What did you learn about open adoption in 2011?
This year I learned that someone else can call my darling boy "son" and he can call her "momma," and I'm okay with that.
I've allude here before that after a long stretch of not hearing from her, we have reconnected with D's birth mother, V. It began with a phone call and then a flurry of loving and honest texts and telephone conversations in late summer. Then when she suggested we come to her small city and spend the day with her, we jumped at the chance. After all, we hadn't seen her since just a few weeks after our son was born.
The visit went really, really well. We all admitted how nervous and excited we were, and there were a few moments of stiff jitters, but soon we began sharing photos - us of D over the months, and V of herself as a child - and talking about our shared hopes and dreams for this boy.
V indicated that she's taken the big step of disclosing her placement with several important people in her life, and indeed, we were honored that she introduced us to her new roommates. Her life continues to be tumultuous, but she expressed again and again how important we all are to her and that - even though it is sometimes difficult - she wants to be a part of D's life and for him to be part of hers.
Before we arrived, V shared concern about how D would respond to her. Would he remember her, or indicate any kind of special connection? Frankly, I was worried too. He was (and still is) a toddler who takes awhile to warm up to people. He clings to me and especially to M, checking new situations and unfamiliar people out. I worried that V had unrealistic expectations about how comfortable he'd be with her after such a long separation.
In fact, he was timid at first, but she wisely held back a bit and he quickly got comfortable. Before long, he was his bubbly self. In fact, perhaps he did intuit their special connection, because he let her hold and carry him much sooner and longer than anyone else he doesn't spend a lot of time with.
The four of us headed off to the county fair. It was fun! We all - especially D - marveled at the colors, and sounds, and the throngs of interesting people. Of course, the kid loved seeing real cows, and chickens, and bunnies. V walked around a tiny ring with the tiny boy on his first tiny pony ride.
As the heat of the day mellowed and the arcade lights began to flicker on, V bought D his first cotton candy. "Here, sweetie, Mommy has a treat for you," she said, as she extended a sticky wad toward his grinning face. He looked at me a little confused, then lunged toward the sweet treat.
I said something to the effect of, "That's right, D. I'm your mommy and V is your mommy!"
Later in the evening, we all met up with V's roommates. "D!" she said, "Where's your momma?" To the obvious delight of V and her friends, D pointed at her.
And you know what? It was weird. To be completely honest, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that this was testing some of the things I believe most deeply about open adoption. Since then, I've thought about those exchanges and discussed them a bit with others. The fact is, D does have two mothers, two mommies. But this was a new test, and I found that sometimes my heart (and insecurities?) makes it a challenge to practice what I preach. That was something important that I learned about my open adoption in 2011.
Standing there, with the smell of dust and popcorn in the air, and his darling birth mother bouncing him in her arms and beaming with pride, I knew that what he or anyone else calls us doesn't change who we are to him. We each play important but different roles in his life.
My son with his other mommy
After D had waved, we'd embraced tightly, and said our goodbyes, I was the one who prepared his cup of milk on the tailgate, checked carefully that he was secure in his car seat, and softly sang lullabies as his dark lashes fluttered and he drifted to sleep on the long drive home.