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Open Adoption: A Bittersweet Blessing

What does it take to give up a child for adoption, and then remain in the picture?

Amy Seek offers us a glimpse into the life of a birth mother after an open adoption this week in Modern Love, the New York Times wonderful column on love in all its forms.

Seek’s moving essay on her tenuous, loving, awkward relationship with the little boy she gave birth to and then gave away draws the bitter and sweet together into a complex tapestry of a new kind of relationship, one she and her son’s family are learning how to weave together.

Seek talks openly about the challenges of being a birth mother:

Open adoption is an awkward choreography; I am offered a place at the table, but I am not sure where to sit. I don’t know how to be any kind of mother, much less one who surrendered her child but is back to help build a Lego castle.

She also writes about the pangs of having given him up, but never says she regrets the choice. Just that with age she has appreciated more and more the path not taken.

Seek was young when she had her unplanned pregnancy, and in a fleeting relationship. She was a graduate student. Giving the baby up made sense then. She says it seemed like simple math. Only as she and the boy have grown has she come to realize how complex it really is.

Part of the beauty of this piece is the love that clearly exists between Amy and her son’s mother, Holly. She writes about Holly’s grace in giving her space to find her own relationship with the little boy they both love, and their shared tears at the time of the adoption.

During those months, my son’s mother, Holly, observed that birth mothers have to accomplish in one day the monumental task of letting go that most parents have 18 years to figure out.

I recently saw the high school friend who, when we were teens, gave a baby up in an open adoption. Now, on the cusp of 30, she’s a mom with a little baby of her own.

I was really struck, by how my friend talked about the son she’d given up. She seemed radiant on the topic, bubbling with enthusiasm about his life and accomplishments. She also said that acceptance and joy had been a long time coming. They’d recently exchanged letters directly for the first time; for a decade their correspondence had been only through holiday letters sent by his parents.

I’m sure everyone’s experience is wildly different, but it seemed that my friend, like Amy Seek, had been given a gift as well as a painful loss by choosing to give her child up to a loving family when she wasn’t ready to be a parent herself.

Have you been part of an open adoption? Please share your story in the comments.

Photo: a4gpa

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