(This article is not to discuss the pros/cons of different donation/adoption relationships (see here), but is specifically addressing the fears that families experience after choosing an open adoption relationship)
I walked up to the door and raised my hand to knock. I paused and fear engulfed me with “what-ifs”. “What if”….they don’t like me…my child likes them better than me….or we don’t get along? “What if” …I say something offensive or do the wrong thing?“What if” …I have food in my teeth or coffee breath?My courage falters and I momentarily consider getting in the car and driving away.
I take a deep breath, pop a mint, click a selfie to survey the damage and realize that it’s the bigger “What ifs” that have led me to this doorstep. “What if” my child(ren) are missing out on having really special people in their lives? What if I let my fear hinder their growth? What if I take something away from them to protect myself? What if my fear results in my child’s regret?
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” H. P. Lovecraft
Fear is woven into adoption at its core. Fear of the unknown is great. It seems to continually pop up along the way like uninvited guest crashing the party of your impending donation/adoption journey. As relentless as a girlscout selling cookies to win a bicycle, it keeps trying to wriggle into your heart and own your adoption story. Face this fear dear ones. Don’t let fear write your story for you.
You’ve already chosen an open adoption relationship, so it’s simply time to remind yourself of the reasons behind that decision:
- You stand to gain a relationship with someone who will share a common love for your children that is unlike anything else. The intensity of this special bond can be sealed together with love, or broken apart by fear. Focus on the things you have in common, such as the best interest of the children, instead of letting fear and false scenarios drive a wedge in between you.
- As a parent, you will get used to living with a certain amount of fear as it comes with the territory. Diapers? Check. Stroller? Check. 57,300 bottle pieces? Check. Fear? Check. It’s a healthy form of fear that keeps you on your toes, makes you obsessively watch them while they sleep, demand they relinquish all their “cool points” and wear a dorky bicycle helmet, and keeps you up pacing the floors until your teenager gets home safely.
- You chose each other. There were reasons why they chose you. There were reasons why you chose them. It was like dating in an awkward, sister-wife kind of way. In the end, there was a connection and a desire to work together as a team to benefit the child(ren).
- You can always apologize. Should you make an unknowing misstep such as joking about the new Governor (they volunteered with his campaign), throwing a soda can in the trash (recycle bin please), or spilling salsa all over their white carpet (who has kids AND white carpet anyway? Really you did them a favor, am I right?). All parties have a vested interest in building this relationship so offer up your best apology, grab the can of carpet cleaner, and send a gift basket later.
I was once asked, “Which fear is greater – your fear of adoption or your fear of being childless?” It helped prioritize my fears. So ask yourself, “Which fear is greater: Fear of knowing the people that have offered you a precious gift – or fear that not knowing them will lead to regret for you or your child(ren)?” Open Adoption doesn’t require the complete absence of fear, but merely a realization that there is something greater than fear to move towards.
Fear is a natural part of the adoption process. When it does raise its nasty little head, it’s important to meet it head-on with the truth and consequences it presents. One step at a time, you can walk through the fear and onward to love.
- Examine Your Motivations: fear or love. When a healthy amount of caution is elevated to runaway fear, the wise crossing guard becomes a controlling dictator – and in this place of tyranny – has the ability to rob you of great joy, experiences, and fulfillment. Just like a good find at a garage sale, pick up the fear and examine it from all angles for usefulness, validity, false pretenses, and broken pieces. Your fears may not have a leg to stand on, so discard them as the bad deals they are. Some fears may be based in love and have solid standing; thereby requiring you to make a decision and pick your poison…
2. Pick Your Poison: Do you face the fear or potentially live with regret? Fear is temporary, but regret can last a lifetime. Do you face the fears now and work towards resolving them, or ignore them and risk (you or your child) experiencing regret in the future?
3. Live It Out. Once you’ve revealed your fears, examined the motivations, and decided to face them, it is now time to politely punch them in the throat. William Allen White once said, “I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” If yesterday they gave you the ability to be a parent, and today that child calls you, “Mom”; then what is there to be afraid of tomorrow?
I took it one step at a time, walked up to the house, knocked on the door, and it opened. Behind that door lay a weekend full of fun family activities, bonding, and sharing that I will treasure as one of the best weekends of my life. At the beginning of my adoption journey, I never imagined that I could love and cherish my kid’s genetic families as much as I do. In the midst of my journey as an adoptive parent, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. One step at a time, I overcame fear to build my family on the solid foundation of love.