Wahoo! It's time to share this year's Open Adoption Interview!! Many kudos and thanks are due to Heather over at ProductionNotReproduction for coordinating this initiative to connect and learn from bloggers involved in adoption from many different perspectives.
This year, I was paired with an adoptive parent who I'd never "met" before, Lisa at Consumed by Love. She and her husband are the dotting parents of Olivia, who just celebrated her fourth birthday and is eagerly anticipating becoming a big sister. They have an open adoption with Olivia's birth mother, Miss Samantha.
As I read through Consumed by Love for the first time, I recognized some significant difference in our lives and some remarkable similarities. Lisa is thoughtful and caring and very dedicated to her family and community. I learned from her experiences and enjoyed getting to know her, and I think you will, too.
Really, I just wish we lived close enough that I could have invited her over for a nice cup of tea and a long chat while our kids played together! The questions I asked Lisa are in bold.
What are a few things you'd like anyone new to your blog to know about you?
I’m an adoptive mom, a Natural Family Planning advocate (and teacher), and an infertile. I believe the path that led us to becoming a family was orchestrated by God and was for our own good. We learned things along the way…important lessons that make us a stronger couple and better parents.
It's clear that your faith is an important part of your life. How has it influenced your family building? Your parenting?
My faith does permeate my whole life, and it is a part of all of our decisions. I always assumed that we’d have a houseful of kids and be one of those families that witnessed to our faith and openness to life by having a large family. But God had other ideas, obviously. So, likely, our family will be much smaller than I had envisioned, but it is a witness to our faith in other ways. We witness to our “openness to life” by being open to the children God sends us, however he chooses to send them. Right now, that means being a multi-racial family anticipating the adoption of another racially-different child. In the future, our openness to life may very well lead us to foster care and/or adoption through the foster care system.
My child is the smartest, strongest and most athletically gifted kid of her age that I’ve ever seen, and that was all genetic. She is naturally gifted…we didn’t give her any of that. We did give her an environment where those gifts could shine through. That very fact makes me ponder the potential of every child and imagine a world where every child can grow up in a home where he or she is safe and loved and can explore and develop his or her unique gifts. These are the kind of thoughts that make me think we may become foster parents someday. My heart hurts for all the kids I’ve seen who have been abandoned, abused or neglected during those years when they most need security, support and stability. Through our faith, we see that infertility has given us the “freedom” to adopt and, perhaps, the freedom to be available to be foster parents. We just have to discern where we are being called.
Our faith also influences our parenting and how we pass on our values to our daughter. Olivia knows that God is in control of the “baby brother or sister” department, and she asks Him regularly to send her one (while trying to be patient in waiting). She also knows her birth story and understands God’s part in bringing us together as a family. We talk to her about kids who don’t have two parents, and kids whose parents can’t afford all the fun things she enjoys. We’ve used these lessons to teach her about generosity and sharing what we have with others. As we do every year before birthday/Christmas time, we recently went through her things to decide, together, what toys she wanted to keep and which ones we’d donate to “kids who don’t have a lot of toys.” I was amazed, this year, at all the things she was willing to give away to other kids. I think these are important lessons to learn early, and our faith and the way we live it helps mold her worldview to include a love for the poor and a desire to be involved in charitable organizations.
What about being a family that is multi-racial and built by adoption has surprised you?
First of all, I’m surprised by how many other families there are like us. I see them everywhere, and I don’t recall having noticed them before we became a multi-racial family.
Second, even though families like ours are more commonplace now, I’m surprised at all the double-takes I get when I’m out with Olivia…particularly when people hear her call me Mommy. She is very light-skinned, but her hair stands out, and I often wonder what kind of things are running through the minds of people when they stare at our obvious differences. To be honest, it isn’t until I notice them staring that I even REMEMBER the differences. We’ve been a family since Olivia came screaming into the world, so I don’t SEE her as different in my mind.
I’ve developed a tendency to look for diversity in her dolls and books, to try to expose her to images of people who share her ethnic heritage. I think allowing her to experience diversity will be more challenging for us as she grows, since we live in a rural and very homogenous area. Olivia knows she’s different, but for now it doesn’t bother her at all. We’ll see how that changes as she grows older.
