Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Truth About Open Adoption

Ben and I are standing in a crowded, curtain clad room, just days, after little Tyrus was born. We're still living in a haze, frustrated that we had to wait over an hour because the county office doesn't believe he's our son-we have no paperwork to prove it (termination hasn't happened, yet), and strangely wondering why Michael Jackson's death paralells that of a god.

The under-age attending nurse collects Ty's bloodwork for the state, slaps on some bandaids, looks directly at me and asks, "So this adoption thing was pretty easy for you...?"

I stifle a laugh, sneak a peak at Ben, and answer with a definite, "No. No, it wasn't."

Most of the world is blind to adoption. I wish it was a national hot topic...that the country would care as much for these babies and foster children, as it does for conflicting politics, world war, and controversies over healthcare.

All I can do is my part.

I can share my experiences, honestly, and hope it helps change mindsets. That our story will inspire others to adopt...even those that think it's not for them.

I've been wanting to write about open adoption, specifically, for weeks, but am just now finding the time. Openness is definitely curving toward the trend, in the world of adoption, but can still be a very scary topic for those considering it. I assume those reading have read most of our story and know the closeness Rebekah and I have with one another. My casual approach to our relationship may have readers believe that choosing to engage in "open" adoption was an easy choice for us....but it wasn't.

Open adoption is scary. And we didn't commit right away. Before we were matched with Rebekah we had closed our minds to open adoption. We just didn't see how it could be beneficial...or comfortable. Even when Rebekah requested an open adoption, when she chose us, we walked very tentatively...praying that God would lead us.

It didn't take long until I considered Rebekah friend...we were always ten steps ahead of the agency and they had a hard time keeping up with our openness. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers and information....neither of us really considered any topic "off limits," and talked about everything under the sun.

Before Ty (as in all the days with Rebekah leading up to the birth), I would have told you that open adoption is perfection...that everyone should do it, and that it's a beautiful gift to give your one day son or daughter...

Today, I would say...open adoption is difficult-but rewarding, everyone should do it-if given the opportunity, and I'm so thankful that I'm able to gift my relationship with Rebekah to Ty.

Nothing about this process is easy...and that includes open relationships. It's almost like a tug-of-war game. There is nothing better than being able to give your son a full history lesson on his heritage, to have hundreds of family tokens...from pictures to letters to gifts...to be able to re-tell his birth day and the tears that were shed by all...to have been been there, in the room, at all...or to read him the last email sent by his birth-grandma so he can hear the love in her heart. Yet...a very big YET. There is nothing more difficult than knowing the pain you've caused in another woman's heart.

The day after we came "home" from the hospital, Rebekah and I sobbed together on the phone. Her telling me how hard her day was...me trying to convey the gratitude in my heart. We were both a mess. The minute I hung up I realized how much easier a closed adoption would be. Sure, Rebekah would still have pain....but then I wouldn't have had to hear it. Maybe I could have moved on with my life quicker....maybe Ty would have felt like my son sooner.

Those are selfish thoughts for sure, but I felt them. When Rebekah wept in the room next door, as she signed her termination paperwork, I felt every tear...When Rebekah blogged about her heartache days after, I read every word...When we were out together and someone asked how she was, I saw the pain that veiled her eyes. Her experience did not escape me.

The openness of adoption is hard.

A day doesn't go by that I don't think about her, even two months later. Although the emotions have settled, it's still hard for me. I can't believe that Rebekah gave me the boy I call son. Part of the difficulty comes from the fact that I love her. I want the best for her. And I wish that she could have the joy of knowing and seeing Tyrus every day.

Like all adoption emotions, I was ill prepared.

It's almost fitting for it to be difficult. If Rebekah had to make a selfless decision to give me her son...than I should have to be selfless in giving her a relationship. Even if it was hard for me to see her pain.

