Reflecting on my life over the last 6 years, some major events have taken place—four houses, three dogs, two children, and complete career changes for me and my husband. There is another significant event that also occurred, yet it is not visible or tangible like the others: a thought shift in how I view open adoptions.
When we began the adoption process almost 7 years ago, I wanted this clear-cut, simple, closed adoption. I longed to be matched with a birth mother who would have a baby, hand him or her over to me sweetly swaddled, and walk out of the hospital without wanting any further contact. I thought that would be the ideal adoption. It would be mess-free, drama-free, and easy to navigate. It would just be our little family of three.
Except it would not just be our family of three, because the reality—which I tried unsuccessfully to hide from—was that our daughter was born to another woman. Another woman, who carried her in her womb for nine months. Another woman, who chose to give her child to a couple of strangers because she felt she could not parent the way she needed to at that time. Another woman, who may have walked away from the hospital empty handed, but her heart was full of pain, loss, and love.
The last part is what struck me: love. Such a simple word that we throw around all the time without much thought to it. But when it comes to adoption, it is no longer a simple word with a singular meaning. Love in the form of adoption shows up from many different angles. Love comes from the mother who knows she cannot parent the child, so she chooses someone else to. Love comes from the couple who has prayed for God to open the door and allow them to become parents. Love comes from the adoption caseworker as he or she talks things through with the waiting families, trying to comfort and reassure them a baby will come even though that is never a guarantee. Love comes from the adoption counselors who work with the birth mothers to determine that they know with all their being that placing their unborn child for adoption is the best and only option for them. Love comes from the friends and families who support their loved ones—spiritually, morally, and often financially—whether they are waiting for a baby or choosing to place their own for adoption.
Love comes from the mother who delivers her baby and leaves the hospital with empty arms. I am not talking about the love she feels which leads her to choose adoption and what society often refers to as “a better life for her child.” I am talking about the love she feels when she thinks of that baby after she leaves the hospital and tries to return to her life and feel somewhat normal again. Or when she thinks of him or her that night in bed or the next morning in the shower and the following week in the car, and the next month, year, and every hour and minute in between.
I realized the simple, mess-free, closed adoption I had prayed for was not coming from a place of love, but rather bubbling up and overflowing from a selfish pit deep in my heart. The pit was a place where my self-serving wants and desires trumped what was best for my child, and that definitely was not what love does. My view of the best way to love my child had to change, because ultimately, I needed to accept that my child was not just my child. I shared her with another woman.
I also needed to shut down the voices in my head that fueled my self-serving, protective attitude. What if she likes her better? What if she loves her more? What if she wants to share exciting news with her first before me? I could what-if my life away with negativity and have it filled with fear and anxiety about every decision at every turn.
But, what if she meets her biological family and the most beautiful connection is formed? What if she finds she has siblings whom she can trust and share secrets with? What if Sunday nights are filled with laughter and FaceTime calls across states? What if she can look at her biological mother and see their similarities and know where her features came from? What if she can experience love from two families and know she has a special place in each one?
So, that is where we are now, in the beginning stages of learning what it means to shift from the idea of closed adoption to open. I do not know where this road will lead. It is tricky, challenging, and no two paths are ever the same. What might be best for one family may not work for another. It is all a journey with many bumps along the way with no roadmap.
I am also leaning into the idea that this might not work out the way we hope it does. It might even end in rejection, pain, and tears.
But, what if it doesn’t? What if it ends up being a beautiful mess that knits two families together in a unique way all in the name of love. Love for this one child whom we share. If love is at the root of this entire process and guides us through this uncharted territory, I just cannot believe that this can be anything other than a good thing. This is an opportunity to give my daughter even more love that she already receives from our family and, in my humble opinion, a person can never be too loved.
Am I scared? Yes—terrified, actually. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I afraid of the possibility that she could face rejection at any point along the way? Absolutely. Am I afraid of my own heart breaking during this process? More than I can express. But I refuse to let fear grip me so tightly that we do not give this a try. And so we are. A wise poet once declared: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
Hand in hand, we are going to walk down the road less traveled by and into the great unknown, praying for guidance, grace, and peace along the way.
Lauren has been married to Josh for seven years and they have two children, Ryan (5) and Woodson (10 months). She works for the ASK Program, which provides support groups and training to foster and adoptive families in her home state. Lauren is passionate about adoption and openly shares information and resources to those beginning the often daunting process. She also provides support and encouragement to families who are waiting to adopt. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family, exercising, teaching cookie decorating classes, and reading. To learn more about Lauren, connect with her on Instagram @coffeecoveredchaos.