This is also up at Open Adoption Support -- a good site to check out. Their theme of openness prompted me to touch on that aspect of our adoption.
Today marks the 6th month "anniversary" of our returning home from Ethiopia with our two sons. I haven't mentioned it to anyone, am not celebrating it, nor am I feeling overly sentimental about it. It's a prompt for thoughtfulness, and it reminded me of all of my initial hopes for openness.
Our adoption isn't open in the traditional, domestic adoption sense. We did meet our sons' family when we traveled to Ethiopia, so we "know" them as well as you can know anyone you've met once, who speak an entirely different language and live an entirely different life. One reason why we chose to adopt from Ethiopia was the potential for openness, which is unusual in international adoption. Our sons don't have to wonder who their family is. We have pictures, videos, and talk about them as often as we can. The potential for traveling there in the future and seeing them again is not only possible, but probable, depending upon how the boys feel about it.
However, nothing prepares you for meeting the family. It is so incredibly momentous and at the same time so surreal and ephemeral. We were sharing something intimate, the boys, yet we were so awkward and apart. We were linked by an interpreter and our searching eyes -- theirs to ours, ours to theirs.
I ask my older son, especially, since his memories are more sharp, about his family. "Do you miss them? Do you want to write them a letter?"
"No. No, wait."
After a particularly gruelling two days of screaming, defiance and throwing toys, I held him for over an hour. For the first time ever, he screamed out one of his family member's names. I listened again to make sure, and then I asked again, "Do you miss them?"
He became quiet and still, so I told him again the story we were told, and what we can guess -- how they missed him so very much, how much they loved him, how they were so sorry that he couldn't stay with them. I also told him, I think for the first time, that it was alright if he liked them better than he liked me. He always tells me that he likes my husband more than he likes me (which is tough to take, let me tell you!), but has never compared us to his first family. So I told him it was ok if he loved them more. He sniffled. His body relaxed. "All done," he told me, so we hugged a bit, and he left to find his daddy and his brother.
Later that evening, the two boys and I hung the photos of his family on the wall around the little Buddha altar I have in my workroom. They used to be dispersed around the house, some in albums to keep them private for the boys. They will be private here, and they can come and sit with them whenever they want. As I banged the nails into the wall, my older son shook my Magic 8 Ball and asked about the weather, "Rain tomorrow?" Then he asked if two of his older brothers were playing outside. "Unlikely," said the Magic 8 Ball. I told him that it was 2 o'clock in the morning in Ethiopia and that they were probably sleeping.
We're going to send a package of photos and a letter next week to his family. It will go through our agency, or a family who is traveling to Ethiopia. Then it will travel to the area where the boys used to live. A local social worker will bring it to their family. I wonder if and when they will get the photos. This is all they asked for when we asked if they had any questions for us -- "fotos." I remember how hard everyone there worked to bring us together in April, and I hope they will be as dogged in their efforts to keep us connected. I also remember that when I traveled to Ethiopia, I hand-delivered photos and a letter to the father of a little boy adopted two years ago. The seriousness with which my request was taken, and the speed with which it was executed -- "how about let's go right now?" -- still take my breath away.
On a practical note, we will be sponsoring two of the boys' brothers. We already sponsor a young girl in Ethiopia, so we know we will hear from them at least once or twice a year, through letters and photos.
I don't think this is enough, but it is where we're going to start.