I did it! I gave my first Keynote speech this past weekend and let me tell you, it was a wonderful feeling to talk very honestly about adoption. The Rockies welcomed all that were in attendance at FSA (Families Supporting Adoption) Colorado Regional Conference in Littleton with a brilliant blue sky above, just signaling the beauty of the day.
The theme of the conference was Hearts Knit Together, such an appropriate theme for the discussion of adoption.That is what I took my cue from and I spoke from the heart. Opening with my own story of life as a birth mother, I did my best to convey HOW and WHY I chose to pursue open adoption for my first three children. Allow me to sum up what I had to say.
Communication is the most important part of adoption, not just for adults but also for the children. Now, when I say this I am speaking about the importance of both parent sides to be honest with each other, respect each other and talk (whether it is written or verbal, which ever is decided upon) about what is going on with the child. Ever heard of the saying honesty is the best policy? Well there just cannot be enough of it in adoption. After all, saying what you feel and need is not a bad quality to have. Something to consider about the communication factor, give both sides the distance that they will need to adjust as life moves forward. There will be times when one side or the other will need to take a step back. It is normal, and very often needed.
Knowing where the birth parent is coming from is important. I was very honest in this part of the speech because I think it is important to understand some of the factors that birth parents have to learn to live with.
Curiosity ~ the longing to know what is happening to your child is never ending. NO matter the years, it is still sometimes very difficult to live with. Not too long ago, I was at an award ceremony for my own son who is 7, when out of no where I began to cry. Seeing all those kids get awards for achievements, AND seeing their parents there to cheer them on just reminded me that I missed so much in my children's lives. I wasn't hysterical or anything, just a little sad that I did not see the milestones or even the small moments that make life memorable. But then, I reminded myself that there was a pretty spectacular little man who I WAS able to see get his award. Then I realized, again, what it was that I was able to give to those families.
Time~ it moves on regardless of what you are dealing with. Our time as a birth parent moves rather slowly, as opposed to the time that adoptive parents spend parenting that child. I found it difficult at times to keep my mind off my children. Really wanting and wishing I would get a letter in the mail, but knowing it was not time for an update. Sometimes the wait would be a weight that was hard to bare.
Jealousy~ The birth parents are jealous that they do not get to see the firsts, are not going to be there to help, nurture or raise their child and that is a very hard pill to swallow. Another jealous feeling we may have? Knowing we are mothers but not being seen that way. There are some who understand, but the majority of the general population just does not see the birth parent as a parent. I did not carry pictures around, I did not brag about my children's accomplishments, nor did I have little stories that most other parents have.
Love~ it never stops. I heard someone say once that birth mothers can not truly love their children because they never had the chance to know them. HOGWASH! Carrying that life around for 9 months as it grows into a little nugget of joy, how can you NOT love that? Well, I am here to tell you that 20 some odd years after my adoptions I continue to think of them, love them and pray for them from afar. I only want them to know that I care about them, and always have!
Open Adoption can work. If there is space given to all sides to adjust and explore their feelings, then there is a way for all to be open enough to work together in the name of love. Yeah, sounds hokey, but it is true. There is plenty of fear on all sides of adoption. A birth mother's fear is that their child will never know just how much they cared about them. The adoptive parents fear that all kinds of things from will she change her mind? to what affect will this have in the long run? Well, just about everything one side fears, the other has also feared. Adoption is not about mind reading, it is about sharing and caring together for a common goal: a healthy and loved child.
The only thing I did not get to in my speech was this very important point: When the child starts to wonder about their roots or birth families ... please, please, please allow them to explore those feelings and thoughts. Remember, kids are people just like you and me and they need to know who they are, where they came from. They will be curious, all kids are. Heck, I am 40 years old and I am still curious about life. If you show acceptance of your birth parents, your children will more than likely take your lead and they will be accepting as well. I have lived it. I know this to be so very true. Not only will this action help your child, but it will also reassure your birth mother that you are honoring the person she is. If your child begins to ask questions, allow them to take the lead and they will let you know what they need. What you answer or discuss at 5 or 6 years old will be very different than what you answer at 12 or 13 years old. Again, just because they are kids does not mean they cannot or will not understand how they came into the world.
There was a song performed just before I spoke, it was sung so beautifully by Amy and I became familiar with the lyrics a week or so before Saturday. The song was called Welcome the Rain. It was all about how life will always have rough points, stormy days that will bring you down. The chorus is quite powerful.
"Don't be afraid of the power of life,
open your eyes to it's wonder.
Just as your heart should be open to joy,
so it must let in the thunder.
The sun that you long for is hidden from view,
and only the shadows remain.
But that's when you see the true beauty of life,
when you learn to welcome the rain."
Going up after these words made it easier to share the good with the bad, and reminding people that nothing in life is a guarantee, but what you do with life is what makes the difference.
Be honest. Be respectful. Be considerate. And most of all, communicate with each other and be accepting of all sides. These are my thoughts, and my take on what open adoption can be.
I met some of the winners of the book giveaway that lead up to the conference ...
I got to see Jessa again, what a treat! Here we are with Corrine, one of the masterminds behind the conference.
Not olny was Jessa there, but there were many more beautiful birth mothers as well!
And ... I had the opportunity to meet Jill from the blog Adoption Ain't For Sissies, BONUS!!!! I love to read her thoughts and brilliance.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the conference's organizers, Kelly, Corrine and Kelly. I was so honored to be a part of the day and not only did I feel welcomed, but that I was among friends. I truly appreciate you asking me to be there, it was a day full of wonderful people, great conversation, new and old friends and most of all, love.