Sunday, November 6, 2016

Open adoption as "better"

My breath caught in my throat as I saw him, and I soaked in every bit of this face that I knew better than my own.  How long had it been since I had looked into those deep blue eyes?  I had memorized every recent picture, but the reality of being there with my child was one that just about knocked me to my knees. He looked so much like my sister that I gasped. He had the same wrinkles that she did when she smiled, but my dimple. I am so engrossed in him that it takes me a moment to realize that she is asking if I want lunch, the woman I entrusted my very soul with.

In her sweet way, she doesn’t mention the tears in my eyes or the fact that I haven’t been paying attention to anything she’s said. My son shyly nestles into her neck and peeks out at me as we walk into the little cafe for lunch. He stares at me every time I speak. It’s a powerful look, one that I feel in every bit of my being, even when I’m not looking back. We get lunch and go to a quiet corner to sit. He quickly warms up to me, even though he hasn’t seen me in 6 months. The last time I held him in my arms he slept most of the time, busy growing from a newborn into an infant. He’s changed in so many ways, but I would recognize him anywhere. His adoptive mom has dressed him in a “Good Night Moon” shirt, since yesterday was my mother’s birthday and she knows it’s her favorite children’s story. They have talked more than a few times about my childhood and my favorite things. I make sure to get pictures of him in it to send to my mom later, but focus more on being in the moment with him. She lets me give him his first taste of chocolate and wear him in a wrap as we walk around. It’s a bit chilly out, but I barely notice the weather as I feel his heartbeat against mine again.

This is the “new” form of adoption. Open adoption means that I get to see my child twice a year, and get regular updates of how he is doing. His parents send me more videos and pictures than our contract states, and we’ve chatted on Skype a few times already. I am able to send gifts for birthdays and holidays, making sure to include his brother in everything I send. This new concept, the better form of adoption, was supposed to make everything easy. That’s what the agency told me. They said that I would grieve a bit, but that I would still get to see him. My grief wouldn’t last long because, according to them, I wasn’t really losing him.

The reality of open adoption was a shock. It was supposed to be this fantastic arrangement where we were all happy, all the time. It was a win-win solution. The first time that I realized my son’s adoptive parents were real people, just like me, I was shaken. They were supposed to be perfect, infallible. That’s how the agency marketed them to me. The first communication breakdown we had floored me. I was convinced that they had forgotten about me, and that I was no longer necessary in my son’s life. That’s when the fog lifted and the grief hit.

The grief, well that just about killed me. I was in no way prepared for losing a child to adoption. When I was pregnant I had been so sick that I couldn’t feel a strong connection to my pregnancy. I knew that I loved my baby, but that love felt abstract. I could only compare it to the love I felt for my niece. When my son was placed in my arms for the first time, the reality hit me. I can still remember falling in love with him so clearly. We were doing skin to skin contact and he started nursing. We had been made for each other and nursing was a breeze. When he was done, he burped and then fell asleep. I was captivated by this completely human gesture. At that moment, my world revolved around this tiny human and being his mother.

Oh how I wish that time had stopped in that moment. I wish that I had listened to my heart instead of letting the doubts take over. Looking back and realizing that something small would have made the difference between parenting and a lifetime of loss is a hard pill to swallow. Just this past weekend I admitted that if I had a car, even a crappy used car, to take my baby home in, he would be with me. I didn’t, and made the best decision I could at the time. I sat on the hospital bed and sobbed over him, apologizing while kissing his sweet face. I told him that I loved him and that I desperately wished I could be the mom he deserved. I told him that his adoptive parents already loved him so much, and they were going to take good care of him. With every bit of my body and heart screaming for me to stop, I gently placed my son into his adoptive mother’s arms. I kissed his forehead and told her to take care of him. I haven’t stopped grieving for him since.

So open adoption? The “better” adoption? The one that helps your grief? I don't think it's really "better" like they promised, just different.