Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Justus and Kathleen: Open Adoption
See a resemblance here? Me too.
That's because this is Justus' birthmom, Kathleen. Isn't she gorgeous?
I realize I'm WAY behind in blogging about a birthday that happenned six weeks ago, but I really want to share with y'all about Kathleen.
Justus turned four, and this was our third time to invite Kathleen in for his birthday celebration. Kathleen moved far away after she placed Justus with us, so we don't have the advantage of proximity in our relationship, but we do have the advantage of openness.
Open Adoption. I know these are two words that strike fear into many people's hearts who are considering adoption.
Because of that, I want to share where we are coming from on this.
New Life, our agency, does semi-open adoptions. This mean you are chosen by the birthmom, you meet her, you visit and write letters and send pictures, all under the supervision of the agency. In other words, they are the go-between in all those things. You don't exchange last names or addresses or e-mail addresses usually. The agency handles your communication, but requires that you communicate. They encourage the building of a relationship that is beneficial to both the birthmom and your child. Why is this beneficial? So many reasons.
For the Birthmom
I think there is a lot of misunderstanding concerning a birthmom and her motives for placing her baby. My Mom has been doing this for about 20 years, and I will be making generalizations based on New Life's experience with birthmoms and what I've seen over the majority of my life as she's done this. Not every birthmom is the same, of course, thus the word "generalization."
Birthmoms want what's best for their baby. They carried this baby to term for a reason. They love their babies, and as heart-wrenching as it is for so many of them, that have come to the realization that they can't parent in a way their baby deserves to be parented. Some of them grew up without fathers or in homes that were less than ideal. They don't want that for their own babies. They want them to have Moms, loving Dads, siblings, a dog, a house, and all the things they can dream up for their child. (Every birthmoms dream is different, of course, but I think they definitely have dreams for their kids, like you and I do.) For various reasons specific to them, they are overwhelmed with their own lives and problems, and in such great humility that so many of us lack, have to admit they can't give those things. They are heart broken over this decision. But they put their baby's needs above their own...something I know I should do as a believer but still fear I would put my own feelings first...and they make the most difficult decision they'll ever make, and choose to make an adoption plan for their child.
This is not something they take lightly. There is much grief, tears, and doubt that surrounds this decision. They have very real fears. They fear that they'll never see or hear from their child again. They fear that their child will think they don't love them. They fear that they'll feel abandoned by them. They fear the adoptive parents will divorce or worse. They fear their child will be sick and they won't know about it. They have a deep need to know that their child will be okay.
Communication is so important here! New Life requires a good deal of communication by letters and pictures in the first year, and this is such a relief to them! They get reports on their health and well-being. They get to see how their growing and changing! This means the world to them, and every picture and letter is a treasure.
For the adopted child
In trying to keep this brief, let me just say, we wholeheartedly believe a child knowing his birthparents, feeling totally secure is their love for him, certain of the reasoning for his placement so that he doesn't feel abandoned or unloved, is in his ABSOLUTE best interest! Instead of seeing birthparents as a risk, we choose to see them as a loving part of our extended family! They made this very wise choice! They gave us the greatest gift of all time! Who are we to say "thanks for the baby! Now...go away!" Where is the Christ-like attitude in that? Every family and agency has to decide what are the wise boundaries in this relationship in order to keep it healthy, (and this will of course vary from situation to situation!) but in the end, a relationship is ideal! When a child who's been adopted has questions about the circumstances of his birth, his birth family history, where he gets his color eyes and hair, we know where to go! What comfort there is in that! Adoptive parents need to get over the feelings of insecurity and fear and think about what is best for the child. I alone am his mother. If you call Kathleen Justus' Mom, I will always correct you. I'm his Mom. But she is his birthmom, and that is something I'll never be. She is important and special in his life, as Lynda is to Treston as well.
How open are we?
With Justus' birthmom, we've gone all the way open. I love it! It didn't happen overnight. We built a relationship that has taken time and trust. Slowly, with the blessing and supervision of New Life, we've crept more and more toward open until we busted it wide open with this last visit in August. She came to OUR house, stayed here in our home, and spent the weekend loving on Justus. She's amazing! I don't want to include a lot of details about her life, but she has overcome so much, and we are so proud of her. She's very different from us. In fact, she was Muslim when she placed Justus with us, and we have spent the past four years praying for her salvation and talking to her about Jesus. She is closer than ever to believing in the Truth! She knows we love her. She knows Justus loves her and knows her. They have a special bond that blesses us! We love seeing them together. We know that only good will come from their open relationship and his feeling loved by her.
We have learned SO, SO, SO MUCH from this process. We tell people starting out on this journey, this is the most refining, sanctifying process you'll ever go through. You will know yourself and be stripped of junk you didn't know you were wearing by the end. Praise God! I wish I had time to list all of the good things we have learned through this, but my children need to eat breakfast.
But praise the Lord, He can take away all fear, all prejudice, all selfishness, all wrong thinking, and replace it with HIM through this.
We firmly believe that open adoption is a ministry to children and birthmoms equally. We have seen it serve more purposes than we actually dreamed of. God filled the holes in our family with beautiful children we didn't deserve, and he's taught us about loving people we never would have known or had a clue about before. We're not the same as we were before this. Were we scared? Were we selfish? Were we uncomfortable with being totally out of control? YES, YES, YES!!!! But those were all things that God was more than big enough to handle.
If you have questions about adoption, feel free to shoot them at us. We're not experts. We have only our own experiences, and I have a little benefit of growing up in the shadow of New Life and my Mom's life work, but in the end, I understand that there are different perspectives on this and we respect that. However, we feel compelled to always share what God has done through this for us, and for our children and birthmoms alike.