Philomena

What Philomena taught me about open adoption

In today’s world, there is no family ‘norm’ anymore.  Kids can have divorced, single, same-sex, bi-racial, foster and/or adoptive parents.  Family members may be estranged.  An adoptee could have his biological and adoptive families in his life.  A foster child may outgrow the system before getting a family.  Not everyone is accepting of all of these family types but more and more they are being accepted and becoming the new ‘norm’.  I found myself explaining an open adoption over lunch one day this week.  I explained how my son has contact with his birth family and that when he’s older I hope he has a good relationship with them and feels free to ask any questions he has but if he doesn’t want that, I’ll respect his decision.  I know open adoption makes some people uncomfortable and some see it as an intrusion on the adoptive family.  It is a pretty new family type and will take time for people to get used to.  Well last night I watched Philomena and it shed a lot of light for me on explaining open adoption and inspired me to write this blog.

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For those of you who don’t know about Philomena, here’s a short summary.  Philomena is based on a true story of a woman in Ireland who got pregnant as a teenager and whose family sent her to live in a convent.  After giving birth, she had to work every day for 4 years to repay the nuns, only seeing her son one hour a day until the dreaded day when her son became adopted without her ever getting to say goodbye to him.  She held this secret for 50 years and then decides to enlist the help of a journalist to find her son.  (Note: If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want any spoilers stop reading this now J).  With the journalist’s help, she finally finds out who her son is and that he died a few years prior.  She also finds out the nuns were selling the babies to wealthy American families and then burning the records.  In the end Philomena finds out her son had also tried looking for her and ended up being buried in Ireland close to his roots which finally gave her closure.  The NY Times has an article with more details behind this true story http://goo.gl/Fk9ueX.

While watching this movie was gut-wrenching, especially as an adoptive mom, I love that we have an open adoption with Jackson’s birth family.  I get that this situation is different as Philomena didn’t want her son to be adopted but even in the adoptive world, birth parents wish circumstances were different so they could choose to parent.  Philomena spent 50 years just wanting to know her son was OK.  I like that Jackson’s birth parents can have peace of mind knowing how Jackson is doing.    If the nuns had just let Philomena know her son was OK, adopted by a lovely couple and living in the U.S., she probably would have slept better at night.  Every open adoption is different – not all birth parents want direct contact with their child as it is quite heartbreaking but getting pictures and updates helps reassure them of their decision and lets them know their child is OK.  Philomena thought about her son every single day and it makes me so sad to know she lived with that wonder for 50 years.   Family health history is another huge benefit to having an open adoption.  We received the health history at the time Jackson was adopted but staying current with this information is also important to us. Lastly, as we tell everyone, can you ever have too many people who love you?  Jackson is one lucky little guy with all of the people who love and care for him which is really amazing to see.

This week a sportscaster, Dale Hansen, came out and defended a gay NFL prospect in a very open and honest speech.  You can see the speech here http://goo.gl/SvxqoM.  It’s one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard and in it is a line I really liked.  He admitted being around a gay guy can make him uncomfortable as he doesn’t understand his world.  I get that open adoption is uncomfortable for some people and my advice to you if you are one of these people is to admit it makes you uncomfortable but not judge it or be quick to think it’s horrible for the adoptive family.  It’s just a new ‘norm’!

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