Troy called me downstairs yesterday. "I just got six texts," he said and he turned his phone so I could see. For the briefest of seconds, I was confused. The newborn baby in the pictures was Matthew. The sender was his father. Why was Matt's father sending us newborn baby pictures of our 8 year old? A moment later, my synapses all started firing correctly and I realized what was going on.
Matthew has a baby brother. His baby brother--who shares half of his DNA--looks so much like he did as a newborn. He was born yesterday. Matthew's father texted us within an hour after his birth to let Matt know he's a big brother again. We didn't know his brother was coming. We don't know the circumstances. But we know that his father, who has waited 8 years to parent a child, has a second son.
We showed the pictures to Matthew. He was so excited to have another sibling. This makes 7 for him. Three biological sisters, a biological brother, two brothers by adoption, and a Kate in heaven. Our boy is struggling, in some ways, with some of the concepts of adoption. He longs to have all of his family under one roof and, truly, who can blame him? He often says, "I want to live with __________ but, then I wouldn't be able to live with you." He doesn't want to leave us. He just wants all the people who are important to him nearby. It is because of this struggle, because of this sometimes blurred identity, that I rejoice in the siblings he has.
We are connected enough to his birth parents that I have no doubt he will one day foster relationships with his biological siblings. And I am so glad that he has them. He was excited to tell some of the people at church today that he has a new brother. To see him beam with pride, to hear the joy in his voice, I see, in him, a sense of connection and love--even if his brother is separated by miles and years.
There is the tendency, with adoptive parents, to push back against biology. The idea, perhaps, that we will be enough. We are only enough if we are all they need. If there is something else that they are longing for, we must always put the child before our own needs and our own feelings. Open adoption redefines itself many times in the course of a life. We must always protect the child entrusted to us (and that can certainly mean different things depending on the adoptive situation).
I believe that in open adoption we must be, well, open.
We must always love.
Love our children enough that, while they are young, and unless there was abuse against the child, they hear only positive things about their families. They are too small to process the negative and too impressionable to bear its weight.
Love our children enough to celebrate victories. Celebrate marriages and siblings and positive phone calls and, perhaps, even positive visits if circumstances allow. Matthew and I immediately picked out a gift for his new brother and we'll ship it out tomorrow. Because we share in Matthew's joy. Because we are celebrating with him.
Love our children enough that they sense, in us, openness. If my sons grow up and say, "We were always allowed to tell our parents what we were thinking and feeling, even if it could have hurt them," I will be satisfied.
Love our children for who they are and know that a large part of that comes from who their parents are. Matthew hasn't seen his father since he was two years old and he makes a couple of faces that look just like him. Some of his personality traits are directly passed down from them, riding on his DNA and outshining nurture in every way. We make a point of saying, "You looked just like your dad right then." Or, "Your mom really loves spicy food, too." Because we want to validate his place in our family and his place in theirs.
Love our children in the moment. Always. No matter what. Without regard for the way our relationship might change and without worrying about the evolution of open adoption in our lives. Love them with wild abandon. Love them, in adoption, the way we are called to love always.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. -1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Our relationship with Matthew's dad has not been an easy one. But time has a way of growing us. He sent us a picture this morning of him holding his newborn son. It touched me and nearly brought me to tears. I want good things for him. The truth of the matter is, he blessed me with an incredible gift in the son that we share. I will continue to love that boy with everything that is in me. And, born, perhaps, from the fierce love that I have for him, is a deep care for his family.
This is open adoption.