Meredith Walker sees and knows her birth mother, Chris, but it wasn't always that way. When Meredith was four, her father took her to see Santa Claus. Afterward, they went to pick up eyeglasses at a clinic where Chris worked. This accidental reunion led to periodic visits that continue today.
Smiling through braces, Meredith recalls her excitement at that first meeting. "I remember having a happy feeling. It was more fun to see a new person who was related to me than to see Santa Claus. She had very long hair, and when she came over, I played with her hair."
"Friends ask me about 'my real mom or my fake mom,' and I'm like, 'That's not exactly how I put it.' I say, 'The mom I live with... my mom' and 'my birth mom who is my...birth mom'."
Meredith's thoughts about birth family are "about simple things. I remember what she's like. We are very similar. We both like dogs, birds, sports and horseback riding." She admits that she sometimes wonders what it would be like to grow up in her birth family. If that happened, "I wouldn't have my friends or be in the same school. I probably wouldn't play the cello, because it was my mom who kept me on that."
"Not knowing your birth family would be scary. I think it would be confusing for your parents to be talking about them and you not to know them."
Josh Mason sees his birth mom, Lisa, frequently, and spends some weekends with her. Lisa was also adopted. When he was five, Lisa and Josh's parents decided to "open up" his adoption. Over the years, they developed a relationship; Josh calls her "a special friend." He says, "We get along very well. We have similar interests. We're both really big candy fanatics. We have the same personality. It helps knowing her, because she's somebody I can identify with, and that clears your head a bit."
"As for knowing who your birth parents are, that's pretty cool," says Josh. "Kids I know who aren't in open adoptions think I have an advantage. Some of them wish they could have that contact."
And yes, he has played Lisa against his parents. "I told them that Lisa said I needed a cell phone and pager. She was really mad at me for making that up. Everyone was mad at me."
For Josh, the best part of open adoption is "being able to know where you're from and your history, your roots." Even when he isn't getting along with his parents, he doesn't want to live with Lisa. "This is my family," he laughs "there's nothing I can do about it."
As to whether he's ever confused, he answers, "Never. If you don't hide anything, there won't be any problems."
He says that open adoption is nothing to fear. "We want to know everything, especially when we're teenagers. We start to notice patterns in ourselves, and we need somebody who knows what we're talking about to help us."
In Oriana Parker's family, open adoption came naturally. Her mom, Robin Blair Parker, grew up as one of the 28 children on Kodiak Island. After Robin's stepmother and widowed father married, they began to grow their family through adoption. When Robin and her husband, Frank, began to adopt, they continued that tradition with Kenese, six, Blair, 12, and Oriana, 16.
Oriana, who prefers to be called Ori, is an A student. Ori's adoption differs in the fact that "my birth mother has problems with alcohol. Consequently, there have been times when I've been unable to see her. Because I live on Maui and my birth family lives on the mainland, I do not get to see them all that often. If I visit when my birth mother is unavailable, I may just see my brother and his dad."
Growing up in Alaska and Hawaii, places where culture and traditions are built around open systems, has impacted Ori's understanding of her adoption. "It has made me realize just how important and beneficial extended families are."
The best part of open adoption for Ori is knowing that she and her birth mother look alike. "It's neat to see where I got my blond hair. We also share a love for horses, sports, and the outdoors." Ori says she has never wanted to live with her birth family because "I have so much more here. Plus, this is all I have known since birth, so I am fine with it."
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