Now that we've walked through the most painful days and life has settled in...I really wish Rebekah and her whole family lived close...I do. I miss them terribly and want them to share all of Ty's moments with us, not just through pictures and videos...Rebekah and I try to talk weekly, but it's never enough.

The openness of adoption pulls you in deep.

Do you want to know what the coolest thing about it is???

Someone else on the planet (other than your spouse) cares as much for your son/daughter as you do. I know grandmas...and aunties...and friends care. But it's not the same. Rebekah was just as excited as I was when Ty's bottom lashes grew...and was equally pained when I told her of Ty's first shots...Just like me, she watches and re-watches the nonsense-he's hardly-doing-anything videos I make, because she loves him as much as I do. Do you know how special that is? We giggle over his quirks, agree that he's the most beautiful baby alive, and dream about the things to come...together.

Rebekah is the only person on earth who will ever experience a mother's love for Ty with me. The ability to share such an incredible gift is remarkable. It makes my heart explode. As great as all of that is for me, the true winner of our open adoption, is little Tyrus Lee...

He doesn't know it yet, but he won the baby lottery. He has two worlds of people that would give their lives for him. Two mommies that are committed to cheering him on for life. And two parents who will never take his life for granted...who thank God for him every day...who will do everything possible to keep both worlds functioning as one...one big, loving family.


  1. Very beautifully written- you have a wonderful way of sharing from your heart. I cannot wait to share this post with my husband as we wait to be matched.
    Thank you for sharing all that you share--

  2. Great post, Rebekah!! It is hard to know (or in my case just imagine) the pain that comes from your dreams coming true. Where on earth would we be without these women?

  3. You have such a way with words. You put such emotion into your posts. You are very right, closed adoption is so much easier from a selfish standpoint. There are many, many times in Dmans short little life I have wished that we could have at least met his birthparents to get a glimpse into who they are. And he was instantly our son. This time, we have gotten to meet the birthparents and it has been harder to think of this baby as mine. I know her, but it's also been nice to know who she is. It is definitely bittersweet and there are pros and cons no matter how your adoption details work out. Ty is a beautiful boy and he really did win the lottery!

  4. Your story is so beautiful and I am so grateful that God has not only gifted you with the talent to write incredibly well but also with the heart to desire to share the bare truths.

    Thank you, Rebekah!

    P.S. - Ty is getting more handsome as each day goes by.

  5. Gawd! Such a beautiful post! And ty just gets more beautiful by the day!

  6. wow. I am speechless. Your post actually took my breath away. You have taken ever feeling, every emotion I have felt over the last year and wrote them in that post. Yesterday I opened the mailbox and there was a card and gift for DJ from his birth-grandmother. My heart exploded. It made me cry to know how many people love my son the way I do!! I too was completely closed to OPEN adoption. I am so blessed that God chose the road of open adoption for us. It's the scariest, most rewarding, most loving experience I have ever known. Thank you for sharing and writing everything I wanted to say.

  7. This was such a good post. I've been thinking about what our relationship with our child's birthmother will be like, too. I have also thought about the hard parts of it as well as the really great parts.

    Thanks for sharing your point of view...

  8. He definitely is very blessed and I know you won't let him forget it (neither will Rebekah!).

  9. thank you for sharing that! i wondered how everything goes about in an open adoption. mine was closed. very closed. my mom gave me the paperwork when i turned 21 from the court that had my birthmother name and 2 names put down for the father. (she wasnt sure) i searched long and hard but was able to find them both just before my mom passed from cancer. (including the right bfather). a friend of mine has a sister that gave her child up for adoption and it was open. the little girl was even in her birthmom's wedding! i love reading about your story and your family is in my prayers! God bless you!

  10. You definitely summed it up, but I think that is also the parents job. To endure pain and suffering and hard times, so our children can benefit from the things we go through. And you're doing it. :)

  11. You are such an elequent writer Rebekah. So warm, so heartfelt.....
    Thank you for being so open with your adoption story when people ask or comment. I am kind of like you in that sense. I believe that if someone comments or asks, no matter how off the wall it may be, it is really just their way of being curious. I, also like you, hope that in my being open and honest it may open some eyes and hearts to adoption. Maybe dispell some myths...
    Please keep writing, I always enjoy your posts!

