Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grandparents in Open Adoption

I haven't written about adoption in a long time. But I still follow so many blogs of people who have or are planning to adopt. I have such a passion for adoption and the way to support all three members of the "triad" (birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee)

Most of you know we adopted our oldest, Colt, in 2008. We are technically in an open relationship with his birthmother, but we haven't heard from N in a long time. She has a daughter that is Owen's age, but we haven't met her or talked to N since she was born. Among several other things, I think this is probably the primary reason for the silence. Though I don't have any proof, I imagine having a new baby 14 months after placing Colt with us meant a rush of emotions. But we remain open and available when she is ready.

I've followed Heather and the Open Adoption Roundtable for a long time, written a few times when the prompts strike me. But, again, it has been a while. But today's prompt spoke to me. It said write about grandparents. That's all. Grandparents in open adoption.

Last week we met with several couples at our church to talk about how to support and minister to families looking to adopt. It was a refreshing conversation, and honestly we hadn't talked that much about adoption or pieces of our stories in a long time.

One of the things that came up was having people in our church family able to speak about different situations: international adoption, fostering, domestic, grandparents role in adoption, etc. Especially with interracial adoption, it seems that we need more and more grandparents speaking about their experience.

I know when we considered adoption, one of the things that weighed on our hearts was how would our parents react? How would they treat our child? We knew WE would be able to love a child that came to us through adoption, but would that be the case with our parents? Adoption was not just a decision for US, but one that truly involved our whole family. We're so close to our parents and sisters, we needed to be assured they would love this child as we would.

Of course, we had no problems. But as we considered what kind of situation we were open to (open vs. closed; race; exposure to drugs or alcohol; special needs; health issues; etc,) we prayerfully considered each scenario with our entire family on our minds. For us, the role of a grandparent was that important.

Today, one of my greatest joys is to see our boys interact and love on their grandparents and great-grandparents. They have unbridled joy and excitement when they talk to them, see them, or stay with them. Their grandparents don't hesitate to watch them, pitch in when they're sick, read to their classes at school, film Christmas programs, and rock them to sleep. They are an extension of my arms, of John's arms. They are a blessing like none other in our lives.

Same for great-grandparents. My grandmother will take my call every day to hear some silly little story about things one of them has said or done. Where others may half-listen or not share my amusement, she wants to hear everything. Every parent needs someone like that in their life - children are meant to be shared!

I'm so, so thankful for the support our parents showed us when we were choosing adoption. Just recently, Colt began asking about who came from who's belly. I knew that the adoption conversation would be just around the corner. While we've celebrated Gotcha Days, been to our agency's Christmas parties, and read books...he still isn't totally "getting it". We talked to each of our parents individually to let them know that he's talking about birth, and that we would start conversations about N. That they didn't need to be nervous or hesitent to mention her name. They all smiled and seemed fine with it...we're so grateful that they are.

Grandparents also played a huge role on N's side, as well. N was living with her grandmother while she was pregnant, and her grandmother had supported her throughout her pregnancy and decision to choose adoption. We heard about her Grandma from the very first phone call. And we had the outstanding privilege to meet her on several occasions.

We first met her the same time we met N: in the hospital. When we walked into the room that day, her Grandmother saw us and immediately told John "the baby looks just like you". And he does. But she broke the ice, helped make us comfortable. She stroked N's hair as she told us how great N had been during labor, how much pain she'd been in the night before. She talked our ear off about the family tree and how proud she was of N and her sister.

She accompanied N out of the hospital the next day. They came by our room, wheeling the little bed with a sleeping Colt on there. N had tears in her eyes, but she smiled. Her grandmother hugged me so tight and asked us both to take good care of him, that he was so loved. She hugged N's shoulders as they left and said "it's hard, but it's the right decision". She wasn't pushy, she wasn't insistent, she was so caring and supportive. I was so grateful that N had her in her life.

A few months later, we traveled to Grandma's house. We visited there in her living room for several hours, N snuggling on Colt and everyone listening to his happy squeals. Grandmother kept the conversation going, making it easier for us to fit in and for N to come out of her shell. It was a great day and we captured lots of pictures of her holding Colt.

Not long after that we received a call from our caseworker at the agency. N's grandma had passed away. She had several health problems and her time had come. I cried and cried after that call. I cried for N. I cried for Colt. I cried for us.

We've seen N one time since her grandma passed. Between her passing, the birth of a new baby, and a marriage I'm sure N is unsure of how to balance an open adoption relationship. Her grandmother was her rock, her support, her guidance. I KNOW she must miss her. We miss her, too. We miss all that she did for Colt, miss her love for him.

I'm so thankful Colt (and Owen) have always been surrounded by such amazing grandparents.


Ms. J said...

You made me cry. I knew your boys had wonderful g'rents...but I had no idea of the extraordinary birth g'ma who played such an important role in Colt's early being.

(sniffle, wiping eyes)

Sammy said...

What a great post. We also have amazing parents who have embraced our little man. He's the same as the other bio grand children and if anything they have made more of an effort with him.
Sweetpea's parents were/ are also incredibly supportive and as we have settled into our space and become more confident, I have thought about them a lot.
What it must be like to see your first grandchild in someone elses arms. I can only imagine the pain and grief even though they are totally on board with Sweetpea's decisions. I have had to enlarge my heart and allow them to be grandparents. This hasn't been easy for me (for a number of reasons), but it's been the right thing.
The joy on their faces when they are in the grandparent role is incredible.
This journey is hard and stretching for us but at the of the day, there is a little boy who is adore by so many. And that can only be good for him!

Lavender Luz said...

"They are an extension of my arms, of John's arms."

So beautiful.

I hope that somehow, N is able to come back into your lives.

How rich you are in what really matters!

alison said...

So, so, so sweet. I'm so sad about N's gma, what an amazing woman she was. I always love hearing more of Colt's story, adoption has always fascinated me. Now that I know that we're done having biological kids, J and I have both admitted there's this adoption whisper that keeps popping up in both of our hearts. I don't know what that means, or what will ever come of it, but it's there. Thank you for making it such a normal part of your lives - of MY life. I love your family as if you lived next door and not an internet away. :) xo

Orlando said...

I am a birth grandparent to a sweet little three year old boy. It is hard to see your grandchild leave your family and go into a family that will raise him and care for him like you want to but I am grateful for those adoptive families that are able to embrace birth families. Our grandson's adoptive parents have done just that with my husband and I. They have made it possible for us to extend our love to M in a real and tangible way. I remember sitting in the nursery with him holding him in my hand and talking to him for the thirty minutes it took the doctor to come to release him. It was right after my daughter signed the papers giving her rights as his parent away. I kissed him and told him over and over that we loved him and that we would always love him. I didn't know if I would ever see him again. I can tell you that being able to be a part of his life; telling him face to face I love you; touching his hair; watching him interact with his family; seeing him nap; feeding him with a bottle; being able to send him gifts in the mail to his home; knowing where he is and that he is completely loved and taken care of has provided me with healing and peace. I don't think I would have been able to live without it. I LOVE open adoption. I admire people who are willing to accept and embrace the "other family" of their children. It takes love and faith to do it I am sure.
I hope that N is able to bring herself to connect with you soon.
Grandma O

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