Friday, June 18, 2010

Our Open Adoption Story

When Sean and I began the adoption process, we had ideas in our heads. Ideas and expectations of how things would be, what we felt would be best for us and for our child. We had no knowledge on the topic of adoption and had done just a small amount of research, but we thought we knew exactly what we wanted to come of our personal adoption story. We always new that we would be open with our child about his/her adoption, but also felt it best if we had a confidential adoption. It was a stretch for us to even consider a semi-open adoption. We didn't want our child to be confused and we didn't want to fear our child's biological parents would want him/her back or regret their decision. We were thinking of the best interest of ourselves and what we thought was in the best interest of our child.

In March of 2006, we attended our first informational meeting at Bethany Christian Services. Slowly, those feelings in our hearts started to change. We watched a video that interviewed children who had been adopted. Many of them expressed that they wished they knew their biological parents. Many of them had so many questions. Then we listened to a local adoptive parent tell her story about her personal open adoption. I remember leaving that day realizing that maybe a confidential adoption was not actually in the best interest of our child or us in many situations. I believe that there are reasons in which a confidential adoption would be necessary, but I started to have hopes that God would choose for us a situation that would allow us to in some small way, share our child's life with it's birth parents. Although, we still felt strongly that we would not feel comfortable in a situation that required a close relationship with the birth parents. We didn't feel that we would want them involved in our lives in a personal way. We still thought that was, for lack of a better word - weird.

The next few months brought many hours of paperwork, and many hours of anticipation. As we thought about our desires for our family, we prayed for guidance. We prayed that God would place the right child in our arms and the right situation in our lives. We prayed for our child's birth parents and prayed that they would be put into our lives in just the right way and at just the right time. Many of our prayers asked for patience - patience to know that this miracle would be placed in our arms in God's time.

On October 6th, 2006 at 4:15, the phone rang. It was the call we had been waiting for! We were told that a young couple that had just delivered a healthy baby boy the day before had selected us. To be sure of their decision, the birth father wanted to meet with us that evening. Words cannot describe the surge of emotion, anticipation and fear that ran through our bodies. We were terrified! We were terrified of saying or doing the wrong things that may jeopardize our chances of getting this baby. We drove the 2 hour drive that evening to meet with the birth father. When we arrived at the Bethany Christian Services office, we asked the social worker several questions. She was wonderful and made us feel as comfortable as can be expected in such a new situation. When Brandon, the birth father, walked in the room, he was clearly emotional. We introduced ourselves and let Brandon take the lead. He asked us several questions about how we would plan on raising his son. He talked about Maggie, the birth mother and how she didn't want the openness that he was going to want. He stated that he would like to have pictures and letters and see his son around his birthday and Christmas time. It was only a few minutes into the meeting when we all began to relax and speak more freely. I won't deny that this situation was nerve racking and strange, but still, we felt comfortable with Brandon. Both Sean and my hearts changed in that meeting. Suddenly, we knew that if Brandon were to tell us that we would have the privilege of raising his son, we would do anything to assure him that he made the right decision. How do you thank someone for giving you their child? How would we ever repay them?

About a half an hour into the meeting, we found out that we would have the rest of our lives to try and answer those questions. Brandon told us that we were going to be the parents of his son. That moment, we will never forget for the rest of our lives. I remember hugging Brandon and crying and saying, "thank you". I remember how foolish I felt saying "thank you". Still to this day, we feel silly saying those words to him. Those words cannot even come close to enough. Brandon and Maggie were going to give us, two strangers, their child. All we could say was thank you. At that moment, we knew that we needed to do more.

