Random cute photos that have nothing to do with my post:
Our adoption with Levi and his birth family is very open. I text and talk with Levi's Birth Mother (Erica) on a regular basis. We also have a private Facebook page for Levi that I post pictures and videos for her to see. I let her know when he has reached milestones, such as crawling and walking. I even called her when Levi had his reaction to Amoxicillin to discuss family medical history. Through all of this communication, I have grown to love Erica. I already loved her simply because she gave me an amazing gift, my son. However, I now have a relationship with her that I cherish as well. I am blessed to have a birth mother who loves her adopted son dearly and wants more for him than she is able to provide. She allowed us to adopt him because of her great love for him, not because of a lack of it. So that is my soapbox about open adoption. If it can be done in a way that is healthy for both the adoptive and birth family, it can be an amazing and wonderful thing.
Now we can move onto details about our first visit with Erica and her family. Because of the relationship I described above, our first visit went very well. We have agreed to have yearly visits with Erica up until Levi is 18 years old and we had our first successful visit in August. We flew down to Florida for a three day visit. Levi was about 13 months, and I was nervous about flying with him at this age. However, he was fabulous, and we even received compliments from passengers. That was a relief because I had nightmares of a screaming child and passengers being angry and wanting to throw pretzels at me.
Thursday (August 22, 2013)
After our first successful flight, we checked into our hotel. Which for the record, Hotels.com people must have a different idea of what a 4 out of 5 star customer satisfaction rating means. We chose a 4 star but I would have rated it a 2. But that is a story for Friday :-) We then met Erica and and her family at a restaurant not far from our hotel. After the meal we all went back to our hotel room where we were able to relax and reacquaint ourselves again. It was a sweet moment to watch Erica as she saw Levi toddling around for the first time. You could just see the love in her eyes. We also enjoyed watching Levi interact with his birth father and 3 siblings. Levi's oldest sibling is a half-brother who is 11 and he is a very tender hearted boy. Next is his 10 year old half-sister who loves babies. She walked him around everywhere and loved every minute of it. Then there is the youngest full sister who just turned 5. She was pretty shy around all of us which is understandable. It was a wonderful start but also very emotional and I was exhausted by the end of it. I remember crawling into bed that night, praying that Levi would actually sleep in a strange hotel crib. He did a little bit, but spent most of the night between Jarred and myself. There wasn't much quality sleep for Mom or Dad because Levi is an extremely wiggly sleeper. I was smacked in the face and kicked in the gut quite frequently through the night. It felt like a wrestling match more than sleep :-)
Friday (August 23, 2013)
Waking up from an interesting night of sleep we got ready for the day. Or at least we tried. Our wonderful hotel room did not have any hot water. After a cold shower we decided that we had enough of our 4 star rated hotel room. We packed up our things and went to a much nicer hotel. Thank you Holiday Inn Express for hot water. We then had Erica and her children meet us at our new fancy hotel suite to which the kids promptly told us was much nicer :-) From there we went to a restaurant called The Old Spanish Sugar Mill where we cooked our own pancakes at our table. It was a fun experience. We had planned on spending the remainder of the day at a State Park, but it rained all day. Since Florida is known for outdoor activities there weren't many indoor activities in the area. We ended up walking around a local mall that had a play area for the kiddos. There we sat down with Erica and watched all four siblings run around and play together. I could tell it was bittersweet for Erica. Later that night, Erica had her husband watch her munchkins and we had some time with just her. It was nice to talk and let her interact with Levi more now that he had warmed up to her. It was even reminiscent of our last night in the hospital from when Levi was born because we ordered pizza and just enjoyed one another. I think we will need to make a pizza night part of our yearly tradition.
Saturday (August 24, 2013)
The next morning we woke feeling much more refreshed because Levi decided sleeping in this hotel crib wasn't as bad and we all got to sleep in. We met Erica and went to a cookout that our adoption agency was hosting. To be honest, it was a little awkward. There were several families but most of them were birth families and I think we were the only adoptive family there. I can't describe it, but it was just a socially awkward and we chose not to stay long. From there we went to a Chick-Fil-A and spent our remaining few hours with Erica sharing waffle fries and playing in their play place. (It was raining again and we still couldn't do anything outdoors.) It meant so much to hear her say that she was happy she chose us and that she thought we were good parents. We ended the trip with hugs and tears. The flight home was great and Levi slept through the takeoff and landing. We even had several passengers say they didn't know he was on the flight. Yay Levi for being a super traveler!
All in all, the trip went incredibly well. It was definitely hard because it was so emotional but it was worth it. I am glad that Levi will know he was adopted because of love and not because he wasn't wanted. I count this first visit as a success and hope that our remaining 17 trips go just as well. If you happen to have questions about open adoption, please feel free to comment and I will be glad to post answers on the blog. I can babble on and on about open adoption but don't want to get too carried away on this post. Although I think I already did a little judging by length of this post...