When Spencer and I chose to do adoption three years ago, we knew from the beginning we wanted an open adoption. We thought long and hard about how much contact we wanted and settled on a semi-open adoption, getting pictures and updates a few times a year through our adoption agency. Visits were something we didn’t want, thinking it would be too hard on us to see her and being concerned it would too confusing or difficult for her. When she was born, that all changed!
Our adoption plan did not go at all how we expected. We never guessed she would be born so early, or that we wouldn’t meet Maggey and Dave and get to know them before she showed up. Having a very drawn out plan was the only comfort we found in adoption at the time, and when that fell apart we were terrified of what to expect. Would we all like each other? Was this happening too fast? Were we ready? Would they be ready?
When we made our birth plan, there were a few things we were certain of. We wanted Maggey and Dave present in the room, Maggey was to be the first one to hold her and we wanted Dave to cut the cord. We thought we would spend some bittersweet days in the hospital before saying goodbye and having our semi-open adoption take over. Boy were we wrong! When I went into labor, the fear of unknown that I had is something I could never put into words. Without Spencer there to remind me that everything happens for a reason, I probably would have lost it. When Maggey and Dave opened the door to our hospital room very early in the morning, I had no idea what to expect. But the moment we hugged I had an overwhelming sense of calm that I never thought I’d have. Watching them look at Tess for the first time was the first moment in all of this adoption mayhem that I knew everything was going to be okay. And the months following were nothing short of perfect!
I would never wish a preemie on anyone, and I had such a sense of sadness for my daughter, and failure as a mother watching her hooked up to tubes with doctors poking at her all the time. But looking back, I don’t think it was meant to be any other way. The months we got to spend together in the NICU was exactly what I needed to feel at peace with my decision. Watching the interaction between her and her new parents and just the pure love they had for her was nothing short of amazing. During that time was when we decided that our pictures and updates every so often would not be enough. We wanted to see her, and maintain this awesome relationship we had formed during this bittersweet time. Lucky for us, we were all on the same page.
When Tess left the hospital we cried and hugged and agreed it wouldn’t be the last time we saw each other. As time went on, it became more and more obvious that due to work and babies and living so far apart that visits would be rare. I sort of let go of the hope that I would see her and luckily because of this blog, I didn’t feel such a big loss. Getting to see her daily through pictures and hear all the stories and feel a part of that was more than most birth parents get and I felt very fortunate for that.
When we first spoke about a visit date I was quite hesitant because I had become so used to the thought of not seeing her. My mother however was VERY insistent that I make these plans. She had been there from the time Tess was born and loved her as much as I did. She bugged me almost every time I saw her about when we would get to see Tess, to the point I started to resent her for it. She has no idea how I feel. How could she pressure me into doing it? “How selfish of her for not taking my feelings into consideration!”, was all I could think. Every time she brought it up, I shut it down immediately. I started to feel guilty for robbing my mom of the opportunity to see her grandchild when she so desperately wanted to, and that’s when I decided to say yes to a visit.
Some of you might be thinking, “But why didn’t she want to see her? Why was she only doing this for her mom?” The answer is a bit confusing. Of course I wanted to see her. But there is a lot of fear that comes with that. What if she doesn’t like me? What if she doesn’t understand? What if our relationship isn’t as comfortable as it was in the NICU? What if I just cry the entire time and look like a total loon? Every ridiculous thought you could think of went through my head. But at the end of the day, I realized being scared of what could happen was not worth missing out on the opportunity to see the tiny human that changed my life in a million ways. And so we set a date!
In the weeks leading up, I was so nervous. I am the queen of anticipating situations and coming up with worst-case scenarios. I counted down the days, and every day more and more fears came to mind. My best friend happens to be a birth mom as well, and her son used to scream and cry when she would try to hold him during her first visits. This is only natural when a child is meeting who they think is a stranger, but it scared me! What if Tess hates me and all I want to do is hold her and she just screams and cries for her mom? I can’t imagine how much that would hurt.
