Experiencing Open Adoption

Tonight I took the kids Christmas pictures on our kitchen table.  I am so excited with how they turned out!  You can see them in the December Album.  I already have some hung in our family room and I can’t quit looking at them.  Are they precious or what?  :):)

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Over the last 10 months, I have had many questions through email about our open adoption.  I talk about this once in awhile but I thought I would address more questions as it seems this is a subject a lot of people are curious about.  Following are some questions that I am often asked:

How often does Amanda see Ty?

Since Ty has been home from the hospital (April), Amanda has seen Ty at least once a month, usually more.  Is this normal for an open adoption?  No.  From my understanding, most open adoptions allow 2 to 4 visits per year.  We do not have a "set" schedule set up.  We just work it out as it comes.

How often do we talk to Amanda?

Well…you just try getting a hold of that chic on the phone;)!  I usually have to relay messages via her mom (Cheri) and Cheri and I talk about once a week but we talk to Amanda often also.

Is it hard for Amanda to see Ty?

I hate answering questions for Amanda but as I have asked her the same questions, I’ll share what I think she would say.  Yes it is hard but it would be harder not to see him.

How is Amanda dealing with the adoption now?

Amanda is grieving.  Placing Ty for adoption was the hardest decision she ever made and likely ever will make.  She does not regret her decision but still she mourns.  It would be abnormal if she didn’t mourn.  This grief takes time to work through and there is no time table for it.  It is what it is. 

Amanda’s grief is probably the hardest part of open adoption for me.  I see up close and personal what her sacrifice cost her.  My incredible blessing is the sorrow of her heart.  That is a hard thing to reconcile.   It even feels "strange" sometimes to realize that someone else is grieving over my son because Ty is so "mine" that it is easy to forget the price someone else paid for me to have the priveledge of being his mommy.  When this does hit home for me though, my heart is heavy for the grief that Amanda carries.  I love her so much and I want to take this pain away from her.  This is pain that can only be validated though, not erased.  It is tough to know what I can do that would be most helpful. (If there are any birthmom’s out there who would like to offer some thoughts, please do).  This is unmarked terroritory for both Amanda and I and thankfully we have such an open relationship that we can talk honestly about these things.  The fact still remains though that the source of my great joy is the source of her suffering.  I am hopeful that someday in the future, time will soothe much of the agonizing anguish and the relationship that is build between Ty and Amanda will, while not replacing what she lost, at least allow something beautiful to rest in its place. 

What are your adoption boundaries?

We haven’t set many.  Our relationship developed through crisis (Ty’s early birth) and through time.  By the time we would have sat down and talked through a "covenant", we had already established such a loving relationship that it just didn’t make sense to do it.  We had already surpassed what the convenant limitations would have been:).  The only specific boundary we have is that all family members reference Amanda as "Amanda" and Ty’s birthfather is referenced by his name.  Jim is Ty’s only daddy and I his only mom.  Those titles cannot be shared.  We also ask that if anyone need reference Amanda’s relationship to Ty, they say "Amanda, Ty’s birthmom".  We also ask that Amanda refer to herself as simply "Amanda" and Ty as her "birthson". 

How do I feel when Amanda see’s Ty?

Happy:).  Before I experienced open adoption, this would have been one of the things I would have thought I would have dreaded.  You picture this moment where your child is being held by another woman, a woman who gave birth to him, a woman who shares many of his features and personality traits.  You picture this incredible bonding and you worry that you will feel a "loss" as though part of your own  motherhood has been taken.  That has not been our reality though.  The truth is, Ty has only one mommy and we are very bonded to each other.  Amanda is not a threat to me.  When Amanda comes over to see Ty, I am simply anxious to see her and hug her.  When she holds Ty, I see someone I love holding my child.

When I look at Ty, do I see someone else’s child?

No. This question could be applied to Tanner as well especially since Tanner looks less like us than Ty does.  From a practical standpoint, when I look at Ty I often see myself.  We have a few features in common.  Once in awhile I see Amanda in Ty but I had hoped for that.  I wanted him to have her eyes and I think he does.  Using Tanner as an example though (as we have zero genetic similarities), the thought never occurs to me.  When I look at both of my boys I just see my sons.  I see the fingerprints of God all over them and I love the way he fashioned them in his creative beauty.  I see it as a bonus that we have children with such a wide variety of genetic features.  Beautiful illustration of the creativity of a loving God.  Aside from their physical appearance, I see much of myself and Jim in both Tanner and Ty.  That, I am sure, is the result of God choosing them for us.  He knew from the moment of their conception that they would be our children and I think God considered that when He lovingly fashioned them.

What will Amanda and Ty’s relationship be like when he gets older?

