Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2012 - Meet Lynn

I mentioned last month that I had decided to participate in the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012.  This project is put on by Heather at Production, Not Reproduction in connection with Open Adoption Bloggers.  The project helps celebrate Adoption Awareness Month and gives us an opportunity to get to know fellow bloggers.

I was paired with Lynn of Open Hearts, Open Minds.  Lynn and her husband Tim have a fantastic little boy Elliot who they adopted at birth three years ago.  It was terrific getting to know Lynn through her blog and our email correspondence.  Lynn lives in Michigan so geographically we are not that far away.  Talking with her made me think of the four years I spent in Windsor.  In particular the two years I lived directly under the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.  Oh university life... lol.

Lynn is a writer and among other projects has written a few children's books, one based on a story she wrote for Elliott about his adoption.  Lynn's blog was a joy to read.  She talks not only about her open adoption with Elliott's birth family but also about raising her son, travel and life in general.  I found her posts on bilingual parenting especially interesting since I would love to teach myself and Gaby Italian.  Lynn is teaching her son Spanish and has an amazing grasp on it herself even though it is not her first language.

Below is my interview with Lynn.  If you would like to read her interview with me you can find it here.  Heather has posted a list of all the interview project pairs on her blog if you are interested in exploring any of the other interviews.

Me:When we as potential adoptive parents make the decision to adopt we learn allot throughout the adoption process.  Our families do not always have this same opportunity.
You talk allot in your blog about adoption being the way Elliot joined your family not one of his defining characteristics.  Do you find this is a point you have to remind friends and family of (eg. positive adoption language)?

Lynn:Fortunately, no…we have not often had to remind family and friends to use positive adoption language. I have had a few situations where acquaintances have referred to Elliot’s birth parents as “his parents” and I’ve immediately corrected them. I’m hyper-vigilant about people saying things like “he is adopted” (defining characteristic) vs. “he was adopted” (one-time event), although this has rarely come up.

Me:In response to an open adoption bloggers prompt that stated "open adoption is about information sharing" you spoke about how you felt open adoption was about love.  Over the years has your opinion on this changed at all? Why?
Lynn:I’m not a big fan of rereading my own writing, so I’m not going to go back and see what I wroteJ However, I do feel that love is at the heart of our (and any successful) open adoption. Love – and wanting to do the best thing for their unborn child -- was the motivating factor beyond Elliot’s birth parents’ adoption decision. Love – of each other and of the idea of growing our family – was what prompted Tim and me to explore adoption. Although it’s not really expressed, I think love is the underlying current that connects Elliot’s birth parents and us.

And of course, parenting is love, and the love I feel for Elliot is hard to put into words. 
Me:When you adopted Elliot his birth parents were still together. Are they still? If so how do you think Elliot will feel about this as he gets older?

Lynn:They are still together, but I don’t feel that their relationship with each other should in any way affect how Elliot feels about their adoption decision. A lot of birth mothers make an adoption decision because they are in a situation where they would otherwise have to parent alone, and that’s valid. However, it’s a misconception to think that all birth parents (usually birth mothers) decide on adoption as an alternative to single parenthood.

Not everyone wants to be a cook. Not everyone is cut out to be a runner. In the same way, not every person in this world is meant to be a parent. Elliot’s birth parents love him, but realized that they shouldn’t be his parents. That’s what I plan to tell Elliot as he gets older, and I’m confident he’ll understand.

Me:You have said that you do not have and would not have wanted an open adoption agreement.  In Ontario it is required that an open adoption agreement be signed.  It is part of the paperwork reviewed by the ministry of child and youth services before granting finalization of an adoption.     
Looking back if you would have been required to have an openness agreement would it have changed the level of openness you were willing to have? Why?

Lynn:A theoretical question of this type is hard to answer. It makes me think of a marriage pre-nuptial agreement. We had no reason to have one, so don’t. But, if it were legally-mandated, we would.

Likewise, Tim and I would have obviously agreed to an openness agreement if it were mandated by law. However, I’m not sure that I would have been comfortable stating that we’d get together with Elliot’s birth parents once a month or so, which was our verbal agreement. I think perhaps we would have agreed in writing to a lesser degree of openness, but would have hoped to have the level of contact we have currently.

Me:There are many stereotypes about birth mothers.  They are all teenagers, unwed, drug users, poverty stricken, eg...  Have you ever had someone assume that Elliot's birth parents fit one of these stereotypes? How did you handle the situation?

Lynn:Elliot’s birth parents do not fit any of the popular stereotypes, but people often assume that they do. In the beginning, people would often ask, “Are they really young?” as if assuming this would be the only reason someone would decide not to parent. When this has happened, I’ve simply explained that their age didn’t have anything to do with their decision and that they simply had never wanted to be parents…so, they made the wise decision not to be. People generally seem surprised, but they always “get” it.
Me:In your blog you discuss how at times it is difficult to determine when it is important to tell people Elliot was adopted and when to leave it alone.  You make a great point in saying that eventually it should be Elliot's decision who should be told and in what circumstances. It is his story...

Our daughter is only 9 months old and I already struggle with this.  Do you have any advice on how to deal with these situations? 

Lynn:Elliot is only three years old, so you might have to check back with me in a few years!

In part because all of the important people in our lives obviously already know that Elliot joined our family by adoption, it’s not something that comes up nearly as frequently as it used to. When Elliot was a baby, I felt that I needed to tell people that we adopted Elliot -- sometimes, because people in the neighborhood suddenly saw us with a baby after I hadn’t been pregnant; sometimes, when other mothers were sharing stories about their birth and breastfeeding experiences, which I couldn’t relate to.

Today, the fact that Elliot is not our biological child really only comes up at doctor’s appointments. It’s not a secret by any means; it’s just not relevant to our day-to-day lives.

I anticipate that the topic may come up more when Elliot is older. When he’s old enough to understand, I plan to discuss with him how and when we should deal with any questions that may arise.

I would like to say thank you to Lynn for participating in the interview project this year and also to Heather for all of her hard work.  Without her there would be no interview project.