Tell Me Your Story: Of Open Adoption

Meet Ezra. He recently celebrated his first birthday, and on his birthday there were presents, birthday cake, laughter, and smiles. There were also, presumably, smiles shared between Sarah and her husband Joe, thankful for the important milestone they could share with their son because they both knew the journey that brought them to that day was not an easy one.

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In 2001, after a complicated pregnancy and 48 hour labor, Sarah gave birth to her older son, Isaac. Five years after Isaac was born, Sarah and her husband had grown apart and ended their marriage.  Sarah then met Joe who quickly swept her off her feet and proposed after a few months. Sarah and Joe tried for several years to concieve, but because of Joe’s health complications, they realized adoption would be the next step to expand their family.

The journey of adoption started with a failed match. Having a failed match can be a source of heartache, but the Bakers were not able to grieve privately because they were being filmed for the Oxygen reality television show, I’m Having Their Baby. Before filming, Sarah recalls that their prospective match seemed excited to share her story of choosing adoption over abortion, but as the months progressed, the relationship between the Bakers and their match began to break down and filming became incredibly difficult. Sarah and Joe knew this baby would not be theirs. Although producers and film crew were sympathetic to the Baker’s grief during filming, the experience was both heartbreaking and discouraging. Being on the reality show taught Sarah and Joe many lessons, but it didn’t deter them from trying to adopt again.

Aware of their failed match, one of Sarah’s longtime friends contacted them about her sister who was considering adoption. Sarah passed along her profile to the expectant mother who later called the Baker’s agency saying she thought it might be a match. The two families met, instantly hit it off over lunch, and agreed to move forward. In the next few months, Sarah was invited to doctor’s visits, listened to her Ezra’s heartbeat, and asked a thousand questions. Although Sarah and Joe were excited, there were still so many questions. Would it be a healthy pregnancy? Would the expectant mother change her mind after the baby was born? Would the families remain close after delivery?

Ezra arrived three weeks early, on January 10, and when Sarah and Joe brought him home, he fit right into their family. Sarah said it took Isaac, her older son, a while to come to terms with adoption. Isaac was around six when adoption was first brought up, and he feared that he would never see his adopted sibling as his “real” brother or sister. Sarah and Joe understood Isaac’s fears and walked him through the process. They allowed him to ask questions, read him information from their adoption classes, and gave him the time he needed to take everything in. Today, Isaac and Ezra are “best buddies”, and there is no better feeling than for Sarah to see her two boys laughing and playing together.

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The Bakers

Many prospective adoptive parents may shy away from an open adoption because they are unsure of how to proceed with the relationship with the birth mother or birth family. How many visits are appropriate? Will the child be confused? How much access should be given? Sarah advises that an open adoption must be something that prospective parents are comfortable with. From the beginning, boundaries must be set, and the success of the relationship is dependent on how well the two parties communicate. Sarah advises that parents must not “overpromise and underdeliver.” If the birth parents want 2-3 visits a year, that has to fit the adoptive parents’ expectations. Also, adoptive parents should not operate from a place of guilt or fear. The relationship between the two families must be based on love, compromise, and understanding.

For the Bakers, visits are usually centered around holidays: both families gather for Mother’s Day cookouts, Labor Day picnics, and Thanksgiving meals. On those occasions, Ezra is able to see his birth parents and two older biological siblings.  An open adoption can be difficult to navigate, but Sarah knows Ezra will now grow up knowing his birth family, have access to his medical history, and never have to question or search for his roots.

When asked how she thinks Ezra’s relationship with his mother will evolve as he grows up, Sarah is hopeful that he will view his biological parents as “those really special people in his life..almost like a favorite aunt or uncle.” She hopes that the open relationship between the two families will result in Ezra not resenting his birthparents for the adoption. It takes a village to raise a child, and someday Ezra will know his mother and birth mother did everything they could to provide a village of loving family members to raise him from a boy to a man.

To learn more about Sarah and Joe’s journey, visit Sarah’s personal blog at http://1grewinmyheart.wordpress.com

It’s Okay to Laugh

Parenting requires love, patience, and a sense of humor. We live in an era of social media where everyone has an expert opinion. Parents today face enormous pressure to “do it right”, but it’s a tough job, and adopting can sometimes make parenting even tougher. With all the challenges of raising children, it’s refreshing to see parents step back from the seriousness and smile.

Kelli Higgins, a Florida mom who is also a professional photographer, wanted to give her son a special moment by recreating a “baby announcement”. She uploaded the pictures to her Facebook page, and it didn’t take long for the pictures to go viral.

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These images have been floating around the internet for awhile, but when I first saw them, I thought to myself. “What a great sense of humor.” Kelli Higgins has received both praise and criticism for the photoshoot, but her intentions were to welcome her son and show off their “new addition” to the world.

In 2010, the movie Easy A came out, and one of my favorite scenes is when the family is sitting around the kitchen,  and Chip (who is adopted) laments to his mother that he will never get taller or go through puberty. His father’s response is both playful and hilarious.

It’s okay to laugh. Sometimes we are so afraid of offending someone that we forget parenting should be fun. There will always be critics. As a parent, I try to do what is best for my two kids and I don’t worry about the rest. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Adoption is hard. And laughter makes things easier, if only for a moment.