I guess we’ll have to ask them;), but my best guess is that Amanda will "feel" like an aunt to Ty.  She feels like a sister to me and that is more of the relationship that she and I have in Ty’s presence so I think that will be the likely outcome.  I think Amanda will probably feel a bit like an Aunt to as time goes on and she grows in a new relationship with Ty.

What are the benefits of open adoption?

For Amanda

While she did loose "motherhood", she did not loose a relationship with Ty.  She feels so much more secure in her choice when she see’s him and knows that he is happy and loved so much.   She has gained another family and extended family who loves her and who will be eternally grateful for the sacrifice she made.  She can talk about Ty with other people and be able to answer questions about his life and show her friends pictures.  She will have the opportunity to see him hit milestones of life and participate in many events of his life.  She will have a place of honor in our family and our son will grow up knowing that she is truly a hero.  She will not have to worry about what Ty may think or feel because she will have a relationship with him and any question she has…she can ask.

For Jim and I

I believe that things kept hidden have far more power to harm then things brought to light.  Open adoption creates security not insecurity.  Often I am asked if Amanda could take Ty back.  The answer is no.  He is legally ours forever.  When Amanda released rights to Ty it was permanent and irrevocable.  When we adopted Ty through the courts we created a forever family.  If we had a closed adoption though, the ideas we might have about the other person and their interest in our son may cause some stress.  In an open adoption, this relationship is non threatening…purely loving.

In a closed adoption, Ty may have "day dreamed" about an unknown reality.  This sometimes create stress for adopted parents.  In an open adoption, this is not much of an issue because all cards are on the table. 

Lately it occured to me that another dimension to the gift that I have in Ty, is the gift of Amanda in Ty.  In loving Amanda, it is such a blessing to me to see Amanda in my son.  She has a fervent love for life and such a happy spirit.  Ty has the same sparkle.  I feel as though God gave me a bit of Amanda and anyone who knows Amanda realizes that is indeed a treasure.

For Ty

He has two sets of family who love him.  He will always know the truth about his adoption and he will have all his questions answered.  He will know that his birthmom loved him so much that she layed herself aside for his benefit.  There is no greater love.  Will this create confusion?  I don’t think so.  I think it will be just his reality and it will feel "normal".  My cousin Jamie was shocked in kindergarten when she found out that not everyone is adopted LOL!  I think Ty will actually be more secure than most because he will have double the amount of people in his life pouring out their love upon him. 

For Tanner

Part of our adoption agreement included Tanner.  We asked Amanda’s family to "adopt" Tanner as we adopted Ty.  They have done that.  Tanner loves his Grandma Cheri and loves for her to come over and play with him.  She has even rolled down grassy hills with him at the golf course – something mommy (who is allergic to grass) is not even willing to do LOL!  I think this has been a life changing thing for Amanda’s family too because they have a different understanding of adoption because of their love for Tanner.  Grandma Cheri carries pictures of both boys in her wallet and calls them both her grand kids.

Conclusion:)

I would not advocate open adoption for everyone.  There are some situations where it would not be appropriate.  Sometimes there are extenuading circumstances with genetic families (substance abuse that could emotionally be harmful to child for example).  Some adoptive families are more insecure and need tighter boundaries.  Some persoanlities just don’t mesh. 

I think it is wonderful though and hope that more familes choose this in the future.  I watched a show on tv the other day that I found heartbreaking.  A birthmom was sobbing several decades after the fact over the child she had placed for adoption.  It was a closed adoption and she lived the rest of her life feeling ashamed and worrying about the welfare of the child she placed.  Her misery was heart wrenching.  I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  An open adoption could have allowed healing so much earlier. 

I also would point out that our adoption is the most open I have ever heard of (outside of a familial adoption).  I believe this is because both families asked God to choose and He brought us together for His purpose.  We have all gained so much from our relationships with each other and we look forward to the love we will share in the future.  It may sound strange to you but if you spent an afternoon with Amanda and I you would just see family.  You would leave thinking "Hmmmm…that’s strange that it wasn’t strange!" LOL!  You’d probably have to see it to believe it though;).

Still sick…

Age: 10.6 months
Corrected Age: 7.1 months
Weight: 17.5 at last check

Yep…sigh….Ty still has a cold.  The bad news is that it seems to be carrying on.  The good news is he is still satting just fine.  (That is GREAT news actually).  A couple of nights he struggled a little bit and I got worried but last night he did great. 

His eyes are starting to cross worse this week though! What is up with that?  The eye doctor told us that he could take 6 weeks to gain the strength to keep them straight but they are getting worse than right after surgery.  That doesn’t seem right.  Are we going to have to do this surgery again?  Uuuuuuggghhh!  *He does look adorable though:).

Jim and I also have been noticing that the toe curling only seems to happen when we touch his feet.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if he was just sensitive or ticklish? LOL!  Here’s hoping…..!!!

Jordan!!!

Tanner is feeling better this week it seems!  Since I just posted Monday, this will be brief but he (as always) did say a few things to make me giggle this week.

