. Jill has been visiting since that meeting in the mall. While Hope never asked who Jill “was”, she always knew her as Jill and Pappy as Pappy, she started asking more questions about being adopted, in general. This brought her to asking, what is real? Is Jill my real mom? Are you my fake mom? Why did I come out of her tummy and not yours? I didn’t expect these questions at this age! I thought it would come at 10 or 12. What does real mean, anyway? We went through a few weeks of, “You aren’t my real mom! Jill is!” Then she asked Jill the million dollar question, “Why did you give me to my Mom?” That’s tough to hear, on Mother’s Day, in Macy’s. I had to duck around the corner and cry a little.

Here are the answers to those questions.

Me: We are all real. You pinch me and it hurts, that means I’m a real person. I’m not fake, like a barbie doll. Jill is your mom who gave birth to you, you came out of her tummy. She gave you to me. You are the best gift I’ve ever had.

Jill: I knew I wouldn’t be able to care for you. I work nights and I sleep all day. I’d have to pay someone to watch you all the time. I wanted you to have siblings. If you stayed with me, you wouldn’t have anyone. Here you have a brother and two sisters who love you. I wanted you to have a mom who stayed home to care for you. I wanted a good mommy for you.

It was then Hope looked at me and rolled her eyes and said, I want to live with Jill. I don’t like my sister. SIGH! That 8 year old attitude is worse and worse. We then told her, maybe when you’re older you can visit, but you need to live with Mommy and Daddy.

She loves having two moms. I am there to help with homework and feed her (her words) and Jill buys her fun things, like Nick Jonas concert tickets and the barbie house with two elevators! She has the best of both worlds.

I know that not all adoptions are this “perfect”. Not all can be open.  Not all are this special.  That’s what makes adoption such a unique experience.  You do what works for you.  This is what works for us.

We adopted a child and gained an extended family.

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(The three of us Mother’s Day 2015)

Maggie Parke, author of http://www.quixoticallychaotic.com is is the mum of four, ranging in age from 9 to 23. Two of her children were adopted. She is an advocate for special needs adoption, open adoption, and youth mental health. She enjoys coffee shop dates with her husband and beach trips with her close friend, her daughter’s birth mother. She writes, like she speaks, with candor. You can find her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/runningonchaos and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/quixoticallychaotic.

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