Monday, October 23, 2006

Closed But Not Forgotten

In adoption parlance, there is "open" and "closed," "open" referring
to situations in which the biological mother is known and in the
picture, and "closed" meaning the opposite. China adoptions, of
course, are an extreme form of "closed" adoptions, in that not only is
there no contact with the biological mom, but there's no way of even
knowing who she is.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this. An advantage is that
the legal proceedings in terms of termination of parental rights went
without a hitch. It also eliminates for Amy and me some of the sense
that we are choosing a particular birth mom or that a birth mom is
choosing us, something that happens a lot in adoptions (and is a
process that one day we might ourselves participate in) and still
makes us a little uneasy. A major, practical disadvantage is that
Jada will never know her family health history, an important set of
facts for her future wellness.

Of course, the big elephant in the room is that in situations of
adoption, there are two sets of parents: the biological parents and
the adoptive parents. In "open" adoptions, the adopted child knows
who his or her biological parents are, and often has lots of contact
with them. For many such kids, this works to help them fill in that
gaping hole in their hearts around their personal life story and sense
of origin. And for many such biological parents, this works to help
them grieve what they've given up and be at peace that their child is
going to be OK.

In our case, the "closed" nature of our arrangement means there's only
one known set of parents around. So it helps Amy and me to more fully
own our role and responsibility as Jada's caretakers. But I wonder
how we will help Jada to fill in the gaps as she considers her
earliest days. And I wonder about a birth mother and birth father
somewhere in China, who had to have loved Jada enough to make sure she
got to an orphanage, at risk of being fined or jailed for abandoning a
baby, instead of aborting or tossing her: do they lie awake at night
wondering what became of their clandestine daughter, wishing they
could see her if only to know that she was OK?

Our adoption of Jada may be a "closed" one, and we accept the
advantages that brings. But for the sake of our daughter and her
biological father and mother, we cannot forget that there is a second
set of parents in her life. To a future Jada who will wonder and who
will be able to read this, I say: "Your biological parents loved you
so much they made sure you got to us." And to her biological parents,
who Jada'll never know and who'll never know her, I say: "Jada is
loved and cared for with all we have; she's happy and she's going to
be OK."

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