On sharing

When I ate one of his french fries he gave me the "stop" hand and said "Mommy! Dat’s enus! (enough)"

Anger

Yesterday I heard Tanner raising his voice in his play room.  I asked him what he was mad about and he said "I mad at dese horsies!  Dey keep shalling off!  I getting angwee!"  (I am mad at these horses.  They keep falling off.  I am getting angry.) LOL!

Jordan!

When Ty rolled under the Christmas tree and started pulling at things, I heard Tanner say "Jordan! No!"  He skips straight to the middle name:).

Growth

Tanner is going through a stage where he doesn’t like to wear anything even slightly tight.  He is outgrowing many of his size 3 shirts because they are too short through the arms.  Yesterday he figured out a new way to test for size.  When I put a shirt on him he flexes his muscles and brings his elbows together. If he can’t get them there he say’s "I too strong for dis shirt". LOL!  We went through 3 shirts this way yesterday til finally I just chose the biggest shirt in the closet:)!

Why oh why oh why…

Over the last several months, I have been asked repeatedly ???Why don???t you ask WHY????  Why infertility?  Why the loss of 10 children?  Why a baby born at 25 weeks?  Why why why why why????

I wanted to take a few moments to write about this as it has been on my heart lately.  First, it is important to realize that most of my ???web readers??? have only been following our story since January when Ty was born.   By the time our little miracle arrived so prematurely, Jim and I had already had several years walking the road of suffering and had learned much on that journey.  It no longer occurred to us to ask that question.  In the preceding years we had learned that ???Why???? is the wrong question.

The better question is ???For what purpose????.  I learned this from a book I read (Holding on To Hope ??? posted link in the right column).  The author had lost two children to genetic disorders and wrote a book on the life of Job.  I read this book twice during my many miscarriages. 

Throughout the last few years I have learned that the motive of God???s heart is love.  When He allows sorrow into my life, that decision was motivated by His love.  For those suffering, that statement can sometimes feel appalling.  For a mother who has just lost her child, the thought that God called her little one home in an act of great love seems incredibly contradictory and unjust.  I cannot explain the ???why???s??? in this equation.  I don???t know why God gives permission to some of our pain and calls it good.  Often it doesn???t ???feel??? good.  I do know that God???s plan was immortality???no death, no sorrow.  When sin entered into the equation, sorrow entered also.  Sin in our world has consequence and it rains on the just and the unjust alike.  I often think that even different than ???For what purpose????, it also would be meaningful and relevant to say ???Why not????.  What qualifies me to be a person deserving of less suffering than someone else?   This is the proverbial ???Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people????. 

While God???s plan ULTIMATELY does not include suffering (ie. Heaven), suffering is definitely part of His plan right now. 

Hebrews  5:8-9 say???s (NIV): ???Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.???

That verse captured my heart last week!  We already know that suffering was part of God???s plan for Jesus.  That was very evident.  What is awesome to me about that verse is that first, Jesus learned obedience through suffering and suffering perfected the work of God. (Note:  This isn???t to say Jesus was made perfect through suffering as if to say he wasn???t already perfect ??? He was.  It is saying that God???s plan of salvation was made perfect through suffering.)

This then makes suffering an honor for me.  God did not spare even His own son from this.  I do not question God???s love for Jesus.  Did Jesus ask ???Why?????  No.  He did ask God to remove the suffering though if God???s plan could still be accomplished without it.  The answer to Jesus was ???No???.  Suffering WAS required for God???s plan to be made perfect. 

Do I believe that suffering has helped refine me into a more obedient child of God?  Yes.  Do I believe that I have matured in Christ BECAUSE of suffering?  Yes.  Do I believe that suffering is a CRITICAL element in my growth and in refining me into a woman that seeks the heart of God?  Oh yes yes yes!!!

Am I being a martyr here?J  Nope.  I wouldn???t have been brave enough to raise my hand and volunteer I am afraidJ.  Still though, I look back with a grateful heart.  Yes even at the death of my babies.   I can???t explain entirely why they had to die.  I never will.  I can say though that by their death I came to a better understanding of God and His goodness and what it meant for me to surrender to His choice.  My ???Why???s??? turned into ???For what purpose??? and by the time Ty was born, there was no bitterness or anger left.  I had already battled those things with my losses before and God called my heart to submit to Him???submit without knowing the answers.  Trusting in what I did not understand and could not see.

If you have been following my journal long, you already know that I am a pretty black and white chic.  When it comes to my relationship with Jesus, I only see two choices.  Follow completely or disobey completely.  (Of course, I am not perfect in following ??? not even close.  I am only speaking to condition of the heart).  I remember when I was in Junior High the time came in my life when I had to really choose for myself.  Did I believe I had been taught truth?  I studied on my own and I read the bible through in its entirety for the first time.  During that year I realized that I was not capable of ???halfway??? behavior.  It would be all or nothing.  If it was going to be ???all??? than there would never be any turning back.  Ultimately, I choose ???all???.  I have never gone back and I never will.  I have banked it all on the truth written in His word.  I have chosen to believe even when I don???t understand. 