  12. You say that maybe you would have felt like his mom faster if it was a closed adoption, but I can tell you it can be the opposite. Without an open adoption, it's like he just fell into your lap, and you wait for someone to come and take him back. It took me until the finalization (at seven months) to feel like my son's mom without seeing anything from the birth family. I, too, still think of my son's birth mother every day, but I have to imagine it all. That is so hard, not knowing anything and having no one to talk to about it. I'm not in any way trying to say you're wrong! Just reassuring you that it's hard no matter how open or closed it is. You see the tears, but you see the smiles, too. Relationships are hard, but the absence is, well, empty. You were so wise and so blessed to have the opportunity for an open adoption and to take that leap of faith:-)

    And, yeah, I totally hear you about Michael Jackson, LOL.

  13. Oh boy....where do I start. This is such deep honest truth and it hurts my heart and brings me joy all at the same time. I have friends that know about our struggles and often suggest adoption like it is the "easy road" and boy I just have to laugh at them sometimes. I think to myself every time...Man, I just don't have it in me the way that Rebekah does. Perhaps one day, when the time is right, our path will go this way but for now I just sit back and admire your strength, your courage, and your beautiful soul. Your family, in it's entirety is nothing less than amazing. Thank you for always being so open and sharing with us.

  14. thank you for this rebekah. I have been living in a dream world that open adoption is the only way to go, but now I truly understand how hard it can be also. Adoption is just a hard thing all around, and I think your situation is definitely better in the long run, but it also does take a toll on your emotions. I'm just praying for the right birthmother to come to us, and hopefully they will want a semi-open placement. But I'll take what God has for us, no matter what it is. I just love your story though!

  15. thank you for writing this post. as someone at the brink of an open adoption journey, this was the viewpoint I've been searching for.

  16. Wow. Just wow. Your words are so important. They are so important because they express what my heart feels. All of us open adoptive mamas just "get" each other. Though some of the details are changed, our overall feelings are so similar.

    Our open adoption has had some very hard moments. I'm not sure I'll ever feel like I can blog about those moments but they've been (and probably will in the future) be around. BUT...Sunday while we celebrated Declan's 1st birthday I looked to my left and there stood Dec's birthdad with a huge smile on his face. Then, over to my right- his birthmom laughing about Declan walking on his tiptoes. It was surreal and fabulous.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

  17. I totally agree, especially with your last few paragraphs. I remember thinking about this when you announced your match because I remembered that you'd said you weren't considering open adoption before that point, so I enjoyed reading about your experience with this. Ours was similar, but a little more gradual than yours because of our different circumstances :)

  18. TOTALLY TRUE! You do have a special relationship though...Ours too is "open" but I think it is too painful for "K" as she rarely calls. We call, but we don't want to push either and usually get her voicemail. You have all been blessed.

  19. Beautifully written R. Thanks for sharing :)

  20. Wow. . . Your honesty is breathtaking. I can't believe someone at the hospital would say that this adoption was easy. Adoption is never easy. Adoption always goes hand in hand with loss. It's hard. It's scary. You are right though. . . Ty definitely won the lottery and in my opinion, there can never be too many people who love your child.

  21. What a beautiful post. I think about our son's birthparents daily too.

  22. What a wonderful post! I stumbled somehow across your blog and have been following it for a while. Congratulations on your son! He is blessed!

  23. I love this post! I had to chuckle when you said, "Like all adoption emotions, I was ill prepared." I think that kind of sums up this whole experience.

    None of us could have imagined the changes through which this process would take us - the tremendous pain and joy that are, inevitably, at the core of every adoption story.

    I think what you have with Rebekah...and especially the fact that you are both so open and willing to share your stories...well it is amazing!

