Thursday, June 7, 2012

OPEN ADOPTION


We want to introduce you to one of our Hope at Home friends, Amber Houser. Amber is the blogger behind Bumber’s Bumblings.  She is madly in love with God, her husband (Nate), son (“B”), and extended family. After months of trying to conceive turned into years, Amber shared in the isolation and devastation that so many women suffering from infertility experience—until she and Nate were led to open adoption and a magical, miraculous son. Amber is the founder of the Delaware Area Moms Through Adoption Group, has shared her adoption story in a documentary film, Unborn, by christian artist, Caitlin Jane, and has shared her open adoption story at many public adoption forums.

Our Desire to be Parents

Adoption is something that has always been close to my heart. It is something I grew up exposed to, through childhood friends that were adoptees or extended family members who have adopted.
Before we were married, my husband, Nate, and I had discussed that we would be open to adoption if we were not able to have biological children.  We happened to be one of those couples that experienced the heartbreaking reality of infertility.  After that shocking diagnosis  wore off, we felt God leading us towards adoption.  We didn’t feel like God was leading us to pursue invasive fertility procedures.  We took some time to grieve the loss of a dream of having biological children.  We had to come to the place where we realized our longing and desire to be parents was superior to having biological children. 

We felt God’s leading all along through the infertility process, opening and shutting doors. We could say that we were confident in His guiding and open to whatever way He chose to build our family.  Even with this attitude, we found it very difficult to start the adoption process. Much of that process is “taking the bull by the horns” in order for things to happen and progress, but we waited and stalled.

I Was Terrified of Domestic Adoption

Initially, I leaned toward international adoption. It seemed the most safe and predictable. Not to mention, I was pretty terrified of domestic adoption as a whole and thought it would be easier to avoid. You know, the whole being scared of the birth mom taking the baby back thing. That's when a friend, who had worked as a social worker for an agency, challenged me to just try to open my mind to the possibility of domestic infant adoption and not to blow it off so quickly.  She asked me to just pray about it.  Pray I did, with gritted teeth {I am NOT doing domestic adoption—I cannot handle it, kind of prayers}

Nate and I went to an adoption seminar with the agency we eventually chose.  During the seminar, three different adoption programs were highlighted: Domestic Infant, Foster to Adopt, and International. I felt even more overwhelmed at our options than before.  In contrast, Nate said he felt a pull towards the Domestic Infant program almost immediately.  He had always felt a pull towards local endeavors and missions.  This would make sense to him.  His thinking was, why not help someone right here in our area who needs parents and a home?  (Nothing against anyone that has chosen a different path, this is just where God’s leading took us.)  I was thankful that the Lord gave him that insight and was ready to follow Him and my husband.

Open Adoption-- Scary!

As part of our home study process, we had to read booksbooksbooks and more books.   The general theme throughout all these books goes back to open adoption.  Open adoption is a topic that is surreal, fearful and scary if you are not educated on the matter, and sometimes even if you are educated on it!  We started to understand the emotional and psychological positives for both the adoptee and the birth parent(s). Even though we were beginning to understand the textbook reasons, it was hard to conceptualize that personally.  It just sounded like something for crazy people.  How in the world could a situation like that work?
It wasn't until we sat through an all-day seminar with our agency that we finally started to understand it a little more.  We saw videos of birth moms speaking and even saw a "triad" (adoptive mom, birth mom, and teenage adoptee).  The triad forum was amazing and left us tearful and excited about the possibilities.  We left that session saying to each other, if our adoption slightly resembles that kind of unity and partnership and LOVE, we will be so blessed. 

Tentatively Chosen

When we received the call that we were tentatively chosen by an expectant mother, she was just four short weeks from her due date!  We met shortly after we found out that she had chosen us. You can read all about that meeting from B's birth mom's perspective here. The whole meeting was pretty amazing and full of God moments, as our whole adoption story is.  I won't elaborate on all the details, since she does a pretty good job of it, but I will share with you a little bit about our conversation relative to the openness of the adoption.

Only God!

After we spent quite a while with her and her family and totally fell in love with all of them {but especially her}, we broached the subject of openness.  Before the meeting, we received paperwork with her openness requests, and all she had requested was for pictures and updates throughout the first year and a visit around his first birthday.  During our conversation, my husband asked, with tears in his eyes, "aren't you going to want to see him more than that?” Her response was that she wanted any openness to be gauged by us, that this was the life that she was choosing for him and she didn't want to do anything to confuse or complicate his life.  Nate then said something like "I think we are going to want you in our lives; it's going to be important for him to know you and know the amazing sacrifice that you made to give him life and a future...and for him to know just how much he is loved and wanted."   This coming from a guy, who was weirded out by open adoption--Only God!

You can imagine what a bunch of blubbering fools we all were after that, especially me. 

We finally understood this whole open adoption thing.  And we wanted it for our lives. We didn't know exactly what it would look like after this, but we opened that door.  Our son was born several weeks early which was just SIX DAYS after that meeting, and a total of nine months in process.

Mutual Love and Respect for our Places in His Life

After we brought him home from the hospital, we started off by emailing with Ash back and forth about once a week. Our emails became pages long as we continued to get to know each other throughout the next few months.  We were itching for her to see him so she could see how beautiful and amazing he was, even though we sent lots of pics and videos!  And of course, she was itching to see us, but didn’t want to be presumptuous.  
We finally had our first post-placement meeting when B was three months old.  We planned to meet at her parent’s house for a Memorial Day luncheon, but ended up staying there the rest of the day.  They became an extended part of our family from there on out.  We exchanged cell numbers with Ash and started texting often and having more visits.  Three years later, and the relationship is stronger than ever. We don’t have a set schedule for visits.  We fit them in whenever we are able.   She and her family will attend some family events with us and we attend their family events when we are able.  There are no expectations or obligations, just a mutual love and respect for each of our places in B's life.   So many people have told us that it is such a wonderful thing that we are doing for her.  We feel the opposite.  We feel it’s a wonderful thing that she is the one that has done a wonderful thing for B and us.  

Bridging the Gap of Loss and Trauma

There are always going to be difficulties and loss in adoption on both sides, and we are not immune to that.  We hope that open adoption will bridge the gap of loss and trauma and heal all of our hearts. Nate and I are secure in our place as parents.  Ash has so graciously empowered us with that responsibility and is so careful to not overstep that boundary. We are truly thankful that she is in our lives and hope B will understand that some day.  We are thankful for God leading us to open adoption.  We are thankful that we did not allow fear to keep us from this opportunity.

We'd love for you to leave a comment with your experience or thoughts on open adoption. What have been the benefits? What are the challenges?

You might like to read (or reread!) this post by Nicol Crickett, Pregnancy of the Heart, as well. 

Don't forget to register for Hope at Home 2012 Conference for adoptive and foster parents!

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