Dana and I “met” on Twitter. We quickly swapped adoption stories. And then I confided in her when we faced some adoption process road blocks earlier this year. She encouraged me then with her response and has encouraged me since with her words, whether they’ve come in emails, on her blog, in Facebook updates, or 140-word snippets on Twitter. I’m grateful for her words here today, where she shares about their open adoption.
It was the end of January 2012. My husband and I were taking the first, tentative steps of our domestic adoption journey.
The road stretched out before us, unpredictable. Daunting.
We’d received enough prior education to know that adopted children who know something of their family of origin tend to be healthier emotionally. More integrated. So we knew we wanted some level of openness in our upcoming adoption.
In the Face of Big Unknowns
But our questions loomed huge:
How open should this relationship be? What types of boundaries will we need to set? How will we navigate difficult dynamics over the years? Will having a birth family AND an adoptive family confuse our child? How will it affect our child if his/her birth family makes poor life choices? How will an open relationship with our child’s birth family change our family?
The unknowns were endless, an ever-compounding string of what if’s.
In furthering our education, we learned that in an open adoption, relationships can ebb and flow over years based on the evolving needs of all parties, and ultimately based on what the adoptive parents feel is in their child’s best interest in any given life season.
Despite the million-and-one unanswerable questions, we were positive that some level of openness was what we wanted, assuming the birth family’s life choices were such that continued relationship would be healthy for our child and our family (and assuming the birth family also desired continued contact).
So, we said yes to open adoption. Trusted God in the face of the what ifs. Believed He’d lead as we navigated relationships through the years.
From Theory to Reality
A year and a half ticked by.
And then it came.
Or in our case, the e-mail. A birth mom. A baby girl. Due in a month.
We officially “matched” with Maia’s birth mom that night. We were beyond ecstatic, and all those crazy, compounding “what ifs” invaded my brain in the wee morning hours, began taking on lives of their own.
Despite several hours of distance between us, we were able to meet with our girl’s birth mom twice prior to her birth. She was openhearted and we were absolutely disarmed by her transparency. I began texting with her almost daily, in addition to several phone conversations. I enjoyed getting to know her, building trust.
By the time Maia was born in June of this year, I was confident we were developing a genuine friendship.
Stan’s and my concerns about what an open adoption would be like were already beginning to subside a bit.
When Maia arrived, our time at the hospital was beyond sweet. There were a thousand tears, both happy and sad, and almost as many hugs. There was the playing of video games with Maia’s birth mom’s older son, and getting to know Maia’s birth grandma.
There was “Duck Dynasty” playing in Maia’s birth mom’s delivery room — our first encounter with the show and it was life-altering. And I think friendships are built in part by laughing together.
And mostly, there was the profound love we all instantly shared for this tiny, precious, new person. It knit our hearts to theirs.
Our verbal agreement prior to Maia’s birth was two visits with her birth family per year. But by the time we left the hospital with our girl, Stan and I knew we’d see them more frequently. We already trusted and cared for them deeply.
How It Looks Now
Since Maia’s birth, her birth mom and I have texted almost daily. I send pictures and videos, cheer her on in her schoolwork and life in general. She’s doing incredibly well.
Maia’s birth family has visited three times in not quite five months. Her biological brother and our son Isaac bounce crazy on our trampoline and the adults grill and chat and take turns loving on our sweet girl.
Birth mama and big brother have joined us for church twice now. This after my tentative “I just wasn’t sure if it’d feel too weird to you …?” and her prompt grin: “Would YOU be embarrassed to be her birth mom?!”
I grinned back. Nope. Sure wouldn’t.
Our adoption is so much more “open” than we ever dreamed. A real friendship has naturally unfolded, and we all so genuinely enjoy each other. It is such an unexpected gift.
And our Lil’ Miss Maia? She’ll grow up knowing from her first mama’s own mouth that she’s always been dearly loved. Her birth mom, brother, Nana, aunt, and uncle will get to be a part of her life, to love on her and watch her grow. How priceless. For Maia, and for all of us.
Our next planned visit? Thanksgiving at our place. We’ll eat and play games and laugh and just be the extended family we’ve become for one another.
Open adoption always requires stepping out in faith, facing head-on the unpredictability of human hearts, relationships, choices, and how life will play out during the years.
Even in the midst of our uber-incredible relationship with Maia’s birth family, we have to acknowledge that Maia is only a baby. That we have decades ahead of us. That unforeseeable issues will undoubtedly arise at some point (simply because we’re all human) and we will all need to lean into Jesus for wisdom to process and walk out relationship for the long haul.
I’m confident we’ll do it. We, and they, are committed to it.
Because Maia’s worth it. And because we all just really like each other.
And I so believe God’s about this stuff. His heart in adoption is always redemption and how redemptive is all this extravagance from His hand, this amazing intertwining and expanding of two families?
God Is Trustworthy
Yet as I share the beauty of our relationship with Maia’s birth family, I’m acutely aware not every open adoption turns out this way. Not all birth/adoptive family relationships are so fulfilling. And, for many other adoptive families, this level of openness might not be the healthiest choice.
Jesus is intimately aware of the needs of every family and every adopted child’s heart, no matter the degree of birth family involvement. He’s committed to helping our children grow, process adoption-related losses and questions. To healing their hearts through the years.
And in all of it, He leads well, gives wisdom. He is trustworthy. Trustworthy with all the relationships. Trustworthy with our families and our futures. Trustworthy with our children’s hearts.
So we put our trust in Him over and over again—and hang on for the ride.
A note from Dana: Thank you so much for reading my words today. I’m honored (and so thankful to Kristin!) to have the opportunity to share a piece of our family’s story with you here. If you’d like to read the more detailed version of Maia’s adoption story or view the slideshow I created in honor of her adoption finalization, you can find that stuff on my blog. I’m also available to (try to) answer any questions you may have about openness in adoption or our personal adoption journey. No question is off limits.
Dana Butler is thrilled to be wife to her husband Stan, and mommy to two extravagantly-enjoyed little people (one adopted, one bio). She is also a worship leader, writer, and relentless authenticity-pursuer. Dana’s passion is to encourage believers to bring their weak places into the light of Christ’s affection and respond with tender, trusting hearts to His loving pursuit.
Connect with Dana on her blog or at email@example.com.
This is the fifth post in the ongoing adoption series celebrating National Adoption Awareness Month. Find all the posts here. Want more stories? Like 152 Insights on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin’. Subscribe to receive “Insights in Your Inbox.”
Dana, this brings me so much joy. I know so many who have openly adopted, yet things fall to the wayside due to circumstances. I imagine this is how God would want things to be. There is that restorative part of adoption that so many children just don't have. Your Maia is going to have the benefit of truly knowing who she is, and that she is loved on all sides. Such a beautiful gift!
Well, this was so beautiful. What a great redemption story. I love how God has woven your hearts together with her birth family. Your story has so encouraged me.
Dana Butler says
Hi Chandra! I'm so glad you're encouraged! I love it too—God's goodness is so extravagant. Bless you friend!
Lori Harris says
Your story is such a redemptive one, Dana! So glad you wrestled these words out and that you gave us all a peek into how God is working His plan in ALL of your lives. Love that God is always pursuing and always extravagantly loving us. Love you friend.
Dana Butler says
Lori, He IS always pursuing and extravagantly loving us! I'm so thankful and so often undone by that about Him. So appreciate your friendship and support… Love you too, my friend!