    Speaking from the other side, from having ended up in a closed adoption, despite my thoughts that it would be different for us, I can totally relate to what you say about open adoption being hard. Many times I have thought about HER, the woman to whom I owe the beautiful and precious life of my son. I cannot being to fathom her pain and suffering these past months, even though I do wish I could have known her. To see that would have been very difficult for me.

    Having said that, I dread the fact that one day I will have to see the pain in my son's eyes when I have no way to explain to him why she couldn't care for him...when I have no answers to his inevitable questions. Mercifully, I have time to prepare myself for those days, and I have a tremendous support system within our agency to help me through those times, but it still makes me incredibly sad.

    I think either way you go about it, there are parts of adoption that are hard, and that can't be understood without personal experience. I wish more people could get it, and I too wish our society cared for these children as much as we do!

    As usual...a beautifully written post!



  24. wow that was such an awesome post. It was so touching and heart felt. I can feel the emotions as I was reading it. You are great with your words. He is adorable and I am so to hear that you stay in contact and experience every thing together. I wish I can have an open adoption but I don't know if that is going to happen now that we are going through DHS which they terminate the parents rights but maybe we would be able to keep in contact with grandparents if they are willing to be in contact with me. That sounds hard to go through when you know the birth mom is in pain while you are celebrating. I hope some day I can experience this. :)

  25. i'm glad ty has a first mommy and a second mommy that are willing to deny themselves to give HIM everything they can. that is pretty special.

  26. beautifully written as always....i feel truly grateful for the gift of openness that we are able to give our son, however being aware of the pain that someone else is feeling due to their decision to choose adoption is never easy.....my compassion, love and desire for happiness for milo's birthmother runs deeper and deeper everyday and, in turn, affects me too. i understand your heart in this matter and know that the love and compassion will only continue to grow as our relationship grows.

    there is something you have written here that i've been thinking about all morning. Your words are:
    "There is nothing more difficult than knowing the pain you've caused in another woman's heart."

    do you truly feel that the pain that Rebekah is feeling has been cause by you? I think Rebekah would agree that the pain she is feeling has been caused by the difficult decision she had to make and by the loss of her son in her daily life. I would be willing to venture the thought that her pain has actually been lessened by the wonderful couple she found and chose to parent her son.

    i know that through my 7 years of infertility and heartache, i blamed myself for so much and felt so much guilt at my inability to conceive. i promote that we stop blaming ourselves for those things we have no control over and choose to embrace each other and nurture one another in every way that we can ~ guilt free! :)

  27. Well said Jamie in the above comment. I wish Jamie's blog was open as she has such an clear biew of adoption.

  28. Rebekah- I think this is one of your best posts. You have such a gift of being able to convey your emotions and experiences in a way that the reader- at least this one-
    can really identify with your experiences. Your relationship w/ Rebekah is so beautiful! I, who have never met either of you- wish that your families could live closer togerher and share Ty's life together.

    As I've said before, I'm a huge supporter of adoption. I too wish it was a national hot topic. I care deeply about the children in the foster care system. I worked w/ quite a few childern and teens who were in the foster care system.
    Some were actually adopted and the adoption did not work out. I saw the pain those children lived with and it hurt my heart tremendously!
    Working with these kids at an emergancy shelter was so very rewarding and heart breaking at the same time.

    Best wishes to you as you work on your master's degree! Let us know how it's going.


  29. I recently read a book that touched on this and I'd never even thought of it from this angle before. And then, hearing it first hand from you...it's like, wow. The emotions truly are never ending, huh? I can't wait to read your story in a book one day...I know I will!!! :)

  30. You are a truly gifted writer. I admire the way you express your deep, abundant love for your son through your writing. You are absolutely correct...Tyrus is so blessed because of the amazing relationship you share with his birthmother, Rebekah--and the incredible love you both have for beautiful boy.