I also wasn’t sure how to feel about Remy. I adore him naturally, as he is my daughter’s brother, but what if I didn’t connect with him? What if his birth mom saw pictures of us and resented me for getting to meet her child? When my mom and I arrived at the restaurant, we were a ball of nerves. Should we be late? Should we be early? Should we wait inside, outside maybe? So many things to think about. Maggey apologized profusely for being late, but I was happy they were! It gave us just enough time to get it together.
When we said our hellos, it was an instant sigh of relief. Tess seemed to be excited and intrigued by what was about to happen, and of course it was like no time had passed! We sat down and I have to say, I was jealous when Tess asked to sit on my mom’s lap first. But seeing the pride on her face getting to hold her granddaughter for the first time took my breath away! As soon as we were chatting and eating, I realized I was ridiculous for ever thinking it would be awkward. Our relationship is so natural and easy that even after three years, it was like we do this every day!
I never had any fears about Tess being exactly where she needed to be, but it really resonated with me during dinner just how lucky I was to have these people in my life, and as the parents to my child no less! I felt nothing but peace and reassurance as we gawked over these kids. When we left the restaurant, Tess held my hand walking out. Its such a simple thing, yet it made me want to dance through the streets with joy! She is holding my hand! The feeling I had then was so incredible it could never be explained.
As we drove away, all we could talk about was how perfect she was. It couldn’t have gone any better, and I was on cloud nine. When I got home, my best friend and I sat up until 3 in the morning gushing about how amazing adoption is, hardly taking a breath.
Our day on Saturday was no less perfect. Getting to watch her interact at the farm with the animals was amazing cause I saw a more reserved and curious side of her. She was shy at times and in awe at others. I was in awe the entire time. Remy, little flirt that he is, wanted to spend all his time with me. He was adorable, wanting to be held all the time and watching him keep up with Tess on his gimp leg cracked me up! I was so relieved that our feelings for each other were mutual. We also loved meeting Joy, as it gave another glimpse into the life Tess has and the wonderful people surrounding her.
My mom made the most incredible picnic, and we sat in a beautiful rose garden while we enjoyed it. She made this adorable pink ombre cake for Tess, and watching her dive right into it while we were trying to take pictures was hilarious! I don’t think the setting could have made for a more beautiful day.
Saying goodbye was very hard, as I had expected. I can’t compare it to anything really. Saying goodbye when she left the hospital was easier I think, because I had just spent many weeks with her. This time we had only spent two days together. It wasn’t nearly enough time. But knowing it wasn’t the last time made it sting a little less. Despite the agony of going our separate ways, I would have to say it was the best two days of my life so far.
It’s hard to describe what its like being pregnant, giving birth, signing your baby over to parents that aren’t you, and watching your child grow up without you present. But through all the tears, happy and sad, I have to say I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’ve never felt one feeling of regret, or that Tess isn’t in the exact place she is meant to be. And I know I can speak on behalf of my mom when I say she feels the same way. It might not be traditional, or easy for others to understand, but that’s okay because it is perfect for us.
This unique family unit we’ve created is what I dreamed about for my daughter. And I can say in full confidence that it is amazing. I thank my lucky stars every day for Maggey and Dave and every single person Tess has in her life to love and support her.
Ever since leaving Salt Lake, we’ve been talking about visiting. As we drove home, it made us nervous. What would it mean for Tess? Would a visit set an expectation that would mean hurting people if she ever didn’t want to go? What was best for her? How could we even think of that when we were dying to take our daughter home and start our post-NICU life as a family?
Our fears about how they’d view our parenting, what they’d think about our decisions, and if the reality would break the fairy tale faded. As time passed, we got more and more relaxed. Every time we communicated with Tess’ “birth people”, we remembered how great they are and how much fun we had getting to know each other. The what-ifs quieted down. Micky and Kat have been nothing but thoughtful and respectful, constantly reassuring us that they considered us great parents to this kiddo.
We planned our first visit, and were thwarted by an adoption match for our third child. We planned another, and it got bumped again for a different match after the first one disrupted. With our third match for our third child nowhere to be seen, we decided that a happy reunion would ease the sting of losing the twins. We checked with Kat and set everything up, not knowing that our visit to Utah would dovetail perfectly with (hopefully!) meeting #3!
