One Mom's Story of Open Adoption

"In some ways, the process of open adoption was incredibly simple. In other, it was far more complicated than we ever imagined."

A Special Circumstance

Several months ago, my son, Micah, turned 2. My to-do list for his birthday was like anyone else's, with one exception; in addition to planning a party, settling on a menu, and deciding whether or not to hire Spider-Man to make an appearance, I had to get his 2-year-old photos taken to send to his birth mother, who receives a photo and letter describing his progress every six months.

My family is involved in an open adoption, in which the birth mother of a child chooses his or her adoptive parents and has some say in what sort of relationship she will have with him in the future. This probably sounds unusual, but the truth is, adoption is changing.

Our Decision to Adopt

After two years of trying to conceive naturally and several unsuccessful cycles of Clomid, my husband and I decided to forgo what I call the fertility circus and adopt. For me it was a dream; I was thrilled to bypass the horrors of childbirth, and my vigorous yet fruitless attempts to conceive confirmed that adoption was how I would achieve motherhood. My husband was slightly forlorn about not having a child that had the perfect melding of our physical features, but easily accepted the idea since he'd grown up with an adopted brother.

In the winter of 2001, we began our journey. The process was stressful. We started on the Web site of Pact, an adoption alliance that specializes in placing children of color, learning exactly what was involved in having an open adoption, and filling out all the paperwork electronically. We had heard that the adoption process takes a long time, but for children of color, that's not necessarily the case, especially when it's open and the parents are a couple of color.

Next, we set up an in-person meeting with a Pact representative, traveling to San Francisco from our home in Arizona. The woman we met was a birth mother herself. She said that her son was doing well and that she was very much in his life; she sees him on family holidays, and when he was young, she sometimes babysat for him when his adoptive parents went out. I listened carefully, but knew then and there that this was not the kind of open adoption I wanted. I thought that her boy was probably very confused.

Differences aside, the counselor was thrilled that we were pursuing adoption and told us we would have no problem adopting a child quickly -- upon completion of the adoption information, we could adopt in mere months. We were ecstatic but scared by the reality that we would soon be parents.

"Soon," however, is a relative term. We spent five months cleaning our house for social worker visits, gathering tax returns and letters of reference, taking blood tests, and finding marriage and birth certificates. That was the hard part; the easy part for me was writing a stellar "Dear Birth Mother" letter eloquently describing our life, our intentions, and our passion for having a child. Our adoption packet was complete in December 2001 and things were pretty quiet until the phone rang the following February. Then the real work began.

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