In the section “Do Birthparents Have Continuing Obligations?” Gritter asks “What do we owe to the life we bring to this planet?” How would you answer this question?
I would like to think that there is an obligation for birthparents to, if not be involved in their children's lives, then be available for contact via phone, etc. It is, of course, glaringly easy for me to write that as I am an adoptive parent, and have no idea what it is like to place one's child for adoption.
We are in what I consider to be a very open adoption. Our daughter's birthmother, A., lives about an hour away with her family. We see her frequently, about once a month. Since we are still navigating through our baby's first year of life, the contact may be reduced at some point later on when A. feels comfortable with it.
Our baby's birthmother and her family seem to understand that their presence and participation in her life will help our baby with identity issues, etc. that might come up in the future. So far they have been very involved - we see each other monthly, and usually get together the day before holidays. I am very happy with the relationship we have, as well as with the amount of participation in our baby's life.
How do adoptive parents best accomplish the possibly counterintuitive goals of 1) respecting the birthparents' right to define their role in the lives of their birthchildren (how often, in what way, the relationship is maintained) and 2) nurture the expectation that birthparents will maintain lifelong involvement?
This has been a tricky one for us. Our daughter's birthmother and her family have been very involved from the start. Again, we are in the first year of the adoption, and C. may at some point need to reduce contact (she is young, and may need to relocate for school and we hope that she will have a family of her own one day). At this point, the relationship has been mostly a very easy, good one.
However, the birthfather found out in a very abrupt way about the baby and her being placed for adoption after the fact. We have met him twice, and he seemed a bit nervous on both occasions, but expressed a desire to be a part of our daughter's life. However, when it came time for him to sign relinquishment papers, he didn't return phone calls, was evasive, etc. He expressed no desire to parent, but simply didn't want to sign. We hired a lawyer to have him served, and haven't heard from him since. I plan to send him some photos for Fathers' Day, along with a card.
He has had tumultuous life, and has issues with his own father. One idea I have once (or if) we re establish contact is to interview him Storycorps style (a la NPR), so that our daughter will at least have a recorded conversation with salient information. If he is not able to be present in her life, I will continue to send him photos and updates to let him know that we are here for him.
To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.