As many of you know, I am a birth mom. I’ve written about my story here. This year, I am honored to participate in the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. The Adoption Interview project pairs people involved with adoption from every angle and has them interview each other. I was surprised and happy that all my sisters joined me in the project and answered some great questions about their thoughts about adoption.
Here is how it works. I was paired with the lovely Natalie, who has a beautiful five year old daughter named Hannah. Natalie is a adoptive parent, and she blogs at Adopting the Spectrum. If you head on over to her blog, you can read her interview with all of the Sweet Ridge Sisters talking about adoption. Here is the interview that I did with Natalie.
Please describe your relationship with Hannah’s birthparents. How often are you in contact? How do you interact when you are communicating? Has it changed significantly over the past several years?
What has been the biggest surprise for you about open adoption?
My biggest surprise about open adoption has been other people’s reaction to it when they find out that Hannah is adopted. So many people who have no business commenting on my family’s personal life feel free to say whatever they want and ask very personal questions simply because our family was created by adoption. We hear things like, “Oh you are so lucky that she looks just like you. No one will ever know she’s adopted,” like that’s something undesirable! It also never ceases to surprise me when people respond with some variation of, “Aren’t you afraid SHE is going to steal Hannah back from you since she knows where you live?” This comment bothers me for so many reasons. First it paints Tiffany as a villain and since they’ve never met her I don’t know why they think they could possibly pass that judgment. Second it implies that I would do something that would put Hannah in danger. UGH! Another thing that surprised me was that many people painted us as some sort of saints for adopting. They don’t seem to understand no matter how hard I try to explain that WE were the ones that were blessed, not Hannah. We really wanted to have a family and adoption was the only route to that for us. We didn’t “save” a baby. We were blessed with a baby and a whole lot more in a relationship with all of Hannah’s birth by her adoption. We did nothing heroic.
What is your greatest fear about open adoption?
My greatest fear about open adoption is that at some point we will lose contact with one or both of Hannah’s birthparents and the impact that will have on her. We chose open adoption so that Hannah would always know her birthfamily. We dreamed about a close extended family relationship with them and we have luckily had exactly that. Naively, we never considered that fact that people change, situations change, and that we might not always have the kind of relationship we want. We never considered that it wasn’t all in our control. Since adopting Hannah we’ve met other open adoption parents who’ve lost contact with their children’s birthparents at some point down the road of their adoptions. Even though they always kept their relationships open, one or more of the birthparents simply stopped contact/moved and did not leave forwarding information/had a falling out with the adoptive parents/regressed into back into substance abuse or abusive relationships/etc. I often panic when I think about that possibly happening to us. Hannah is my baby girl and I’d do anything for her, but I can’t be her birthfamily even though I wish she’d been born from my womb. As a parent it’s hard to know that there is something so vitally important to your child’s life that you have no control over providing to her. I simply have to turn Hannah over to the Lord and pray that He will give her all she needs to be at peace with herself whether or not she has contact with her birthfamily.
Hannah has Aspergers Syndrome. How does this impact her perception of adoption? How does it impact yours?
What made you decide to pursue adopting from foster care in the future?
Has your family been supportive of your open adoption?
This is an interesting question to answer. At first Kyle’s family was very much against any type of adoption and extremely against open adoption in particular. They believed a lot of negative myths about adoption, had preconceived stereotypes about birthparents and children who might be born to them, and were pretty much just prejudiced about the whole situation. My family on the otherhand is a very blended family to begin with. There are many divorces, remarriages, adoptions, and pseudo adoptions already so they didn’t seem to think anything would be different. So, when Hannah was born we were prepared to go to battle with Kyle’s family to accept our little one, but one look at her precious face and they were all over it. She was completely accepted and adored. They even occasionally ask about her birthfamily and how they are doing and don’t hassle us at all about having an open relationship with them. My family on the otherhand totally shocked us and went the other direction once Hannah was born. While they adore Hannah and treat her like an absolute princess, they are not accepting of Hannah’s birthfamily at all. There has been much jealously about having to share Hannah with another family and disparaging remarks made both to them and about them to us. At one point we thought we might have to cut contact with my family if they couldn’t get their acts together it was so bad. We worried about the message it would send to Hannah to hear (and feel the hostility) negative things said by people she loved about other people she loved. We weren’t about to allow that to continue and felt we had to nip it in the bud before Hannah got old enough to totally get it. Things seem to be better now and while there are no longer negative remarks made in our presence, I don’t feel like they accept Hannah’s birthfamily really. Unfortunately, I can’t make them. I can however make sure they don’t express their opinions in front of Hannah by reminding them that if they want contact with Hannah they have to play by our rules and that includes respecting Hannah’s birthfamily’s place in her life and our decision to maintain a close relationship with them by not expressing negative attitudes in front of Hannah.
Hannah’s birthfather’s family doesn’t know about the adoption. What do you tell Hannah about that? Do you think they will ever find out?
Well, so far Hannah hasn’t really asked about Mike’s family so we haven’t brought it up either. I have some answers prepared and ready for when it does come up, but all my adoption parenting books say not to give kids more information than what they ask for. When they are ready to process certain aspects about their adoption they will ask. Another part about this that makes it tricky is that Mike now has 2 other children with two different women (not Hannah’s birthmother) that also do not know about Hannah and whom we have never met and who it is likely we will never be allowed to meet. I did manage to pull some pictures of them off of facebook and have saved them on my computer for Hannah for when it comes up. It just breaks my heart that I will eventually have to tell Hannah she has siblings that she can’t see and that I can’t make it happen no matter how much she may want it because their mommies have the final say. So, I guess at the moment Hannah isn’t curious about Mike’s family so we haven’t told her anyting about it yet. I’m not sure she’s ready to process the fact that some people have negative ideas about adoption or hide pregnancy’s because they are ashamed of them (she still hasn’t asked the big “where do babies come from/how are babies made?” question yet so I’m not going to do anything to hasten that conversation!) because to her adoption is a perfectly normal part of life. She doesn’t feel different because of it yet and I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible. She already has so much that makes her different from her peers (giftedness and a behavior disorder) that I don’t want to add more to her plate before she’s ready. I do think that someday Mike’s family will find out about Hannah since it’s a pretty big seceret to keep and it seems like the bigger the secret the more likely it’ll be blown wide open at some point. Now that Mike has friended me on facebook I think the likelihood that someone will put two and two together based on our posts and conversations is great. I’d love to meet them and learn more about them since we know very little about them. If even to just get a better feel of family health history and pictures I’d love to chat with them even if they don’t want an ongoing relationship. Unfortunately, it would be disrespectful to go against Mike’s wishes and contact them ourselves. However, when Hannah is old enough we’ll give her all the information on them we have so that she can try to make contact if she wants.
Thanks so much to Natalie for being a great interview partner and to Heather at Open Adoption Bloggers for hosting this amazing project.