The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
A straightforward prompt for the end of the year: What did you learn about open adoption in 2011?
I think what I learned about open adoption in 2011 was less about the process and aftermath of open adoption and more about myself as a person. From the point where I decided to place Baby Girl for adoption I felt less than. Less than potential adoptive parents. Less than my friends. Less than my sister. Less than other mothers I knew. Less than myself. I didn't feel good enough anymore. I felt like a failure and a horrible person. That feeling persisted long after Baby Girl's birth and placement. It stayed after her adoptive parents cut me out of their lives. It lingered around and made me feel terrible all the time. I became depressed and was diagnosed with depression and PTSD stemming from the c-section and placement. It was an awful, terrible, very dark time for me.
Slowly, things began to get better. I think that Baby Girl's APs did me a favor, in a way, by cutting off contact. It was horrible for me and it completely shattered me, but it forced me to move on and get past it and get better. I couldn't focus on her and her life so much because she was just gone. I had to hope that I would hear from her when she turned 18.
In October 2010 I discovered that I was pregnant. Again. This happened soon after Baby Girl's explosive first birthday and it was not planned and sad and awful in its own way. Once again I was not married and not in a financially secure place. There was one major difference, however. I knew for a fact that I would be parenting this baby, no matter what. I was not about to throw my cards in again and hope that I would find APs that would keep their word. I just couldn't take the heartbreak again.
In June of 2011 Baby Boy was born and a switch flipped in me. That sad, dark, depressed, empty part of my heart was filled up with new baby perfection. I think some people expected that Baby Boy would make me miss Baby Girl less, but the opposite happened. I thought about her more. Every time I looked at Baby Boy's tiny sweet perfect face I would see a little bit of her. When I nursed him I thought of the two days in the hospital when I nursed her. When I changed his diaper I thought of the few diaper changes that I did for her. I saw a little bit of her in him, and it healed me.
Over the summer I got an unexpected email from Baby Girl's AM asking if we would like to get together for dinner to celebrate her 2nd birthday. I said yes, of course. It went fairly well, although it was awkward and hard to know what to talk about. Not having spoken in so long did give us a chance to catch up. AM shared some information about Baby Girl that left me feeling that perhaps I did make the right choice for her. She needs things that I cannot provide yet. I don't think that I would be the best parent for her and her situation. That realization started giving me peace about my decision. A peace that I never truly had until that dinner.
We saw them again for lunch the week after Christmas. We exchanged gifts and caught up and it was less awkward than our previous meeting. AM talked about how relieved she was to know that now I could understand how crazy things were with a baby in the house, and I might have more sympathy for her not having a photo book done.
When we left that lunch I felt like that big weight with "Less Than" stamped on it had been magically lifted from me. I am not Less Than anyone. I am actually More Than many people. I may even be More Than Baby Girl's APs in some ways.
My open adoption experience has broken me to pieces and it has helped me treasure my children in ways that I never have before. It has helped me have compassion for others and opened my eyes to how very human all of us really are.