I had the privilege of being a part of the Adoption Blogger Interview Project this year. Random pairs of us were matched to interview each other blog-style. It’s always fun “meeting” fellow adoptive families and bloggers. Without further ado, meet my interview partner Ashley.
ME: Tell me about your family. What are your children’s ages/genders? At what age and how did they enter your family?
ASHLEY: My husband and I met and were married when we were in college. After about 5 years we decided that we were ready to start a family. Quickly, we learned that I couldn’t get pregnant, and so we began to explore adoption. (I actually wrote a whole post about this.) Ironically, 9 months later we adopted our first daughter, Lorelai (now 4 years old). We received a call when she was 2 weeks old from our adoption agency. Her birth mother had selected our profile and wanted to interview us. Fortunately, we really connected with her and she selected us as the parents of her baby. We agreed to participate in an open adoption with her and her family. Initially that began with monthly visits. Now we email, text message, talk on the phone, Facebook, and visit with each other regularly. We are very connected with all of the birth family and participate in family gatherings frequently. Almost two years after we had adopted our first daughter, we were approached by a neighbor who knew about our adoption for information on our adoption agency. Her daughter was pregnant and was considering adoption. A short time later we were discussing adoption with them and the possibility of us being the adopted family. They reviewed other profiles from our agency, but ultimately decided to choose us. I attended ultra sounds and was in the room when my youngest daughter, Logan (now 2 years old) was born. The birth family even threw us a joint baby shower – for the birth mom and me. Obviously, that resulted in another very open adoption. Just like the first, we communicate, share pictures, and visit regularly. It’s really been a phenomenal experience. We never dreamed when we agreed to open adoption that we would be gaining a whole extended family! It’s such a great thing for all of us – especially my daughters.
ME: How did your extended family react to your decision to participate in an open adoption? Has their opinion changed now that the girls are a part of their lives?
ASHLEY: Initially we were all very skeptical of this process. We had it in our heads that this meant we were more like babysitters than parents. We’d watch the children, but we wouldn’t really be “mom and dad” or “grandma and grandpa.” We’d just be filling in and then the birth family would swoop in periodically and remind everyone who was really in those roles. We were so naive! After talking with others involved in the adoption triad, we realized that our perspective was so wrong! We needed to be thinking about our children and not being selfish and thinking about our own insecurities. Fortunately, that guided our decision (and our family’s support) to enter into the open adoptions. It has been so much better than we ever anticipated. For example, just recently we had our daughters’ birthday parties. At both parties we had an equal mix of birth and adoptive family members. There was a whole room of grandparents. And at this point our kids have no idea who is birth family and who is adoptive family. All they know is that the whole room of people love them. I don’t think there’s a single person in either the birth family or the adoptive family who would say this wasn’t a unique and wonderful situation. Everyone is so supportive and just loves our girls so much! It’s really phenomenal to be a part of this!
ME: What are 3 benefits and 3 challenges of open adoption?
ASHLEY: This is a hard one! The benefits are easiest so I’ll start with those. First, there is a wealth of information that many individuals in closed adoptions (or even less open adoptions) don’t have access to. Obviously, we have a wealth of ever evolving medical history. But the really special information is what I value the most – like knowing where certain personality traits come from or hearing stories about when the birth parents were children. My girls have so much information about their birth family and their biological roots and that’s really priceless. Second, we gained a huge family. Both my husband and I come from pretty small families, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of a big family. We had no idea that we were getting that when we adopted our girls. We went from holding family get togethers in our living room to requiring a giant tent in the backyard! It’s fabulous! And third, there are no secrets and surprises. My kids will never remember the “moment” that they were told they were adopted. It has always been a part of their lives. Having the birth family involved really helps prevent any secrets and mystery around the adoption. It’s all out on the table!
Now… challenges. There can be a few of those. First, I’d say one of the hardest challenges is dealing with questions about it from people. We get so many questions. Usually I don’t mind at all. In fact, I look at it as an opportunity to educate people and create a more adoption-friendly world for my children to live in. But sometimes the questions are asked in such a way that it really bothers me. Questions like, “Aren’t you worried that they are going to come take her back?” or “They know where you live?” These questions imply that there is something wrong with the birth family – that there is some sort of shame with this situation. I hate getting those questions, especially when they are asked in front of my children. I don’t know how the belief that there was something horrible about birth families came about, but combatting that belief is one of the hardest challenges. Second, trying to manage schedules can be difficult, especially as the girls get older and are becoming involved in activities. Our agreements provide for visits once per month. Sometimes it can be challenging to find time to make those visits happen, especially when transportation is a problem for the birth parents. So figuring out when, where, and how we’re going to get together can be challenging. And third, it’s hard to figure out how to handle some of the “awkward” moments of open adoption. For example, there are two mothers involved here. Do I send the birth mothers Mother’s Day cards? Would that make them feel valued or would it make them feel sad? Trying to figure out how to navigate some of those dicer issues is certainly one of the biggest challenges on my end.
ME: What do you wish you had known back then that you know now? Or What advice would you give to families considering this adoption path?
ASHLEY: Oh my! There is SO much I wish I had known. Probably the biggest thing that I wish I had known is that all of the fears that I had – that I wouldn’t really be the children’s mother, that the birth family would try to tell me how to parent my children, that the birth family might change their mind and try to take my daughters back – all of those fears, were ridiculous. They are based solely off of fear. Because I know all of that now, I would want to tell other families who are considering this path to be fearless. Think about all of the wonderful benefits that you’ll be giving your child by doing this and realize that most of your fears are just your insecurities coming to light. I’m sure there are open adoptions out there that don’t work out as perfectly as mine have, but for those who set aside their fears and embrace the wonderful new family that you can have – it can be awesome.
ME: Where do you find your most helpful or favorite adoption resources?
I’m a real book nerd, so I’m always reading books on the topic. Some of my favorites are The Open Adoption Experience, Dear Birthmother, and Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother. I like them all for different reasons. The first is incredibly useful in navigating the process. The second provides some perspective. And the last reminds me of how far I’ve come in the process. I also like to follow a number of blogs from individuals in the adoption triad. I think it’s important to try to get a full view of open adoption from all sides – adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family. It helps me to try to head off issues before they become problems. I also have a subscription to Adoptive Families which comes in handy from time to time. Probably my best resource though is my children and the birth family themselves!
ME: Besides adoption, what else are you passionate enough to blog about?
ASHELY: There are a couple of areas that I really am passionate about – in fact, that’s why I changed my blog this past year from Modern Mommy Magic to Authentically Ashley. I felt like blogging about being “Mommy” was just too restrictive! I love to blog about green living – an area that I’m really trying to learn a lot about right now. I’m really trying to incorporate new ways of being green into my lifestyle without compromising on the things that I love. I’ve been sharing my successes and failures with my bloggers. I also like to blog about being vegetarian/vegan. I have been vegetarian for 8 years now and have been dabbling with being vegan for almost a year. I’m still learning a lot about how to make some of my favorite recipes using vegan substitutes. A lot of times I share recipes and tips with readers. I also talk about how to make great vegetarian recipes for kids! There are times when I also blog about just being a woman too – talking time for me, clothing, books, etc. Really, I just write about anything that interests me!