  31. I read this blog post yesterday but of course went back and read it again today. When I first read it I was not sure where it was going and was thinking "oh no am I being to demanding as a birth mom?" LOL Of course your words explained it all and even more show how deeply sensitive you are to me and my heart.

    I was reading the comments and took particular attention to Jamie's comment. I absolutely agree, my decision was made so much easier knowing he was going to you.

    And in the comment you made on my blog about Ty's "true mother." Rebekah, you are and always will be his true mother, in every sense of the word, that was my gift to you(and Ben as his father)...giving up my place as his mother and giving it to you.


    1. Considering this post is five years old, you may never see this comment. Just have to say, you are a generous lady and Ty is blessed to have two "true mothers" in his life that have his best interests at heart. PS He is gorgeous! :)

  32. Oh how I wish more people understood why we chose open adoption. Is it easy? Heck no! Is it worth it? I think so. I certainly hope so! As our daughter is getting older, the questions are becoming bigger and I can see the confusion setting in. "Why were her sisters in my tummy, but she wasn't" That sort of thing. While I would not change our situation for anything, the inevitable hurt that she will feel makes me wish for a milli-second that she knew nothing. That we would do things old school and lie about her beginning. Of course, we would never do it, but now you know, you will do anything to avoid pain for your child.

  33. That is a lovely, heartfelt adoption story. I'm grateful for Rebekah,too.

  34. Thank you. When we went throught the homestudy we were asked how much openess we would be comfortable with and we were very conservative. I started reading you experience just before Ty was born. It was just about the time our homestudy was approved. Your experience has me double thinking about how open I could be. Thank you for helping me see the possibilities!

  35. Thank you, that was beautifully said. Having an open adoption will help Rebekah more than you know. Your posts are so real and so raw. Thank you.

  36. Thabk you for sharing so honestly this experience with your readers. I gave you an award on my blog. Hope you have time to swing by and get it. Thanks for being the real deal!

  37. thank you so much for your comments. We have been matched with a BM and she also wants an open relationship so its very interesting to see how things really are:)

  38. Yours words ring so true...it can be so easy to be caught up in the mistakes our birth parents have made...and then you hear the pain - and love - in their voice and you can't help but be overwhelmed.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and raw emotions.

  39. Thank you for saying what you said. Although, I have no adopted children.
    I do have friends who where adopted and family that was adopted. I do want to adopt someday.s

  40. I just started a post tonight similar to this. Meaning I could have written at least one side of this post. I still 16 months later have that guilt. But I think the reason it is still there is that I don't have the relationship with my daughter's first mom like you do. I wish I did. I know that you know how unique your relationship is. I thank God for the example you are giving everyone that thinks open adoption is just too scary to handle.

  41. Your writing is beautiful and honest, thanks for sharing your perspective as an adoptive parent. And Ty is such a cutie.
    I'm not sure I agree with your statement that Ty won the baby lottery. Even open adoption is not enforcable by law, and I can't imagine any human honestly feeling as though they won the lottery by losing their original mother's daily care and relationship. It is still a loss. Profound loss.

  42. You have changed my opinion about open adoption. Thank you so much for writing this post. My husband and I are in the first stages of adoption (paperwork) and your blog brought tears to my eyes. You have a beautiful little boy and a wonderful birth mother ( I was given your blog and hers by a friend).


  43. Hi, I am just reading some of your older posts, I have 2 children openly adopted who are now 27 and 25 yrs old. Hope all has gone well with your adoptions and ongoing communication with birthfamily, it is the ONLY way to go!

  44. I'm sorry to be the only person that has commented that does not agree with open adoption. Is open adoption really what is best for your son? Should he not have the freedom to fully graft into your family? Open adoption may be called adoption on paper but it is not adoption. There is a confusion for the child in an open adoption. It's as if another family is always peering into your family. The question should always be, "What is best for the child?" Please know that I mean no harm. Adoption and children are near and dear to my heart.