This guest post is by AdoptiveBlackMom, an adoptive mother and blogger.
My daughter, Hope, and I became a family about six years ago. Weeks after the finalization of our adoption, a portion of Hope’s extended biological family found both of us on social media.
I was so early in my parenting journey that I had a hard time at first with their appearance in our lives. I knew that open adoption is a good thing, but I did not anticipate the relationship opening so quickly.
I had started looking for Hope’s family, and I had a few leads that I planned to pursue after we returned from our celebration trip to Disney World.
Instead I found myself responding to a host of messages sent to me and Hope from numerous family members asking for all kinds of information.
It was sometime before I could reconcile the shock of it all and really help Hope emotionally deal with the opening of our adoption.
She was very emotional. She was sad, happy, angry, and grief-stricken. It was a really difficult time for her.
It was kind of hard for me too, even if it wasn’t about me. I initially really felt threatened by the appearance of Hope’s birthfamily. I was afraid they would take her away from me.
I was afraid of having to share her. I was terrified of losing this kid who had taken my entire heart as her own. As it turned out, Hope’s family were just happy to have found her.
Several years in the foster care system resulted in lost communication. They had no idea what had happened to their granddaughter, their niece, their cousin. She was just gone. To have found her was a miracle.
Their gratitude for creating a new life for Hope was humbling. And so we embarked on a complicated but loving journey to create a larger family for me and Hope.
We visited during school breaks. We exchange holiday gifts. There are regular cards and calls to express our love and to keep up with life’s goings on.
Having an open relationship has resulted in many things I didn’t anticipate going into older child adoption. I never expected to have baby pictures of my daughter.
I never expected to have pictures of Hope with her father. I never expected to see wedding pictures of her parents. I never expected to have a window into her early childhood. And now I do. Thanks to our
extended family, we have pictures hanging in our home of Hope’s family.
We also have health history. Nearly two years ago, Hope had a medical issue that is very rare in occurrence with adolescence. It was really concerning.
A simple call to Hope’s family revealed that this wasn’t rare for her family; there is a clear family history and there is a clear treatment plan that others have had that is effective.
Having this information and being able to share it with her doctor is literally life-changing for Hope. Hope got the treatment she needed; her family played a role in facilitating that, and I was able to just be a bridge.
Having this family connection is so important to us. This year marked 5 years post finalization and Hope’s high school graduation. It was one the biggest events of our time together so far.
Sure there were lots of milestones along the way: Hope’s sweet 16. When she got her learner’s permit for driving. All the band events, and when she decided to go away to the boarding school for her senior year.
But Hope’s high school graduation was a huge accomplishment for her and all of us. When Hope became my daughter, she didn’t think she would finish high school and had never considered college.
Over 5 years, she grew, evolved and set new goals. As I addressed graduation announcements and invitations, my daughter was making her final decision to attend a small liberal college.
Things for us have changed so much over the years. On one of the biggest days of Hope’s life, she was surrounded by so much love. While much of her biological family was unable to travel the long distance to her campus, her favorite aunt and uncle were able to join us.
My family attended. Family friends traveled for the event as well. And we sat together as one giant family, because that is what we have become.
As the commandant called Hope’s name to receive her high school diploma, her aunt was positioned in the aisle to see her as Hope descended the stage. Although I told Hope that her aunt has RSVP’d, it was clear that she was still stunned that she had traveled the many hours to be there.
The joy on my daughter’s face as she spotted her aunt in the aisle, waving furiously, will be one of the best moments of my entire life. There was shock, then joy, then love.
In the aftermath of the ceremony there were so many tears, tears of joy, tears of sadness for the times lost and for family who could not join us, tears of pride.
It was a hugely emotional day for Hope and for all of us. In the moments before everyone departed, we all talked about the future and all of the possible events in Hope’s life that would bring us together to celebrate again.
We dreamed of her college graduation, weddings, baby showers, her children’s first days of schools and their graduation. We dreamed together as a family, the way that families are supposed to dream together.
I’ve learned that embracing an open adoption was definitely in Hope’s best interest. This kid, and kids like her, can never have enough love. They can never have enough champions.
It hasn’t always been as easy or as happy as what I’ve highlighted in this essay, but it has always been what is best for my daughter. As for me as an adoptive parent, it has required me to truly put my values into practice.
I have always been a believer in grace, forgiveness, and family. An open adoption required active practice of living these values. I had to learn to be gracious towards people who I initially felt abandoned Hope.
I had to learn their side of the story and the pain they felt in having lost this amazing child. I had to practice forgiveness towards them, our original social worker who bad mouthed them and myself.
It all felt very messy at first; I didn’t see a path to the love that we experience now. In order to move forward, I was the one that had to do the work to get us on that path. Finally, I was always raised to believe in family.
Despite Hope having the love of my family, she is entitled and deserving of the love of her people. Without any safety or security reasons, how could I deny her that birthright when she had lost
so many others?
Today, Hope is finishing up her first semester of college, and we all talk often about how she’s doing and when we will get together again.
Hope is healthy, happy and loved by a lot of people. Open adoption feels scary at the outset, but it has been a beautiful part of my and Hope’s story. I hope it will also be a beautiful part of your family’s story too.
AdoptiveBlackMom and her daughter, Hope, live in the DC area with their dog, Yappy. ABM blogs about her adoption journey as a single parent to a teen adoptee at www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com.