Sunday, July 12, 2009

Abierto? Cerrado?

I was among the first generation of Sesame Street viewers as it premiered only a few months after I was born. I grew up loving the fuzzy monsters and the cast members (I met the late Will Lee who played Mr. Hooper when I was 5 or 6 when he performed at the theatre where my father worked, wept when he died, and still have the autographed black and white cast photos that he sent me). I learned numbers from the Count and sang along with Oscar and Big Bird. I don't remember much of my foreign language classes from junior high and high school but, thanks to the humans and Muppets repeatedly stepping in and out of doors or opening and closing windows on Sesame Street, I'll never forget how to say open and closed in Spanish.



Of late, I've been thinking about Sesame Street (looking forward to sharing it with Plus One eventually) as well as those long-ago lessons about "abierto" and "cerrado" as we consider whether we're going to be more comfortable with an open or closed adoption and, if open, to what degree.

When originally considering domestic vs. international, one of the appealing facets of an international adoption is that this issue largely goes away. We would have little if any information about the birth parents and there would be virtually no chance of future, unexpected contact. However, as we've moved closer to pursuing a domestic adoption, we're facing the issue again, along with all of its weighty questions about how it will affect our future and the future of our Plus One.

Seeking a better understanding of the other parts of the "triad", Jennifer has spent a great deal of time recently reading blogs by birth-mothers and adoptees and much of what she has found has been challenging. These posts, with their anger and sense of abandonment, also have made her think more about having an open adoptive relationship in which our Plus One grows up actively knowing and interacting with her birth mother.

For me, my instinctive reaction is to push back against that. Our goal is to become a family with a child. We will be her parents, we will love and care for her. We won't hide the adoption or deny our child information about her birth parents (if the birth parents provide information) but she will have one set of parents -- us. Yes, she will have a birth mother and father and I will forever be grateful that they trusted us enough to allow us to bring their baby into our lives but I am scared of what it would mean to have them actively involved.

Would it cause confusion in our child? Would it reduce the strength of the connection and bond we hope to create with our child? Would it make me feel any less a parent or be seen by my child as any less her parent? Am I simply responding to some primal fear or an irrational lack of confidence? By the same token, I've seen up close the disruption, fear, and worry that besets a family when a birth parent suddenly reappears after decades in the wilderness, even when information about the birth parent was available.

It's a decision with lasting, profound ramifications in the same way that choosing a name carries such weight that it can influence a child's entire life. How does one choose? As a prospective parent, how do I know that, together with Jennifer, we're making the right decision for us or for our child? How will our choice affect the birth parents and how will their expectations and needs affect us?

And so I find myself looking at a door but not sure how I want and need it to be.





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