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? :):)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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;).