When we tell people we visit with S's birthfamily, we can get reactions such as:
"Why would you want to bother with them?"
"Aren't you worried they're going to run off with S?"
"Isn't she going to be confused?"
Fortunately we also have plenty of friends and family who either keep their reservations to themselves, or are supportive of our relationship.
The truth is, we feel that an open adoption has been the best thing for everyone involved. S has an opportunity to build a relationship with the woman who gave her life. She has a person she can go to if she has questions about anything from her medical history to her mannerisms. S's birthfamily gets a chance to see her, love on her, and generally have a good time with her. They get to see how much like her birthmom she is. They can see that she's happy and healthy. We get some precious moments watching them together and getting to know each other a little bit more with each visit.
Can it be difficult? Sure. Logistially we turned the weekend into quite the whirlwind, and our visit with S's birthfamily was at the tail end of it all. We have no idea what's going on in her birthfamily's heads when they see S. Maybe they want to spend more time with her, or wish she could be closer, or that things could have turned out differently when she was born. Maybe the visits can be painful for them, a reminder of what they've lost. And we don't feel like we have the relationship where we can ask about how they're feeling or what they're thinking. We do know that they lok forward to our visits (probably as much as we do) and have no plans to stop. Which makes us ever so grateful.
A lot of people also have misconceptions about what is involved in open adoption. It doesn't necessarily mean the birthfamilies and adoptive families see each other. Sometimes they exchange pictures and letters at prescribed intervals. And that's it. Sometimes the birthfamily provides some background information and has no other contact. Sometimes birthfamilies are making dangerous life choices, and an open relationship isn't possible. On the other end of the spectrum, it can also include regular visits at each other's homes, as a great big extension of family. And it can evolve, with either increased or decreased contact as time goes on. There are no rules. And we often make it up as we go along.
The best part? We end up with something to cherish with each visit. Sometimes it's a picture I take of S and her birthmom or birthgrandmom, just hanging out and enjoying each other. Sometimes it's a little conversation we have. And sometimes it's pictures like this:
That's S's birthmom on the left, not long before she turned 3. And that's S on the right, just a few weeks ago. Amazing, no? S's birthgrandma saw that picture of her, and dug out the picture of her birthmom. She was able to sit across a table from me and put it into my hands. I just stare and stare at it. And you can bet both pictures are going into S's room.
These are the moments that make it all worthwhile.