Tomorrow afternoon, my eight-year-old daughter Katie and I are flying to visit the state where she was born. Yet I was not the one that gave birth to Katie.
We adopted her out of foster care when she was several months old, and we are returning to her birth state for the sole purpose of visiting her birth mother and her older brother and sister. Although Katie’s brother and sister were also living in foster care at the time she was born, they eventually returned to live with their mom. And Katie came to live with us.
This will not be our first visit. We try to go once a year, always in the summer. We went for two visits when Katie was a baby, but her birth mom found it too painful to be around little Katie, so she called off the third annual visit.
After a four-year hiatus, Katie’s birth mom, M, decided she wanted to resume visits. At that point, Katie was almost 6 years old, and I was wary of subjecting her to on-again, off-again visits. “I do not want Katie to go through feelings of abandonment if you feel you cannot keep a scheduled visit,” I explained to M. “Although I can imagine how hard it is for you, it is also my job to think about how hard this might be for Katie. I need to know that you will be consistently in her life if we restart visits,” I told her.
M agreed, and she has been true to her word. We are now preparing for our 4th visit since we first resumed seeing each other. Katie suffered terrible anxiety and behavioral problems prior to that reunion four years ago. She was afraid that we were going to give her back, and sobbed to us, “Just throw me in the garbage and leave me there.” She thought that what was really happening was that we no longer wanted her. Nothing we could say reassured Katie, and we simply had to let her see for herself that a visit was just a visit.
Sure enough, Katie relaxed once we returned home, and she realized how completely we were her forever family. She also saw that no matter how poorly she behaved, it would not convince us to abandon her. (though she tested us mightily!)
Each summer, the visits have gotten better and better. As Katie’s relationship with her birth family deepens, there has been a marked uptick in her grief when we say goodbye to M (which did not used to happen). The grief is expected and natural, but that does not make it any easier to witness. Still, Katie is downright excited about the fact that she is going to see M and her brother and sister tomorrow, and for the first time, there has been no outward sign of anxiety or misbehavior leading up to the trip.
We have reached the point in our open adoption where Katie truly feels a connection to her birth family, and she enjoys knowing where she comes from. It helps her to see that I like and respect M, and that we can hang out together and have fun. M is intelligent and loving, and she gives Katie plenty of affection and reinforcement when we visit.
Sometimes open adoption can be hard, and when Katie was younger, it was confusing. But as she prepares to turn nine this fall, I am really seeing the benefits of open adoption. Katie is a remarkably poised little girl, and I do believe she knows that she is loved by not one family but two. Two families to cheer her on as she makes her way through the world. What more could a mother want for her daughter?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.