Its hard to know where to begin. I’ll preface things by saying that there’s no way I could write about the conference in any kind of comprehensive way, and won’t even try.
The Opening Adoption symposium was the rarest of experiences- a case where my fantasy of what it could be actually came true.
2 years ago Rebecca and I started talking about the lack of practical support for those trying to live out open adoption. We believed so strongly in it and, at the time, I felt like the fact that I was finding most of my support online meant there was a failure in the system. I saw that Becky did have a day job to do and couldn’t continue to field my calls all day long. (i’m kidding here. Sort of.) I also saw that I needed support from lots of different kinds of people, not just one.
Now, I see that part somewhat differently- its kind of a both/and situation. Online support IS real and practical; at the same time, there’s no substitute for what we all experienced being together in the flesh. Its too bad this country is so damn big and that we’re all spread out.
But anyway, the fantasy: that I would get to hang out with my wise and funny and complex online adoption community and others I hadn’t met. That we would have safe space to really dig into the nuance and complexity of how you make open adoption work, and not just why (the why part we’re all pretty much agreed upon, and sometimes need a break from educating the rest of the world about). That there would be time to really listen and learn from each other. That there would be ample representatives from all parts of the adoption constellation (this was true, but we do need more men!). That we would come up with new ideas when it comes to meaningful adoption reform as it relates to all kinds of adoptions. That we would have a great time.
Everything on that fantasy list happened, and then some.
This morning, I happened to treat an acupuncture client who attended the conference. Along with her partner, she’s the adoptive mother of a 6 year old daughter they adopted from Guatemala. Her situation illustrates just how complex all of this stuff is. Because its illegal for gay couples to adopt in Virginia, she actually had a pretty traumatic experience adopting her daughter. Having to lie to the state while undergoing such a major transition took its toll, and she had decided not to go back to the agency for any real post adoption support. It simply brought up too many challenging memories. (Reminds you of the discussion on why first parents don’t return to the agency for support, no?)
But she told me that the conference was life changing for her- that she had no idea how much she’d been craving this community until she experienced it, and that now she wanted to be involved. That now she wanted to get support for some behaviors they’d been wondering about with their daughter, and that now she saw support was possible. That she realized she needed support for herself, too. And finally, that all of this felt good and was a tremendous, tremendous relief. This is huge!
The conference has reinvigorated my own involvement in all of this, too. For a number of years post placement, I soaked up everything there was to soak up on all of y’alls adoption blogs. I listened, I learned, and then I started writing, too. Then, after awhile, other parts of my life started creeping in- or rather, were able to. Its not that adoption stopped being important in our lives; on the contrary, relationships with first family members have grown and changed and evolved, and my own understanding of what all of that means is constantly evolving, too. But I do believe that for me, the adoptedness of our family had become integrated in a way that meant I didn’t think about it as much. Or rather, didn’t think about it as separate from anything else in our lives. Its simply something else to be talked about and occasionally worked through. But man when you need it, it sure does feel easier to do that with other people who are doing it, too.
In closing, this post is NOT an indication of how much i’ll be blogging in the future. I really don’t think I will be all that much. As I told some of you at the conference, I don’t even know how to type. And i’ve had to scratch this out while another client lies in the other room with needles in. But I will be involved, and i’m in it for the long haul. I’m truly excited about how I think this growing base of support will affect things for all of us, and for people we don’t even know. Right now, it feels like the beginning of a tsunami. I hope i’m not wrong.
Big love to all of you and every single member of your extended, beautiful families.
Edited to add something VERY important:
My high about all of this kept me from saying something very important…
Next week we’re going to be debriefing the conference and I really encourage you to give us feedback of all kinds. I know there are ways it can be improved upon, and I want to hear your specifics!