Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable # 10

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. Publish your response during the next two weeks--linking back here so we can all find one other--and leave a link to your post in the comments. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

Open Adoption Roundtable # 10 is being hosted by Thanksgivingmom.

This is a topic that is very timely for me (Thanksgivingmom) right now, but is something that all of us in open adoption deal with at least once during the year: birthdays.

I know that birthdays can be an extremely emotional time, for everyone connected to adoption, not just those of us in open adoptions. So what is it that we do, as part of our open adoptions, during the “birthday season”?

Our experiences on this are so diverse, that I don’t want to limit your responses to one specific question. BUT, since some of us (like me!) sometimes like the specific questions, here are a few that have been rattling around in my brain as my daughter’s third birthday approaches:

• What do you/your family do to integrate open adoption and birthday celebrations?
• What do you wish you would see in future birthday celebrations re: involvement with your child’s adoptive parents/birth parents?
• Do you have an open adoption agreement that requires contact on/around birthdays?
• How does that agreement affect you? Do you wish it were different? Do you wish that you did have an agreement that requires such contact?
• If you do not have contact around birthdays, do you do something private to honor birthdays?
• If you’re an adoptee, how were birthdays celebrated in your family with regards to open adoption?
• How do you wish they would have been celebrated?
• And anything else you can think of!

I'm going to approach this topic from a different angle then most people. That of an adoptee who grew up in a closed adoption. While that may not fit with the norm of the roundtable, I hope that I can shed some light on why closed adoptions are hard and why I want to help promote open adoptions whenever I can.

When you are adopted, birthdays can really suck!

Sure there are parties and presents and cakes. But eventually we all get to the realization: This day that everyone is celebrating is the day that my whole life changed. Somewhere out there is my mother. Is she thinking of me? Does she miss me? Is she sad? Is she even alive? What would my life have been like if I wasn't adopted? That just leads to confusion. You look around at all these people at your party, people that you love and you try to reconcile the fact that if you hadn't been adopted then you wouldn't know these people. Your Mom wouldn't have made you that special cake. She wouldn't be your Mom. I'm almost 40 and I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. Imagine what it's like for a little kid.

My first memory of a birthday (not sure if I actually remember it, or have just seen the picture and heard the story so many times) is from the year I turned 3. The candles are lit, my Mom is bringing me the cake and everyone is signing. I burst into tears and fled. Was it adoption related? Who knows. Maybe I was just overwhelmed. Maybe I had missed a nap. But ever since then I can't stand to have anyone sing Happy Birthday to me. It always makes me cry. Now I can fake the plastered smile and the thank you's, but inside I hate it.

Every year around my birthday I get melancholy. I think about Iris and wonder about the what ifs. I have never spent a birthday with her and I never will. I treasure the first birthday card she ever sent me, 1 year after I found her. It's a "Happy Birthday Daughter" card. Just thinking of that makes me tear up again. Being acknowledged as her daughter was the best gift I could ever get.

Liam just turned 7 this past summer. For him birthdays so far have been presents and cakes and celebrations. Yet for the past 2 years he has not wanted to have a party with his friends. In his words, he wants to spend the day alone with his family (meaning Hilary and I). The allure of glow in the dark bowling alleys or swimming pools with all his best buddies bringing him a mountain of gifts has no hold on him. I've never met another 7 year old who not only doesn't want a party, but out and out refuses to have one. Maybe it's just him. Or maybe the fact that 3 months after his 7th birthday he refused to talk about his birth because it was the day he was separated from "K" means that he too has come to the realization:

Birthdays can suck.


luna said...

this is really powerful. thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Andy, I'm REALLY glad that you answered the question from your perspective. I think it sheds a great deal of light on open adoptions, and your opinion is certainly valued.

So again - thank you!