Monday, November 5, 2012

Myth: Open Adoption Is Always Awkward For Everyone Involved

Myth Busting Monday

One of the biggest reasons I decided to start blogging again is because I want to normalize the adoption experience for my family and especially my children.  I am frequently asked many questions regarding adoption, which I welcome.  Much of the time these questions originate in misconception or myth, this is my effort to remedy (at least a little) these misunderstandings.  I have found that many times all that is needed is education.  While I do not consider myself an expert, I choose to write from my own experience backed by research when available.

This last weekend Norma and I taught a class on openness at the Southwest Regional Families Supporting Adoption Conference held in Tempe, Arizona on the ASU Campus.  Go Devils!  I could not have been more proud of Norma!  She spoke directly and confidently about her side of how we make open adoption work for us.  With November being National Adoption Month I would like to share several points we shared in our class over the coming days and weeks.

It is commonly believed and somewhat a myth that open adoption is awkward and uncomfortable for all those involved with it.  Open adoption is a relationship and like any relationship it has it's awkward and uncomfortable moments, especially in the beginning as people are getting to know one another.  Recognizing this as the case, Norma and I have come up with a list of things we believe help overcome those moments and move into a more relaxed and happy relationship.  Most if not all of these I have learned by trial and error so don't feel bad if things don't go as well as hoped for, this is a relationship and all sides need to understand that mistakes will be made.

1. Plan your visits at a time that works well for both of you.
No one (at least not anyone I know) wants to get up at the crack of dawn and meet with the adoptive or birth family to get to know one another better.  Meeting at a comfortable time is especially true if their is a baby or children involved in the visit and one or both sides have spent the better half of the night up feeding and caring for the baby.

2. Meet in a location you are both comfortable with something to do.
If you are not sure whether you want to invite the other half of your adoption into your home by all means do not invite them!  Meet at a restaurant, a mall, a zoo, children's museum, splash pad, or park.  Many would say the adoption agency is a good choice but I don't agree.  Meeting in a sterile room where there is nothing to talk about or do can really stifle the conversation.  I think it is so much better when you can discuss what menu items look good, the animals or art you are viewing, or how cute it is that little Sam doesn't want to do anything but go down the slide.  Having something to break the ice is vital and makes the conversation easier for everyone.

3. Prepare yourself for the visit.
Please do yourself a favor and get some rest, exercise, relax, and eat well.  The last thing you want to think about during those initial visits is how hungry or tired you are.  You want to go feeling happy, confident, as relaxed as possible and on a day when you don't have a hundred other obligations to fulfill.  Plan ahead of time what you are going to wear and please don't pull out the heels and sassy skirt just because you feel great in it.  Wear something you feel good and comfortable in; something that looks nice but you can still handle a baby or small child in.

4. Take someone who "gets it" with you and discuss with them how you would like the visit to go before you get there.
If you are on the adoptive couple side, this person is preferably your spouse as the birth mom and her family will be wanting to get to know both of you.  If you are the birth mother or father, take someone who is supportive of your decision and who is supportive of you in general.  Before you arrive, discuss with them any subjects or people you do not want mentioned or talked about in detail while understanding it is quite normal for an adoptive couple to ask about the birth father. 

5. Get to know each other before you invite the whole family along.  Don't bring "surprise" guests you have not prepped the other one for.
As with any relationship you are hoping to have last for a lifetime it starts slow and eases into getting to know one another before inviting all your family and their opinions into the situation.  This is especially true with open adoptions as many in your family may not understand or get why this is so important.  Bringing along your friends or family because they are curious about who the other side is can wait and shows respect and care for the relationship.  There will be plenty of time for sharing as you get to know one another and how much easier it will be when you have had time to warn the other about Aunt June and her off the wall comments about adoption.

This is what Norma and I came up with, we're curious what you think.  What have you done to help ease into a tender open adoption relationship?  Tell us!