Several weeks ago I wrote about the bad days when I’m exhausted, depressed, and totally overwhelmed, days when my life is a sweater unraveled. It was also a post about the surprising number of people who have told me over the past six years that I should have given my daughter Katie back to her birthparents when I learned she had autism.
When I posted, I didn’t stop to think that her birthparents might read my words. What’s worse, it wasn’t a remote possibility. I’m friends with both of them on facebook, and the birthfather was one of my blog’s first subscribers. It was almost guaranteed that at least one of them would read the post. Nevertheless, it simply never crossed my mind that this revelation might hurt their feelings.
It should go without saying that I don’t want to cause the birthparents pain. They’ve had enough of that already. So the moment I saw the notification that the birthfather had commented on my post, I experienced that sickening shiver of dread that almost always is accompanied by the words, “Oh shit.”
The piece I’d written flashed through my brain and I instantly realized what should have occurred to me prior to posting. But of course it was too late. Much. Too. Late.
My only excuse for this lapse was that I was rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline. Also, I’ve gotten so used to speaking and writing about my unplanned life that sometimes I forget that not everyone appreciates my honesty.
I clicked through to the comments. Several of my girlfriends had responded favorably, but they were reading the post as biological parents, not as a birthfather who had given up his child for adoption to a man who later wanted to give her back when she turned out to be damaged goods. For the birthfather (and me), it was an infinitely more complicated situation.
His response surprised me.
I had a conversation with a close friend today on this same subject only in reverse. I do not know where I would start and probably [would] be on the phone to you constantly! My hat’s off to you, Cynthia! You have done an outstanding job with a very special lady.
What he wrote made me cry, makes me want to cry again as a retype his words. This is the part of open adoption that I never expected. It’s also the part that defies explanation.
How do I explain, in terms someone will understand, how it feels to share a child? Not share a child in custody, or even biology, but in matters of the heart? Perhaps I should call it an entanglement, a braided storyline. But that doesn’t get at the intimacy. It’s more like a marriage without the romance, but even that doesn’t accurately convey how it feels.
As I puzzled over this question, I came to a realization: I didn’t stop to think how the birthparents might respond because I didn’t have to. They already knew the truth of the situation and still loved and accepted me (and my ex, with all his flaws). Just as they love and accept my daughter—who is also their daughter, even though she is mine. It’s this paradox that has taught me more about what it means to love than anything else in my life to date.
Open adoption taught me to love with an open heart.
Until next time,