I placed my son in an open adoption in 1988, so yes I’m in my early 40s right now.
I live on the east coast and my son and his family live on the west coast. Almost a year to the day of his placement, I decided to fly to California for a visit. Fortunately, his family – his mom, in particular – was completely fine with the idea and genuinely excited I was coming.
We met for lunch at a local McDonald’s where I sat next to my son in his booster seat. He smiled and cooed and showed me all of his french fries one by one. After lunch, we went to a local park. It was a huge grassy area with a lovely pond with ducks swimming around. She had brought a bag of bread for him to toss to the ducks…
Her older son (also adopted) was with us too. And he needed to use the restroom. Without hesitating, she stood up and asked me so sweetly if I would mind watching him while she took her older boy to the bathroom. She left her keys. She left her purse. She left her son…my son.
I was barely 19 at the time, but even I knew this was a big deal. I remember feeling the love she had for him and also for me. I remember hearing the gratitude in her voice that was not overbearing or over the top, but more appreciative and humble. This moment has been a pivotal one in my healing. I think of it often. I remember the slew of emotions I felt on his placement day a year earlier – sorrow, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, all mixed with profound love for my son. I had felt so rejected by my family at the time and yet, she never judged me. She never made me feel like a kid who had done something wrong. She never made me feel bad about myself. In fact, just the opposite. She made me realize the great strength in my choice.She is the most amazing person I know. And yet, on that day, she made me feel like I was pretty amazing.
Our open adoption has been overwhelmingly positive and rewarding these last 25 years, as our family includes his birthfather’s family too, my husband and daughters, my parents and sister and extended family. My son is grown and on his own now and he’s the most spectacular human being on the planet (along with my two young daughters!). I have such pride in him. And although I have experienced times of overwhelming sadness, I’ve come to realize it’s all part of the grieving process.
But on that one summer day in 1989 – and probably without any premeditation – she single-handedly set the tone for the next 25 years. In that park, two women shared a bond of trust, motherhood, friendship, love and openness. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.