Saturday, July 5, 2008

Update time

Back when the kiddo was born, we made an open adoption agreement with her birthparents. By "made" I mean that her birthparents wrote up a list of what they wanted out of an open adoption and we wrote up a list of what we wanted, then we sat down all together and compared lists, coming up with a final draft together that everyone agreed upon. This was then signed and notarized in the presence of our attorney along with the other adoption papers. Now, I've always said that our open adoption is "morally binding" if not legally so. I'm not about to get into the whole issue about open adoptions - good, bad or otherwise?, nor am I going to say that one way or the other is right or wrong. For me, as an adoptee who grew up in a closed adoption (as there really was no open adoption back when I was born), open adoption seemed the right choice, the best choice. Hubby agreed with me, so that is what we pursued.

I've always envied the families who have a great, warm, open relationship with their children's birthfamilies. I would not characterize our situation over the past five years as particularly great or warm. The details of this will remain private, but suffice it to say that there have been difficulties along the way. That being said, Hubby and I have continued to send the update letters, photos and videos as best we are able, per the schedule her birthparents requested. Unfortunately, there have been more than a few times when we've had our packages returned to sender, at which point we hold on to them until we again have a valid address.

We send these packages hoping for but not really expecting a response. That's part of what I envy in those other families' relationships - this is not as much of a relationship as it is a one-sided giving. That's another post in and of itself, my thoughts on how an open adoption really ought to be considered binding on both halves of the family - that the birthfamily should, by rights, owe the adoptive family the respect to keep communication/correspondence up from their end as well. More on that some other time...

So, whenever update time rolls around, I get a little obsessed. I sort through the hundreds of pictures I've taken since the last update with painstaking care. I take soooo many pictures of the kiddo, her life is extremely well documented, to say the least. There is hardly a single day in any given week when I'm not pointing the camera in her direction for one thing or another. Sam's Club's Photo shop has a love-hate relationship with me; I generally order triple or quadruple copies of whatever pictures I'm printing - sets for us, the kiddo's birthfamily and the grandparents. While Sam's Club must love the bills I rack up at least quarterly doing this, they also hate processing my online orders and more often than not, my order gets messed up somehow. (Like a month or two ago when I got a call from them that they had a batch of pictures for me - pictures that were an extra set of ones I'd had processed back in December.)

I pore over the pictures that we send. The kiddo's birthmother once requested that we not send pictures that include either Hubby or me in them, so I try hard to only send along shots of the kiddo. (Same thing for the video, though occasionally you will hear one of our voices in the background.) I don't go for all "glamor" shots, either, where she is all cleaned up and looking pretty - I want her birthfamily to have an accurate picture of the kiddo and her life, scrapes and dirt and all. (Though we always get copies for her birthfamily whenever we do have professional pictures done. I mean, yeah, I want them to see her looking pretty too, as she is the cutest thing around, of course...) I try to cover every major event as well as day-to-day happenings. I write a short description on the back of each photo to place it in context and date it as well. It typically takes me at least an hour or two to get the pictures together and ready to send once I've had them printed. It's always at the back of my mind whenever I'm taking pictures to capture the occasion for her birthfamily, so they can see the kiddo's life as clearly as possible.

A lot of folks don't get it. They don't understand why we persist in sending the updates after all this time, especially those who know the entire history. Even those who seemed to think it was a good idea right after the kiddo was born are surprised to hear that we're still sending updates five years later. The fact of the matter is, we're doing it because we said we would. We made a promise on the kiddo's behalf that we would keep her birthfamily updated on her life after we adopted her. Maybe someday, when the kiddo is old enough to take over as the primary correspondent, she will choose not to send anything. When we reach that point, it will be her choice, because she is the adoptee. Until then, we will continue to do this on her behalf, regardless of whether we get a response. Besides, how would it feel to know that you had a child out there somewhere and you didn't know - couldn't know - how they were doing? If they were even alive or dead? I can't imagine having to wonder about that for a second, much less a lifetime. I've asked people to put themselves in those shoes for a moment, when they shake their heads in disbelief. As a mother, I would never want to have to wonder about my child. So, that's one more reason why we continue to send the updates we promised, but mostly it is because this adoption plan wasn't made to suit us or her birthparents. It was made to be in the kiddo's best interests, and we as her parents were entrusted with the responsibility to act in her best interests five years ago. To our minds, it's pretty simple.

Now, if I could just get the hang of our new video camera's editing software, I'd be all set!


My name is Andy. said...
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Lylah M. Alphonse said...

I've rewritten this comment umpteen times and can't seem to say what I mean, so I'll just say this: It is a shame that more parents -- adoptive or not -- aren't more like you and Hubby with the idea of a morally binding contract and the idea of putting their Kiddos' needs first. It's hard and complicated and frustrating and stress-inducing at times, but it's also the right thing to do. Thank you for sharing this! XO.