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Preparing the Relatives

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Ollie is 14 months old. My husband's parents have just come into town, meeting him for the first time. They're the first members of his family to meet Oliver. Previously, they haven't requested photos, haven't sent gifts, haven't acted very interested. It didn't just make me sad for Ollie, but for Steven, too. We used all of our vacation time for adoption-related trips in the past year, so going all the way up to NY wasn't feasible. I would have understood if they couldn't get down here, but asked about him regularly and tried to "get to know him" from far away through photos, videos, etc. But the apparent lack of interest put a large chip on my shoulder.

His mom is awkward. We love her, but she requires a lot of time alone and social situations are bothersome. She takes things very personally. Last night, she was talking about some friends of theirs, saying that she was glad one of her other sons hadn't married a woman because she "just gave one of her babies away." It was one of those situations where I thought "do I say something or is it worth it?" I winced. Then I said "I actually think very highly of people who make an adoption plan for their children if they're unable to parent." I don't think that had occurred to her.

It occurred to me that it wasn't just Ollie who missed out on having them around and it wasn't just them missing out on watching Ollie grow up... but they've missed out on positive adoption reinforcement. On the first night, my husband's dad saw a photo of Ollie's birthmama in our home. He asked how "it worked." We explained and he said the expected "so can she just come back and get him some day?" He responded really well... admittingly still a little freaked out by the level of openness. But I think we've done everybody a disservice by not slowly introducing the concept of open adoption and easing them into it. The lack of exposure has been unfair to all of us.

I guess I say this because I wish we'd sent them information about open adoption. I wish that even if we thought they wouldn't take advantage of it, we'd sent them literature and information of some kind. We should have prepared them to be waiting with open arms. So, as much as I'd like to keep that chip on my shoulder, I think we're partially at fault too because we didn't prepare them like we should have. What could we do at this point to play catch-up a little bit? Any suggestions?

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Melissa,

I also find that people are skeptical about an open adoption plan. I recently watched the documentary Unlocking the Heart of Adoption and I found myself in tears as I listened to stories about adoptees who were either lied to about their adoptions or left in the dark about who their birthparents were. I called my mom afterwards and we had a great discussion about how an open adoption, while it can be incredibly beneficial and beautiful for the adoptive parents and birthparents, it is crucial for the emotional health of the child. We are Jack's parents. We are raising him. However we can't deny him the knowledge of where he comes from, who he looks like, and that his mother made this decision with his best interest at heart.

I also called our birthmother. Unfortunately, her phone has been disconnected. I am very concerned about that. Watching this documentary made me even more committed to working on maintaining a relationship with her. I am hoping it is just a temporary thing and we'll hear from her again soon. If nothing else, I am so thankful that I will be able to tell Jack about Mama A, how she is a beautiful woman with an infectious laugh and adorable dimples. I really pray though, that someday he'll be able to meet her.

Anyway, I would maybe suggest them watching that documentary. It is really interesting and I think really good for people to understand that necessity for an open adoption. I will admit, the open adoption plan scared me at first, but now I can't imagine doing it any other way.

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I think some friends/co-workers find it a challenge because we talk about Alexander's Birth-Mom and his siblings often.

For instance last night, we had dinner with a friend. In his country there is no such thing as a Birth-Parent choosing Adoptive Parents for their child. We try to educate everyone on it and also, about open adoption and the process. So he sat and listened to us and also, asked a few questions. We answered them openly.

I could tell that our friend thought it was a little strange that we speak so freely of Alexander's Birth-Family. Our friend made a comment that Alexander was so good because the conversation and the football game on in the back ground did not bother him. Alexander slept right through it all. We told our friend that we honestly feel that the reason Alexander can sleep through chatter, music and the television is because he heard his older brothers while he was in the womb and that his Birth-Mom is so caring and most likely spoke with him. We also discuss openly that we would really like to meet his birth family.

I cannot express enough how much Adoption Families magazine has helped us. That would be a suggestion I have for everyone who have friends/family members who are curious about Adoption or want to learn more about it. Buy a subscription for your family members or let them borrow yours. It really does help start a dialogue.

Edited by TexasFamily

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I am LOVING these suggestions... please keep them coming. A subscription to Adoptive Families magazine is such a great gift idea for family. I can't believe I didn't think of that.

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Just talked to my mom tonight and she is so excited about our adoption plan. I'm so happy that she is excited. It is so great to know that she is supportive. She read the letter that we enclosed with our Christmas Letter from Abrazo to the extended family and just recently logged onto the forum so that she could see our profile. I encouraged her to come to this family thread to read what other grandparents have said, but I'm not sure if she's done that yet or not. She was very encouraged by the letter from Abrazo and said that she thought it was a great idea that she could write to the birth parents to show her support. I'm so glad she feels this way and I think that her letters would mean a lot to a birth parent. Thanks for writing the letter to our extended family and making suggestions for how they can get involved.

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I like the suggestions made thus far, especially the subscription to Adoptive Families magazine. I think I would still treat them with kid gloves, especially b/c of how you described their sensitivity, and make all your approaches with love. When you send them something, like an article, tell them you know that they love Ollie and you think it might help them understand and appreciate your/his relationship with his birth mom better. It would probably be helpful to "check in" with them occasionally, making sure they aren't feeling overwhelmed.

I can understand why you weren't more proactive. People teach us how to treat them, and if they didn't seem totally approachable, maybe that's why you didn't go to them with information you thought might freak them out a bit. So don't beat yourself up about it :wub:

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I like the suggestions made thus far, especially the subscription to Adoptive Families magazine. I think I would still treat them with kid gloves, especially b/c of how you described their sensitivity, and make all your approaches with love. When you send them something, like an article, tell them you know that they love Ollie and you think it might help them understand and appreciate your/his relationship with his birth mom better. It would probably be helpful to "check in" with them occasionally, making sure they aren't feeling overwhelmed.

I can understand why you weren't more proactive. People teach us how to treat them, and if they didn't seem totally approachable, maybe that's why you didn't go to them with information you thought might freak them out a bit. So don't beat yourself up about it :wub:

You're awesome, Nicole. Such an insightful post... you're completely right. You really tapped into exactly how this should be handled with them.

Steven's mom sent a thank-you letter in the mail. She said we couldn't possibly understand how much it had meant to her to meet Ollie and that it had been so hard to not see him for so long. I guess I just didn't/don't understand. There were so many invites. But none of that matters. They've met him and they've fallen in love. I am consistently amazed at the walls Oliver can tear down. He's softened their hearts and now, all there is to do is educate. Lovingly.

Deb - so glad your mom is on here! My mom (GrandMimi) is on the forum, too. She really only lurks (hi, mom) but it has been SO educational for her. We've talked a lot recently about who would have guardianship over Ollie if something happened to us. Both Steven and I could - without a doubt - say that we could count on my mom 100% to honor the relationship he has with his birthmama. It's because of the forum that she not only understands open adoption, but believes in it wholeheartedly. I'd LOVE to have stronger birth-and-adoptive grandparent participation on the forum!!! Have your mom get in touch with my mom if she wants another grandma's perspective!!!

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It never ceases to amaze me how these sweet babies have a way of melting hearts! We have seen it in our own family even with the most skeptical members! Sometimes it seems to take actually seeing the children and interacting with them to see how adoption can work. So glad you got that note in the mail and that it was a positive first vist (though long overdue!).

Edited by RHSegura

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Alright, y'all-- what are YOU doing to prepare your relatives for your new adoption addition????

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