By Shalene Heipel
This morning has been a morning of reflecting on Sean's open adoption. While we were going through the adoption paperwork process we learned a lot about how important openness can be for children who are adopted. We became very comfortable with the idea of having an open adoption. In theory it makes perfect sense but in practice it took some getting used to for us.
Today we have a birth family gathering. We will celebrate Christmas with Sean's birth mom, aunt, cousin, grandparents and great grandparents. It will be great but it won't be easy. It does get better and better, though. When people ask me what it is like I can honestly say it is a lot like a family through marriage. They feel like a new set of in laws that I am getting to know and am growing to love. Sean and Clare see them like extended family. The very awesome thing is they are very much a part of our family now.
It wasn't always that way. Things were very carefully navigated in the early years. Emails were checked and re-checked. Visits were awkward and nerve-wracking. As we opened our hearts and made the effort to get to know each other we were able to first become friends and then become family.
I very much am grateful for knowing Sean's family. When I needed medical information his grandma was able to provide me with very important family history and helpful details. I love taking a picture of Sean and seeing that he looks just like his mom in it. I love knowing what his mom looks like and so too will he. I get excited when I share that Sean hates the dentist and I find out his mom does too. I love that his aunt and mom loved Mr. Bean just as much as him. Sean's genetics are a huge part of who he is and who he is going to be and we get to know all about it. They get to hear about Sean's progress, they see videos and pictures of his life and they get to have a relationship with him. One where they can love him and he can love them. That is magic! To get to magic I had to be willing to grieve with them, empathize with them and feel their loss when they entrusted Sean to me. It was heartbreaking but worth it. I can now share with Sean how selfless they were in their decision. That is going to be a gift for him when he questions his adoption.
So today we celebrate. We will travel to Sean's auntie's home. We will eat, open presents and laugh. We will continue to create memories together. We will continue to get to know each other. I will still be anxious about how it will go. I may still give the topic warning in the car. In fact, I will. We are not going to talk about politics, let's not mention that Sean was a sensory mess this week and lets talk a lot about the happy Christmas plans we have. Well, I hear Sean waking up. Time to start the countdown to the party. It is going to be a great GREAT day (I hope) :)
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