From that moment on, not only were we a Mommy and Daddy to a beautiful baby boy, but also we were the recipients of the most amazing gift anyone could have given us. We have made it our mission not only to be the best parents we can be, but also to always know that we have done everything we can to repay these two amazing people for this most incredible gift. These two people were experiencing the most pain that they had ever experienced in their lives and we could not find it in our hearts to take their child and go on our joyous way expecting them to "just know" that their son was going to lead a happy and healthy life. We were strangers to them and we didn't want them to ever wonder how their son was. We didn't want to be strangers to them; we wanted them to see what kind of life their son was placed in, to see that he was happy and healthy. We wanted them to grow to trust us to raise him in a healthy environment and to make good choices regarding his well being, so that as time passed, they would "just know" that he was okay.

Our son, Tate Kenneth Peakin, was placed in our arms the very next day and we were forever changed! We had no idea of this amazing love that existed. We felt like we could not be more blessed! We arrived at the Bethany Christian Services offices that day as a couple and left as a family. We had the most intense joy while meeting our son while at the same time, there was an intense ache in our hearts for Tate's birth parents. Brandon came to the Bethany offices shortly after we met Tate to say his good-byes to Tate and to us. It was the most emotional moment of all of our lives. Again, as we said "thank you", we felt sad. We were sad that that was all we could do and it didn't feel like enough.

Our first several days with Tate brought many introductions and many photographs! We wanted to document every special moment! We took so many great pictures of Tate's first meetings with all of our friends and family. You could see in the photos all of the love that surrounded this little miracle. These pictures became our first source of contact with Tate's birth parents. After the first week, we sent out our first letter and set of photos to Brandon and Maggie. We wanted them to see how much love surrounded their son. In these letters, we again, expressed the feeling in our hearts, thanking Brandon and Maggie over and over again. Still, we wanted to do more. As the days rolled on, the pictures added up. I wished that Brandon and Maggie could see each and every one! I used an internet photo store to download all of my pictures. I began searching their product selection for other ways I could compile all of these photos along with explanations of the photos for Brandon and Maggie. I found many options of inexpensive photo books that offered templates for each page so that you could create your own story. This was perfect! About a week later, I compiled over 50 pictures of the first few days we had Tate and created a photo book for Brandon and one for Maggie. I titled the book, "The First Few Days". Within the book, I wrote about our "firsts" with Tate. I wrote about how much we loved him and how grateful we are for him. I felt that I was able to really give Brandon and Maggie a glimpse into Tate's life with the creation of this book.

As the days passed, Tate continued to develop and change. He was learning to do so many new things! I wanted Brandon and Maggie to see what an amazing person they created. I wanted to do all I could to make sure they weren't wondering what he was up to or wondering how he was doing. I wanted to always have a steady flow of pictures arriving to them so that they new they could count on an update every couple of weeks and wouldn't have to wonder when the next time would be that we would send something to them. So at least once or twice a month, I would send them something. Even if it was just a couple of wallet sized pictures and a letter updating them on how Tate was doing. I got more and more creative, finding a DVD option on the photo store website and creating a slideshow on a DVD for them.

As the first 2 months of our lives with Tate came and went, Christmas was approaching. Every "first" for Tate was so emotional and exciting for us and we knew that Tate's first holidays would be the same way. Not a day passed that we didn't think about Brandon and Maggie and thank God for them. Because we knew how big of a deal all of Tate's "firsts" were to us, we imagined that Tate was on Brandon and Maggie's minds during those times as well. We had spoken with Brandon on the phone and arranged a day to get together with him around Christmas. It was an honor for us to share this special time with Brandon. We know that every person deals with trials in their lives differently and just because Maggie had chosen to deal with this decision of placing her child for adoption in a different and more private way then Brandon, she still deserved to know about Tate's life. We sent her a gift basket for Christmas containing a necklace with Tate's birthstone along with some other small items and pictures of Tate for her to enjoy. We wanted to make sure that she knew that she was being thought of during this time and always. Maggie's social worker at Bethany Christian Services has been wonderful at letting us know that Maggie has enjoyed receiving the packages we have sent her.

