[Ed. note–Kim is the latest OAB contributor I have the pleasure of introducing to you. She placed her son in an open adoption over two decades ago. Once a month she will share from the valuable perspective of someone further down the road than many of us in the open adoption journey. -Heather]
Do you sometimes wish you could go back in time?
I wish I could go back to 1988 and tell 17 year old me that everything would be OK.
…That even though I was pregnant and facing the biggest decision of my life–everything would be OK.
…That even though I’d been accepted to my two “first choice” colleges but now had to put it on hold–everything would be OK.
…That even though I felt lonely, afraid and as if I’d let everyone down–everything would be OK.
…And that even though I didn’t know what “open adoption” meant for me and my unborn child, I just had to trust that what my counselor was telling me was true–and that everything would be OK.
Now 25 years later, my son is the most amazing person I know. He’s a bright young man making his own way in the world. His mom and dad are two of the kindest most loving people you’d ever want to meet. This journey in open adoption has been an extraordinary ride.
But it wasn’t always OK. At least not for me. Two and a half decades ago, there was no Internet to research the term “open adoption.” There were no books in libraries or bookstores offering a birth mother’s perspective. There was no point of reference; nowhere to turn for the answers. Not like there is today.
My story has two sides–the first is the extraordinary relationship among the family members in our adoption story. The second is my personal journey: the struggles that still plague me and those that I’ve resolved.
There are times when I want to scream from the rooftops how wonderful open adoption can be–and yet intuitively, I know that it’s not right for everyone. In fact, I’m acutely aware of just how unique my experience is.
My son’s mother, father and brother exemplify what it means to be a solid, loving family. They are the most gracious and kind-hearted people I know. Their circle of love instantly–and without reservation–made room for me, my family and the birth father’s family. This was unheard of in the very early days of open adoption and let me tell you–it was extraordinary!
Over the years we’ve shared photos, videos, letters, and as many visits as possible, given that we live on opposite sides of the country. And we’ve been extremely fortunate to share some Mother’s Days, baptisms, First Communions, high school and college graduations, and weddings together. It’s been magnificent and heart-warming all at once. I’ve never felt anything but unconditional love and acceptance from them. And for that, I’m so grateful.
The second part of my story, however, is about my personal struggle. Profound guilt, shame, grief, secrecy and loss of self consumed me in the months and years following the birth and placement of my son. It all came to a head in 2004 when I gave birth to my daughter, and the wounds containing my buried feelings were re-opened like an ugly Pandora’s Box.
In a sense, I’m still searching for my story. Sometimes I’m unable to put into words the exact feelings I’m experiencing. Other times, I just sit in the grief. But I rejoice in the fact that I’ve finally given myself permission–after all these years–to accept myself and to really feel my feelings instead of burying them.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit scared to be so “out there” with my story and my thoughts. Adoption is multifaceted. It’s bittersweet, wonderful, complicated, and different for everyone no matter if they’re birth parents, adoptees or adoptive parents.
Through this column, I hope to share my insights as a birth mother in a long-term open adoption and I hope to learn about your stories.
I welcome your ideas, questions and feedback–always!
Thank you for the opportunity–it’s truly an honor to be part of this community of amazing writers and bloggers.
About the author:
Kim is a writer, blogger, wife and mom to two daughters age 9 and 2. She is also a birthmom involved in an open adoption for the last 25 years. She welcomes your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to email any topic ideas or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.