The first nerves I felt were getting Tess ready for dinner. She and Remy had slept late, and she decided that was the perfect moment to express a dire hatred of water and showers. After an unexpected hour of battling her under the water and into a cute outfit, Dave casually mentioned we were already 15 minutes late. I almost cried. In hindsight, I wonder if the excitement got to Tess. She knows Micky and Kat are special to her, but only from stories and photos and gifts. The reality of meeting them may have been a lot of fireworks for a smart, sensitive toddler brain.
It didn’t matter. We got there and just had a fabulous time. Micky said, “of course you’re late! You have toddlers!” I almost cried with relief. Within minutes, both kids were showing off for the ladies, and we were all laughing at their antics. All day Friday, they asked where Micky and Kat were. I’d left us a day to decompress and get them sleeping on a regular schedule. Silly!
Saturday was as Disney as my life has ever been. We met at an elaborate petting zoo, and the kids were overwhelmed. All of these animal names and noises they use actually belong to creatures?! Tess was terrified of the horses until Micky and Kat showed her how gentle they were. As both are amazing riders, we were super happy to see Tess and Remy catch the horse bug from them. When they took their first pony ride with Kat and Micky by their sides, I was bursting with happiness. That’s something we can show Tess as she grows, something she shares with two generations of women in her first family. In fact, we’re excited that she’ll have memories of her own that we can talk about, rather than just our stories. These photos will have so much more meaning!
Seeing the effort and thought that Micky and Kat had put into our day together showed us how important Tess is to them. As we went from the farm to the rose garden for a picnic, I was astounded by the picture perfect settings and adventures. We couldn’t have dreamt up a more beautiful day with wonderful people. Of course, Tess’ concept of a picnic is now beyond my capabilities. Micky is the master!
Saying goodbye is hard, the way it’s hard to say goodbye to family that don’t live nearby. It felt so much like that that I realized they are family; ours as much as Tess’. We want to see them again too! (Particularly Remy, who is absolutely obsessed with Kat.) Time together just felt good. We also know we’ll see them again. The certainty makes leaving easier. It’s just for now.
Our supporters’ thoughts
The third voice here belongs to our friends and family. A number of concerned supporters asked how we were feeling. Would Kat change her mind and try to take Tess back? Would she regret her choice and be angry with us forever? Was she mad we adopted Remy and brought him with us?
To be honest, the totally justifiable questions confused me for a minute because we just don’t share those concerns any more. I do remember all of the worry from when Tess was little though. I remember wondering about the same potential issues. We just know now what a great extension to our family we have. I read an article when waiting for our first match. A birthmom came to her daughter’s wedding. I remember thinking,
How hard for the adoptive mom! Did that make her feel less like a mom? To share such a big day with the woman who actually gave birth to her child?
I can already picture Micky and Kat at Tess’ wedding. No one loves her more than we do, but they love her as much. They are just as charmed by her, and see their family in her the way we see the traits she copies from the people in our lives. Seeing her through their eyes makes us indescribably proud and happy. As a parent, it’s easy to see the naughty moments and the frustrations. With them, we see her smile, her chattiness and openness to others, her foodie tendencies and kindness to her brother. Instead of feeling judged, we stopped judging ourselves for a moment and just reveled. Who wouldn’t want to do that again?
As we go through this lifetime of adoption and building a Lego family across the country, I am so grateful to Micky, Kat and Spencer for accepting us with our nerves and flaws three years ago and this past week. The comfort we take from this relationship has shown us how much we all gain from an open adoption. Next trip? Florida!
The supporters I mention are some of our adoption’s biggest fans. These questions were voiced in love, curiosity, and concern for our well-being and Tess’. I hope hearing from Kat as well as us takes away some of the mystery.
In addressing adoption, we can only speak to our personal experiences. For us, open adoptions with our kids’ awesome birth people enrich all of our lives. We’re already looking forward to seeing Kerna and seeing the Utah bunch again. Open adoptions may not be as joyful for every other adoptive family, but we all want you to know how breathtakingly loving they can be when we trust each other and all want the connection.