Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The beauty of open adoptions

Angela and Madison at Angela's graduation with her Masters degree!

This post has been rolling around thru my brain for at least the last 3 years, or as long as I've had this blog.  As the title implies, our family finds beauty, comfort, and great love in having an open adoption with Madison's birth family.  I suppose I'll start at the beginning and take everyone along on our tale.

In January of 1997, Marc and I decided the time was right to grow our family from just the two of us to adding a wee one.  We always knew we would adopt and selectively chose to make our family exclusively through the gift of adoption.  We chose Heritage Adoption Services in Portland, Oregon and began to accumulate our paperwork, complete a home study and attend training classes.  By March we were pretty close to completing our dossier and after talking with our wonderful, WONDERFUL adoption social worker, Sue, we decided on domestic adoption of a newborn of any race.  Early in March, Sue began to bug me about completing our birth parent album and because I am a huge procrastinator, I failed to grasp the subtle sense of urgency in her nagging.

For about a week straight, Sue would call and gently ask if our album was complete....or even near completion.  For those unfamiliar with a birth album, it is a biography of the adoptive parents complete with pictures and letters written to a birth mom and is used by the birth parents to choose the adoptive parents.  So to say the album is critically important is an understatement.  It is something that you try to encapsulate your life, who you are and what you wish for their child should they pick you to parent their baby.  For us, the album was a labor of love.  We chose pictures that demonstrated who we were and what our lives' were like.  Needless to say, our album was a mixture of humor and frivolity.  We wrote our "Dear Birthmom" letter as though we were the birth parent and what we would find comfort, security and reassurance in.  Ultimately, if the positions were reversed, we would find great solace in knowing our child's adoptive family, and in having contact that reassured us in our choice and in affirming our decision.

Finally on a rainy Friday afternoon, I drove into Portland and delivered our album to Sue at the adoption agency.  I drove home knowing that from here on out, nothing could help us be placed with a baby quickly other than prayer.  Our waiting had begun.

On Monday afternoon, the phone rang and it was Sue.  She was calling to tell us that a birth mom had chosen our album and wanted to meet us.  Our wait had ended!  I don't remember how long it was before we went to meet the woman that had chosen us, probably several days, but it seemed like an eternity.  To say we were scared, nervous, excited or sick to our stomachs would be inept at capturing our feelings.  We prayed that the birthmom would like us in person and want us to parent her child.  We had no idea, that the birthmom would be afraid that we wouldn't like her, or find some reason to not want to parent her child.  How odd to realize now, that we both had the same emotions about meeting each other.

We met Angela towards the end of March at the adoption agency office.  I don't remember fear or nerves once I laid eyes on her.  The second, and I mean the very first second, I saw her, I knew I liked her.  Our meeting went very well and we agreed to meet again for dinner at Applebee's in Lake Oswego.  We met again and it was then, that I realized I would like her as a friend regardless of an impending adoption.  Angela and I continued to do fun things for the next several weeks to include having her over to our house to see the baby's room.  That was the first time she met our 3 Rottweilers, Molly, Gotcha, and Zedo.  She's a cat person, so seeing 3 large Rottweilers was a little bit of a shock, and maybe, just maybe it contributed to her going into labor.  It could have also been the Italian food for lunch or the Mexican food for an early dinner I force fed her.

Either way, about 11PM on April 16th, 1997 Angela called us to say she was heading to the hospital with 'indigestion' and wanted to know if we wanted to meet her at the hospital?  UM,'re giving birth to our baby and you seriously want to know if we want to be there or stay home in bed and watch the Late Show??  Of course we wanted to be there and jumped in the car, ran every red light and made it to St. Vincent's Hospital in about 2 and a half seconds.  She was being admitted when we got there and it turns out Angela was about to have a baby.

We wandered the halls with her to help her labor and would have been kicked out of the hospital if she wasn't in labor when we got off the elevator on the cardiac care floor and I asked what the stink was, Angela replied, "That's the smell of death!"  We burst out laughing.....the three of us, one wearing a gown and in labor and Marc carrying a box of kleenex since we would spontaneously burst into tears.  Angela gave birth to Madison at 8:30 in the morning, April 17th and Marc got to cut the cord and we were there to witness her very first breath of air on this planet.  She was so fresh from God; a perfect, gorgeous baby girl, placed into my arms as I stood next to Angela.  There we were.  Her two mom's forever locked in love all because of this sweet, innocent angel sent from God.

Our relationship with Angela is amazing.  Naturally we know she gave birth to our daughter, but I love her for a gazillion other reasons.  I love her sense of humor, her infectious laugh, her ability to use sarcasm, her indescribable joy of life.  She is very intelligent and we are immensely proud of her achieving her Master of Occupational Therapy and her dedicated work ethic.  Angela is a fabulous woman and when I try to explain to people how much I love her and enjoy being with her, I'm always surprised by people's reaction to our story and open adoption.  I've tried to explain that Madison was the instrument that brought us together, but that I love Angela like a little sister, a dear friend, someone whom I cannot imagine not having in my life.

Angela has been there at moments in my life to support me, that only God could have known that I would need her.  Angela was babysitting Madison and Thomas when she answered the phone at our house explaining that my Dad had been taken to the hospital.  She then called me to tell me.  She was also there the very last time I saw my mom alive.  It was her arms that held me and comforted me when I closed the door to the Alzheimer unit and broke into tears knowing I would never see my mom alive again.  How could anyone have foreseen that Angela would not only have given us our first born child, but become an integral member of our family.  She loves all my kids like she does Madison and treats them all like the fun auntie she is.

Madison has relished having Angela in her life.  From the little things like finding out what foods you both hate, to almost killing her with sun stroke, Madison has benefited from knowing her birthmom.  When I watch Madison walk, I see Angela in her footsteps.  I hear Angela's voice inflections in Madison's words and I see Angela's smile in Madison's face.  What tremendous gifts this beautiful open adoption has been.  Of course we also have a beautiful open adoption with Madison's birth dad, Darryl, but I'll blog about him another day.  Yet again, our relationship with him is a blessing and he is a wonderful, fantastic, handsome man that we adore.

For years I have wanted to share the tremendous love and respect I have for a dear friend/little sister named Angela who just happens to have given birth to my daughter.  From a gigantic universe, God brought us together and gave us the gift of not only a beautiful baby girl, but also a friend whom I trust with my life.  To all those nay-sayers who think open adoptions are bad news or confusing for the child, I ask you to look into your heart and see what beautiful experiences may just be waiting for you.  Our adoption has been so much more than I ever imagined.


GB's Mom said...

I so wish I could have given GB this gift. It is beautiful that you gave it to Madison! {{{Hugs}}}

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

What an absolutely amazingly beautiful gift!

Angela :-) said...

Even when the relationship isn't as close or wonderful, it's still an amazing gift for your child. :-)

Angela :-)