Not a single holiday has passed without us sending at least a small something as a token of our appreciation for Brandon and Maggie. We have sent them several photo books and DVD's. We think of them everyday, but especially during holidays, they are on our minds and in our hearts and we want them to always know that. During Mother's Day and Father's Day, we felt that Brandon and Maggie needed to know that they were appreciated and loved by us. They are a Mother and a Father and deserved to be honored those days just as our families honor Sean and me. Again, we put together a Mother's Day basket for Maggie containing several small items that made us think of her. We put Tate's hand print in a heart-shaped plaster mold, we included pictures and a heartfelt letter for her to let her know how important her role as Tate's birth mother is to us and how we look forward to telling Tate all about how amazing she is! We put together a similar gift for Brandon for Father's Day and are blessed to be able to tell him in person how wonderful he is and how much we love him! We could not imagine letting these holidays come and go without honoring these two amazing people!

We look forward to the days when Tate is old enough to draw Brandon and Maggie a picture or make a finger painting that we can send to them. We are always trying to find new and creative ways to show Brandon and Maggie our gratitude and to show them how beautifully Tate is developing. Doing these things for Brandon and Maggie is so much fun for us! We are blessed to have a personal relationship with Brandon and love being able to see him a few times each year and talk to him periodically. It is so touching to watch him hold Tate and see all of the new things he can do. It gives us such joy to witness the moments Tate and Brandon have together. We have made it very clear to Maggie that if the feelings in her heart change, we would love to meet her someday and include her in our family as well!

In two completely different ways, Brandon and Maggie have become part of our family! We could not feel more blessed! When telling friends and family about our story and our maintained contact with Brandon and Maggie, we get asked many questions. We know that many of these people find it strange that we maintain this kind of contact with Tate's birth parents, just as we thought it was strange to do before we were personally placed in this situation. They ask, "Isn't it a hassle to send stuff to Tate's birth parents all of the time?" or "how do you find time to do all that?" It is absolutely not a hassle to do this - it is an honor! Nothing bad could come of us allowing Tate to be loved by more people in this world! We feel that if these two people had enough love in their hearts to give two strangers a baby, they deserve so much more than we could ever give. We always want them to know how grateful we are and how much their decision to place Tate in our care has blessed our lives.

No, we do not plan to send Brandon and Maggie pictures and letters and gifts every month for the rest of Tate's life, but we do plan to do all of these things until we have built the type of relationship with each of them that allows them to "just know" that Tate is okay. We will always continue to update them multiple times a year and will always honor them for being the Mother and Father that they are on Mother's Day and Father's Day, but we want them to eventually be able to move on with their lives trusting that Tate is okay and is in good hands. They will always know that we are here if they have any questions and will always be able to get any information they would like regarding Tate's well being. And we pray that they will always wish to be a part of Tate and our lives and are honored to include them in all of the important times to come in Tate's life. They will always be welcome at Tate's birthday parties and special events.

We have been blessed more than words can say with the addition of Tate into our family. We never knew that we could love in the way that we love Tate! In addition to gaining an amazing son, we have also gained two new family members in Brandon and Maggie. We never knew that we could love two strangers the way we loved Brandon and Maggie from the moment that Tate was placed in our arms. It is a feeling that we cannot describe. We thank God every day for opening our hearts and minds to the possibility of an open adoption - it has blessed us far beyond anything we ever imagined. Our family would not feel complete if we didn't have Brandon and Maggie included in it!

(This post was written in June of 2007 and since I wrote this, we have had the amazing honor of meeting Tate's birth mother, Maggie (read about that meeting HERE) and also becoming very close with Tate's birth grandparents as well. The open adoption we chose continues to bless us more and more as we continue on this journey and we feel even more blessed now than we did when I wrote this! We love Brandon, Maggie and Tate's birth grandparents from the depths of our souls and they are family to us and are included in our lives fully. We couldn't be happier about our decision for openness with Tate's adoption and we know it is only going to make for a healthier situation for Tate as he grows to understand his adoption story as well!)

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