Today T and I went to an adoption seminar put on by Adoption Community of New England (ACONE). It was difficult and overwhelming, but we learned a lot and it was definitely worth our time.
Our first seminar was a panel of birth moms. I was pretty scared of this panel, but I thought it would be good to hear that side of the story. It's not something I have much exposure to at all, but it's something I think about. I had never seen or met a birth-mother, at least that I've known about. There were all sorts of people in this seminar -- birth parents (mothers and fathers), prospective adoptive parents (like us), adoptees and adoptive parents. Some birth parents and adoptees have met their birth children/parents. The birth parents on the panel all had their children years ago when single young women who were pregnant were whisked away and basically given no choice but to place their children for adoption, so there was definitely an old school skew to the discussion. Things are definitely better now in that area. But the session definitely made me feel more comfortable with openness and helped me see the importance for an adopted child to be able to find their birth parents when the appropriate time arrives, and it made me feel perfectly comfortable about sending updates to birth parents through the adoption agency.
The second seminar was about adoption after infertility. We heard two interesting stories from two couples who have adopted after failed treatments, etc which was nice. Unfortunately there wasn't much time for discussion afterward, so I didn't get quite as much out of this one as I had hoped. I wanted to discuss the whole loss of biology thing in there since in the birth mother panel, the importance of allowing an adoptee to know and see their biological connection to other people was discussed. I get it -- I really do. I completely understand an adoptees need to know about or see their birth-parents. However, as much as that child mourns a biological connection, so do we as adoptive parents. They (hopefully) will be able to someday meet those people they are biologically connected to, but we won't because those people (our imagined children) do not exist. This is the part of adoption that I find some difficulty in resolving.
The third seminar was a men's only group for T and a women's only group for me. This was the best seminar of the day. We talked about all sorts of things, including the biology issue I mentioned above. T's group talked about dealing with their wives and finances and other issues. He really seemed to get a lot out of it which made me really happy since there are so few resource out there for men. This seminar made the whole conference worth it, in my opinion.
The fourth seminar was about open adoption. There was a birth-mom and an adoptive mom in an open adoption situation. Now, I believe in semi-open adoptions, but this situation was really, really open. The adoptive mom was incredibly vehement about this openness and frankly put me off a little bit. I was hoping that this would be a discussion about openness and how to decide what level you're comfortable with, but it ended up being more a lecture on how you are morally and ethically obligated to include birth parents into your child's life as much as possible. While I agree it is important to be able to give information to your child about his or her birthparents, and the information about them should be available so when the time comes they can meet or at least talk to each other, the openness this family had is more than most average families can handle, I think.
We got information from another adoption agency, and we are going to make sure that we are picking the right one for us. We did start filling out one application, but I am feeling a tiny bit of uncertainty about it, so I just want to do a little more research about the agency we think we want to use and this new one that looks pretty good.
Anyway, overall it was good to be around people in the adoption community and to discuss all of our feelings surrounding adoption. I am glad we spent our day this way. It was hard, but we definitely learned a lot.