"What' and ‘if’. Two words as nonthreatening as words come. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: ‘What if?'..." from Sophie's letter to Clair in Letters to Juliet.
An adoptive parent asked me to write a post on how I think my life would have been different if I'd been a child of an open adoption instead of a tightly closed one. Actually, I rarely dwell in the what if realm. Thoughts come to me —longings-- and I am confronted with phantom grief for all of the lives I didn't live. I visit there sometimes, visit the what if. But that realm is at the end of a long, lonely street. It takes a while to get there, and once I leave I don't have the desire to return very soon. I'm stating only the obvious what ifs in this post, from my perspective.
If I start dwelling on what if I'd had an open adoption, then I have to think about what if I hadn't been adopted at all: I have to think about the fact that I wouldn't have been there for my a-parents when they were close to death. I have consider that Teresa wouldn't be my lifelong best friend from my home town in California. I have imagine life without my two brothers and older sister. I have to imagine a life built on something other than my Faith. I have to consider a childhood without piano lessons. I have to think about not meeting my husband at BYU, getting married and having my four wonderful children. It's too much. It gives me migraines. I never say "I wish I weren't adopted." I never will say it. I don't feel that way.
Now, the question of what if I'd had an open adoption. If I had known my birth mother, I would not have felt depressed every birthday wondering about the day I was born. I would not have looked at brunette models on Revlon TV commercials and fantasized that one of them was my natural mother. I would have know who gave me my freak double-jointed fingers and crooked pinkies.
I could have answered medical history questions at the doctor's office. I would have felt more comfortable living in my own skin. I would have confidence that my sometimes serious, too analytic, Information Nation style of socializing was inherited honestly, and not a character defect. I would have had more adults in my life to mentor me, to love me, to be interested in me.
I will not attempt to address the what if from my birth mother's perspective. But here's something she wrote on the subject: "When I surrendered I knew I could not have contact with my daughter and should not even start looking for her until she was 18 . I could force myself to cast aside thoughts about her until she reached that magic age. Mothers in open adoption have to navigate a relationship from day one."
Relationship navigation is very tricky. I think my adoptive parents could have managed an open adoption though, especially with my particular birth mother. If my adoptive parents and known my birth parents , perhaps they would have had an easier time parenting me. They would have recognized my body language, my sense of humor, my seriousness. They wouldn't have had to figure me out from scratch.