Last week we had our monthly adoption meeting which is also a potluck dinner. Our consultant brings together current, past and prospective clients and their extended families to discuss their open adoption experience, and enjoy a meal together. An interesting mix of adoptive families, prospective adoptive parents, birth families and children come together to share in a supportive setting (well, the kids actually go off and play). In addition to her strong child-centered focus, this community is one of the main reasons we chose to work with our consultant rather than our agency alone.
I realize that like some of our consultant’s other ideas, this concept may sound a bit bizarre. Our first meeting was quite overwhelming, to say the least. Aside from the highly open nature of some adoptions that even included co-parenting in the beginning, we heard stories of mismatches and last minute changes and heartbreak on all sides that made us question what we were about to do. Seriously. It was eye-opening. We weren’t sure if, after all we had been through already, we could survive this emotional storm too.
Thankfully, others confirmed that our reaction was not unique. Most other “waiting” families we spoke with said the same thing about their first meeting. Yet each meeting since then has continued to open up this world to us, making it real and accessible. I believe these meetings are critical to our education as would-be adoptive parents. They provide invaluable information, connection, relationships, support, and perspectives that I think are essential to our experience. This is a community of extended families we could not find anywhere else. People who know and understand.
Without question, one of the most valuable aspects is hearing from expectant mothers considering placement and from “birth” moms who placed children with adoptive families. (I use the term “birth” mom because that’s how they refer to themselves. In rare instances, a “birth” dad has spoken too.) Unlike the presentations at our agency workshops — which were also very informative — here we often see birth families interact with adoptive families and their children. We hear firsthand different perspectives on how rewarding and challenging open adoption can be. It is always powerful, always moving.
In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday and “season of the family,” the theme this week was “gratitude.” I can’t describe how emotional that room was, listening to adoptive parents holding their new babies and watching their kids play with each other, weeping as they tried to convey in words their deep gratitude and love for these women who gave them what they could not give themselves. I can’t describe the feeling of listening to a birth mom’s voice crack as she thanked the adoptive parents for giving her child what she could not, and for opening and extending their family while she continues to grieve her own loss. I don’t think there was a dry eye (or at least someone who didn’t have a lump in the throat) in the house.
I have a lot to be grateful for, I know. I have the most amazing husband who not only accepts me for who I am flaws and all, but also sees beauty where I cannot even see it myself. We have a wonderful home in a great community. I have a decent family, even if they don’t know how to support me. I have a rewarding job with clients and colleagues I call friends. Despite my body’s inability to create and sustain life, I have my health.
And yet. Amidst these powerful emotions and offerings, I could not speak.
I am grateful that our path has led us to this point where we still have the chance to build our family and finally become parents. So when a new would-be adoptive dad looked down at his peaceful wife holding and blissfully gazing at the 10-day old baby girl they hope to adopt and said to me and M, “That will be you someday too, soon,” I could not help but feel so grateful for that possibility.