By Matt Pearce
When my wife and I decided to pursue adopting a child, we knew absolutely nothing about the process. After our first meeting with an adoption agency, and our introduction to “open” adoption, the dream nearly ended right there.
I was afraid.
When the counselor told us that the birth parents choose the adoptive parents, I was uneasy with being potentially judged by them and having to compete with other parents that wanted to adopt a child. The counselor said that developing a relationship with the birth parents was very important for the birth parents, and I thought that would be awkward and difficult. Most disturbingly, I thought an open adoption was a slippery slope that could easily turn into co-parenting with the birth parents.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’m glad we stuck with the process, went to the meetings with our counselor, and listened to the stories of several birth parents. The birth parents we listened to put me at ease. They didn’t have ulterior motives, like being co-parents. They only wanted to give their child the best chance possible by placing him or her to the best people they could find. I realized that when the adoption was finalized, the child would be ours. We will feel it. The child will know it. The birth parents will know it, and it will be intensely painful for them.
And that’s where my take on an open adoption has come full circle. I now enjoy the open aspect of our adoption very much. I enjoy sharing photos and having video calls with our child’s birth mother. It makes me happy to see our son happily prouncing around with his birth mother watching. The mixed tears of joy and sadness in her eyes moves me beyond words, and it makes me want to be an even better dad to this beautiful little boy. I don’t ever want to disappoint his birth mom.
When we started the adoption process, I thought we would be doing a “good deed” for a needy mother and child. Now, I realize how selfish that approach was. Our birth mom made the ultimate sacrifice for her son. She was the one who gave everything to us. Hers was the great deed, and I am astounded every time I kiss our son goodnight.
The key to getting from here to there, from the uncertain beginning of the adoption process to a healthy rewarding adoptive family, is honesty and compassion.
You have to be honest with yourself about every last question and detail. My wife and I had to figure out exactly how we felt about the race of our future child, how we felt about drug exposures in utero, how much openness we were comfortable with, and so on. We had to share every one of those potentially awkward answers with each other and then with the birth mom. We learned that if our honest wants and fears matched the birth mother’s wants and fears, we would end up with a child that we would walk through fire for, and a birth mother who would walk through fire for us. We would find it easy to keep our promises with regard to sending photos, making video calls, or having visitations. Conversely, we realized that if we were not completely honest with ourselves and our birth mom, we could end up in a very difficult situation.
Having compassion is also extremely important, and not always easy, especially if you don’t agree with every decision being made. You have to have an enormous heart, with room for both birth mother and child. It was sometimes difficult to put ourselves in her shoes, when we couldn’t really relate, but ultimately found ourselves wanting what was best for her and the baby. Until the very last moment when the papers were signed, all power sat with our son’s birth mom. Any decision that needed to be made rested with her, whether we agreed or not. It was not always easy or comfortable, but my wife and I found a way to embrace that, to have compassion for the awful decision she was having to make. We knew the consequences if we didn’t. Accepting the uncertainty of the outcome, as the birth parents make their way through the process, is by far the most difficult part.
It is important to take care of yourself as well. Our adoption journey took three years: two and a half years until we were matched with a birth mom, and 6 months of pregnancy. The two and a half years were exceptionally frustrating. My wife and I had to lean on each other, and take turns being the stabilizer. We had to change strategies a few times to try to get the attention of birth moms. That involved re-working our adoption profile several times, increasing the number of agencies we were registered with, and continuously seeking out good advice. We approached it as a team and shared the work. My wife took care of the myriad of paperwork and phone calls. I was in charge of the writing and re-writing of our personal narrative.
We also had to make sure that the process didn’t dominate our lives. We have a biological son as well, and we could not let our frustration, fear, and fatigue affect our life with him. At points along the way, we purposely took time off from the adoption process. We wouldn’t talk or think about it much, occasionally for months on end. We had to let it breathe. There is only so much you can do. We chose to not even tell our son about our adoption until a month before the birth, which was an approach that worked well for us. Even though it took way too long, I don’t feel like our time was wasted at all. Our beautiful son is worth it all, and makes me wonder why I ever was afraid.
In his own words…Matt Pearce is the lucky husband of Sandy, and proud father of Brian and Michael. His wife is smarter than he is, his 7 year-old son a better basketball player, and his 1 year-old son more handsome. But, he does the cooking and the yardwork, so they need him…Well, a humble man he is. For Matt and Sandy’s adoption success story, click here.