You are currently waiting to adopt another child. How have your views about adoption changed since you were matched with your daughter's birth mom? Have those views influenced anything about your current plans?
When Olivia’s birth mom was making her adoption plan, we were understandably nervous. I remember thinking that my ideal would be a semi-closed adoption where we’d have her mailing information and would send regular photos and updates and maybe the occasional phone call to keep her informed about Olivia’s life. Visits never even occurred to me. I wanted to keep some contact so Olivia would have that connection when she got older and wanted to know more, but I certainly didn’t want her to be a regular part of our life.
Oh, how that has changed! There are many things about Samantha’s life that we want to shield from Olivia’s knowledge for quite some time. However, we love seeing her regularly and spending time with her. Olivia knows that she grew in “Miss Samantha’s belly” and she sees her as her very special friend. I think that relationship will only help her as she grows and learns more about who she is.
I have an overwhelming appreciation for Samantha and the sacrifices she made to give Olivia the life she wanted her to have. She seems to have an overwhelming appreciation for me and for Joe and truly enjoys her time with us and with Olivia. It just seems natural to us to include her as part of the family as much as we can.
With our second child, we are hoping to have an open adoption from the start. We are not nearly so apprehensive the second time around, and we’ve had the benefit of reading and learning so much more over the course of the last four years. We see the benefit of openness to both the child and the birth mother, and we think that relationship is worthwhile and worth fighting to maintain.
An issue with which many bloggers struggle is determining what details of their lives that involve other people are appropriate to share, and what aren't. As a mom in an open adoption, how do you determine what is your story to tell, and what details to withhold because they are your daughter's, her birth mother's, or someone else's story?
This is a hard question for me because I often struggle with how much to tell. My blog is a place for me to work through my own thoughts and emotions when it comes to some of the frustrations and challenges of this whole parenting and adoption business, so it seems natural just to tell it like it is. However, any time I run into a story that starts telling itself in what I’d term “identifying details,” I try to back off and go vague. While Olivia’s birthmother isn’t what we’d call “computer savvy” (she joked the other day with Olivia that it took her 10 minutes to figure out how to turn on her friend’s laptop), I would never want her to find our site and be embarrassed over what I’d shared about her. At the same time, she’s pretty open with us and with others about ALL of her dirty laundry, so I do feel like I can share a little without overstepping. I think part of that depends on the personality of the birth mother.
The FACT of Olivia’s adoption is another story. There are schools of thought out there that say that her adoption story is hers to tell…and that is true, but it’s also our story of how our family was made. And it’s a GOOD story! There’s no question she was adopted, nor will there ever be a question about it. Anyone who sees her and us will guess as much. So leading with that information makes it seem normal, commonplace and ordinary. Our family was built through adoption, and there is no shame in that. Sometimes, I think the idea of withholding that bit of information seems to put adoptive families into the proverbial closet. And we don’t want to be there. Adoption, even with its issues of loss, was and is ultimately a joyful thing for us, and I think being open about it helps witness to that…not just for us but also for Olivia. It helps HER to know that she’s special and loved and that her story is a good and happy one and she should never be ashamed of it.
The details of her birth mother’s situation at the time, of course, are things that we’ll share with her as she’s old enough to understand. THOSE are hers to share as she chooses. But the fact that she was adopted and she has a birth mommy named Samantha…that’s easy stuff for all of us to share.
Honestly, as she grows older, Olivia may decide that reading through details of her potty training mishaps will be more embarrassing than reading about her adoption.
How do you envision your blog evolving in the future?
Again, it’s hard to say for sure. Right now, the blog seems to be more about life and parenting than about adoption. But when that second child comes along, he or she will come with his or her own adoption story and birthmother issues that will inevitably cause me to examine adoption issues and talk about them more here. Mostly, the blog has always been about what is on my mind, from infertility to adoption to foster care to the best way to get your preschooler to go to bed on time. I don’t imagine that will change much.
Thanks, Lisa! I look forward to following your family' story and wish you all the best.