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“Phantom” fears.

Posted by Sally Shuey | Last updated March 9, 2016

by Janet, OA&FS Adoptive Mother.

As we drove to Eugene, my husband, Les, and I tried to imagine what this first meeting after the adoption with the birthparents would be like. Things were different now. In the back seat was Darcy, our  5 month old daughter and we were taking her to see her birthparents for the first time since she was born. Since her birth, we had kept in touch with Melissa and Russ through a few letters, phone calls, and photos. Our relationship was good, so we weren’t worried, but now we were the ones with a baby and they were the childless couple.

Soon after we arrived, Melissa and Russ met us at the hotel – the same place we stayed when Darcy was born. When they walked in our room, Darcy was sitting up on the bed and I was beside her. They smiled big smiles and were so happy to see her. She smiled back warmly and showed them all her tricks: rolling over, raising up from her tummy, shaking her chain of plastic links, and “talking.” Melissa held her and gave her a bottle. We laughed about how Darcy’s ears stick out a little like Melissa’s, and how her nose and cheeks are also like her birthmother’s. As for Russ, Darcy has his deep blue eyes and long torso. We talked about our travels, families and jobs. Before they left, we made plans to see them the next day.

Les and I were running late to pick up Melissa at their apartment. Finally on the road, we realized that we forgot to bring a bottle or a pacifier. Darcy became fussy on the way there, but as soon as Melissa slipped into the front seat, she quieted. Every now and then she would whine a bit, but upon hearing Melissa’s voice, she would stop and listen. We made it back to the hotel where Melissa would baby-sit while Les and I went to the movie, “The Phantom Menace,”  as we knew Melissa would enjoy the time alone with her birthdaughter and Darcy seemed completely at ease with Melissa.

If you haven’t seen “The Phantom Menace,” it’s a story partly about a young boy named Anakin who is selected to become a Jedi knight (sort of a martial arts expert with unusual powers). Anakin must leave his mother to go to another planet for training. His mother can’t go because she is a slave. In a sense, little Anakin is “adopted” by the Jedi knights and his birthmother is left to hope that his future will be better with the Jedis than in slavery with her. The menace of the title is the Jedi who works within the “dark side” of “The Force”. If you don’t get it, see the movie.

During the movie I couldn’t stop thinking about how immediately Darcy had taken to her birthparents and how she quieted in the car whenever Melissa spoke. Could she remember them from her time in the womb and the three days after birth? Was her birthmother’s biological bond stronger than the bond she had forged with me over the past five months? Was I wrong to take her away from this force of nature?

After the film, Les and I talked, and it surprised me to hear how his thoughts mirrored mine. That old fear about open adoption crept into my consciousness: Would her birthparents want their daughter back? Would Darcy be in the hotel room when we returned? Frankly, I wasn’t very worried because I trusted Melissa and Russ. They had never given us any reason to believe that they were not completely sure of their decision to relinquish parental rights. Still, when we walked into the hotel room and saw Melissa and Darcy, I felt relieved. Even better, Darcy held her arms out to me and smiled that “I love you, Mommy” smile. As I held her, I knew our special bond was intact.

The rest of our visit with Melissa and Russ went very well. They are a lot younger than us, but we have several things in common that we enjoy talking about. We have grown to care for them and respect the way they are trying to build their lives. I think they still hurt from the loss of their daughter. They don’t like to show us their vulnerability, but through subtle signs, we can see how it is. Being older, we know that time heals many things and, in time, Melissa and Russ will heal. It’s hard to see them mourn, but beyond their loss is their love. Their love for Darcy is not a phantom menace. It is a good force that we will continue to honor and enjoy.

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