At this point in my life, it doesn???t really ???matter??? if I ???get it??? or I don???t.  It doesn???t change truth.  God is good.  God???s motive is love.  God is using suffering to perfect me into an image of Christ.  He is allowing suffering to teach me obedience.  I choose to accept that even though often times I can???t say I enjoy it one bitJ.   I am learning to consider it a great honor though.  During times of suffering I have an unparalleled opportunity to say to the King of my salvation, ???I will choose you though you slay me???.   It doesn???t have the same level of sincerity to say this to Daddy God from a place of joy and blessing.  When we have the opportunity to say it during the low points of life???that is when the gift of our belief is the most sincere.  If I have banked my whole life upon these truths, doesn???t it only make sense that I would consider it a privilege to give this gift of belief?

Jesus sweat blood in the garden.  I think that tells us that he was not real excited about suffering either.  Still He obeyed and submitted his life.  The cost was great.  He was the only one that could have made a way for us to enter heaven though.  Scripture is very clear on that.  (I will write more on that topic this month).  The greatest gifts ever given to me came at a great price.  First and greatest, my salvation???.Christ bought me with His life.  Second, my children.  Two other families gave incredible gifts of love to us (Tanner and Ty) at GREAT  GREAT cost to themselves.  Having been on the receiving end of the price of suffering, having received the incredible gifts that suffering purchased, I see suffering differently.  The price of suffering contributes exponentially to the beauty of the gift.   For this reason, I do not want to ask ???why????.

Wrap your heart around the ???truth??? of suffering this Christmas season.  You will see Jesus with brand new eyes.

Physical Therapy Session 2

I know I already posted about Ty today but as he had his PT session this afternoon, I thought it would be easier just to type a quick posting before I forget what his therapist said.

She observed the following:

*Feet seem very tight.  He curls his toes continually and it is tough to get him to straighten them. 

He has done this for a long time.  Could it be a cerebral palsy warning sign?  Possibly but it could also be (a) a preemie hyper tension issue or (b) learned behavior.  Something to watch.  Apparently the calf muscles affect the toes so if the calves were tight he could curl his toes.

* When on his tummy, he seems to support his weight with his left side.  He doesn’t reach for toys with his left hand while on his tummy because he is using that arm to support his weight.  Hmmmm….didn’t notice that until today.

*When holding his bottle, he grasps it with his left hand but curls his right hand in a fist and supports it.  I can work with him to grasp with both hands but in a few minutes he goes right back to curling the right hand.  What is odd about this is that he uses both hands and he does not do this with toys…only the bottle.  Learned behavior or an early sign of something else?  I know other preemies that are in hand splints for CP but why would he only be exhibiting this curling behavior with his bottle? 

*Therapist was noticing his head shaking.  This one is certainely a dilemma.  For a long time now Ty has been shaking his head back and forth as if he is saying "No".  I have posted about this before.  I can narrow it down to about two things.  One being social behavoir and/or response to stimulation.  He rarely does it when he is playing alone.  99% of the time, he shakes his head when he is trying to interact and play.  Sometimes he will do it when you are playing with him and he is involved with a toy though and that suggests to me that it could be a stimulation issue.  It caught the therapist’s attention and she noticed that he can be distracted away from the head shaking (I have noticed this as well).  Neither of us know if this is learned behavior, immature social response, or ????????

*Ty is very active:)!  She thinks this will be to his benefit because he is in perpetual motion.

*His motions are rigid and not fluid.  He still has swiping motions with his arms when he is grasping or reaching for things. 

*He hyper extends a lot still.  (Stretching out and stiffening as opposed to curling up).  He doesn’t arch his back unnaturally like some babies do but he does tend to stiffen as oppossed to curl up.  This goes back to being a preemie and skipping all the education he would have received on muscle control had he had the uterus as a play gym for the 3rd trimester:).

*Eyes still crossing.  You will see this in some of his pictures this week.  The Dr. told me it would take about 6 weeks for this to stop as he has to build up these muscles.  Hopefully that is the case.  His eyes have seemed to cross more in the last few days though so I am hoping that this is not a bad sign of another eye surgery in our future.

*If you stand him on his feet, majority of the time he wants to jump.  Is this because he is just always moving or because he doesn’t want to stand and support his weight?

While this list may seem a bit concerning, all these issues may be simply micro preemie complications that he will out grow and not a sign of long term issues.  I do know one thing.  Ty and his daddy and mommy are all 3 pretty determined people and irregardless of what our obstacles are, I think we will find a way:)