“No expectations,” Lisa reminded me days before I’d written the letter to my son’s adoptive parents. Her opinion and advice meant so much to me because a) she’s my friend but b) she’s an adoptive parent who does open adoption well. So I kept repeating it, over and over again. As I wrote, edited, and then finally hit Send, I repeated this mantra.
No expectations. Ha.
When it comes to adoption, open adoption especially, expectations are a hard thing to rid yourself of. The entire relationship, even when you are strangers, is built entirely on expectation: That these people will be the perfect family showcased in the file you are presented with, that they will raise your child how you want them to, that they will be good people, and not disappoint, that the openness you’ve agreed on will continue, even when the paperwork isn’t legal. After eleven years of nothing but expectations, ones that were met and ones that led to disappointment, the idea that I needed to send this (big) letter with no expectations was harder than hitting the send button.
The resounding commentary I received from two adult adoptees was that he needed and likely wanted to know that I was here for him, on his own time, and to hear it directly from me. After I put my own reservations aside, I set out to create a situation where he could potentially have access to me, whatever amount he desired, with no strings attached on my end. That was the goal when I began writing a letter to his adoptive parents. Despite the sincerity of my words, I worried that his parents wouldn’t be able to really hear me. I worried because of past situations, and reactions from them; That they would accuse me of being selfish and doing this for myself, even when I wasn’t at all. I just wanted my son to know I was here, always here, and ready for him when he was ready.
The moment I sent that email, my expectations had been met.
Despite this No Expectation mantra, I still refreshed my email at least a thousand times in the first day. I was eager, hopeful. As the hours past away, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. Why was I putting myself back in a similar position? Why was I being so vulnerable? The excitement quickly turned to anxiety, and pessimism. I reread the email over and over again, hoping that I wouldn’t find any words or sentences that could potentially be taken out of context.
Would they hear me through those words? Did I really want a response?
Of course, I did. Silence would have been painfully heartbreaking.
They eventually asked for time. I accepted that the answer wasn’t going to come quickly or easily, much like everything in this adoption over the last few years. Gently, I placed all the fear, all that doubt, the anxiety, the hopefulness, in the corner of my mind. It would all have to wait.
On Sunday, as I was making a list of all the things I had to do to get ready for our trip out of town the next day, I refreshed my email. I hadn’t completely forgotten that I was awaiting a response, but I had actually kind of forgotten that I could get a response sooner than later. I had somehow managed to accept that this was going to happen how it happened, and when it happened.
As the ping of my phone went off telling me my email had been downloaded, there it was, her name, and what I could have only assumed was the answer. The final answer.
“She wrote back,” I announced to my husband quietly.
He looked up from his book, eyebrows raised, “And?”
“You have to read it first. I can’t do it.”
“Danielle, just read it.”
“No,” I said, thrusting my phone in his hand, “You do it first.”
Of course, he obliged. I watched his features carefully, and he purposely animated them, because he knew I was watching.
“Don’t do that, it’s not nice!” I exclaimed half joking.
He closed the email, and handed my iPhone back to me, “Read it.” Then he went back to his book, like nothing had happened.
Ten minutes later, my feet curled up under me, as I switched from app to app, avoiding my email on purpose, I quietly asked, “Should I read it?”
His head whipped up and his eyes widened, “Danielle! Are you serious? Just read the goddamn email.”
Obeying his orders, I finally clicked it open. I read it once. Then twice. And then I looked up at my husband, my eyes stinging with tears,
“They said yes?”
He nodded, his own eyes wet.
“They said yes….They actually agreed to it. They said….” my voice broke, and tears began running down my face. I covered my mouth to stifle a sob, and muttered, “I get to write to my son. He wants me to. He wants me to write to him. They are going to let me.”
For a brief moment, as my husband and I shared tears together, I let the news settle over me. I’d always wanted, hoped for this, for me. For him. For us.
And it’s finally happening.