Our wonderful daughter Isabelle is adopted. We have an open adoption with her birthparents, Sam and Lauren. We have become so comfortable with the relationship that I sometimes forget that other people find it odd and will mention them in casual conversation. They have become such a comfortable part of our lives, I can't imagine not knowing them.
I did not initially intend to pursue an open adoption but through the process we were encouraged to do some reading on open adoption by the agency we were working with, New Life Family Services. As we worked through the adoption process and began to think about adopting and raising an adopted child we began to see the benefits of open adoption and decided to pursue a completely open adoption, share all information, pictures, visits, etc. (I don't really know what "etc" would be, facebook maybe?) I don't think we could have anticipated how wonderful and fulfilling it would be to have them in our lives and how much we would come to love them not just as Isabelle's birth parents but as members of our family.
(As a side note, open adoption is not like shared custody where they get her every other weekend, they didn't divorce her. We are 100% her parents and make all the decisions regarding her. It is more like how I really love my sister or brother's kids but know they aren't mine, they are like an aunt and uncle.)
We first met Sam and Lauren shortly before Isabelle was born. We met at the New Life offices with our respective social workers present to facilitate the meeting. We hit it off immediately. One of my favorite stories from that meeting is telling them the name we had chosen. I will never forget the look on Sam's face as he shifted positions and lit up as he shared why the name Isabelle was so profoundly special to him. I think we all knew at that moment that this was going to work out just fine. 5 weeks later we brought Isabelle home from the hospital and began developing a relationship with them as I sent pictures almost daily those first few weeks and then began regular visits.
Their future roll in her life will include being available to answer questions I could never answer about her conception and birth, about their decision to let us raise her, to assure her that she was always loved and wanted, to give her a sense of identity, a sense of security in her existence. A big job to be sure. Most adopted children at some point struggle with a sense of abandonment. No matter how much I love her and try to explain their decision she will need to hear it from them.
Right now Sam and Lauren's roll is to be the fun friends that come for occasional visits and are excited to watch Isabelle perform, will sit and play with her, want to photograph her and in general allow her to be the center of attention while they are around. Something I am sure she would like to see alot more of around here.
Today we had a fun visit with Lauren (Sam is back in Iraq but did phone while she was here). Isabelle was her very usual self dancing, singing and showing off. She was the emotional girl she is every day here and would run into her room and slam her door when we didn't do as she told us to. Lauren gets to see the "real" Isabelle. I told her it is a good sign of how comfortable Isabelle is with her. And Isabelle, who does change clothing regularly through the day, got naked for probably the 3rd of 4th time in as many visits. We agreed to see if the next visit we could keep her clothes on. When we stopped talking to her because she wouldn't get dressed we got another stomp to her room and door slam. We couldn't help but laugh and Lauren apologize for the dramatic behavior, although she insisted it wasn't from her!
Over the years we have gotten some great pictures of the visits:
The first visit after she was born.