This is Open Adoption

What does open adoption look like? You have, no doubt, seen it in many forms including: letters and pictures sent by the adoptive family to the birth family, phone calls between the families, emails, videos exchanged, Facebook messaging, visits on birthdays, holidays, special occasions, or just because, etc.

This past weekend, the Falcos experienced another form of the ongoing openness with Emily’s birth family. Four of the seven of us went to Rachelle’s wedding in Kentucky. As a reminder: Emily is the fourth daughter of Rachelle. Emily’s older sisters live in Nebraska and were unable to be at the wedding of their mother to Kenneth. So, it was particularly poignant for Emily to attend the wedding.

Emily helped her first mother dress…

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She arranged table decorations and took pictures (along with the official photographer and me)…

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… while Becton danced…

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Rachelle was escorted down the aisle by her mother and her son, Christopher…

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After the couple exchanged vows, there was a special sand ceremony to symbolize the blending of families. Christopher, Ken, and Rachelle poured different colored sand into one container…

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At the reception, there was feasting and the cake…

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The couple, individually and together, posed for pictures with their friends and loved ones, including the Falco kids…

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Emily and I stood with Rachelle…

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After the festivities and cleanup, Emily and I drove to the family’s house to unload and witness the opening of gifts…

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Emily stayed the night while I returned to the motel to be with Skye and Becton.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Open adoption is a blessing for Rachelle and for me, but it is especially great for Emily. I continue to be amazed at how easily she flows from one family to the other. It is her normal. It is all she has ever known. And she is at ease with members of both families. We are all her extended family like other extended families created by blood.

There were a couple of times at the wedding reception when I overheard Rachelle explaining our relationship to friends of hers who did not know us. I could see the listener processing this unheard-of-before-today set of relationships as s/he cocked his/her head to the side. A part of me feared I would hear some apology about a regrettable decision, but that wasn’t the case at all. I suspect Rachelle does have regrets – wishing circumstances had been different, wishing she had been able to keep Emily – just as I have regrets that I was unable to get pregnant and give birth. But we have each, in our own ways, made peace with those circumstances long ago.

For my own part, its not just: “But for infertility, I would not have Emily.” It is also: “But for Emily, I would not have Rachelle.” I can’t imagine my life without her and all the ways that being in relationship over the years has changed me and made me grow.

Then came the “icing on the cake.” I don’t know what made me ask the question to Rachelle: “So what are you going to do with the dress?” (Who asks the bride that question? But I did.) Her response both surprised me and warmed my heart. She said, “I would like to give it to Emily.” She had consulted with her other daughters and they agreed that Emily should have it, if she wanted it. She did.

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It’s perfect, you know? Rachelle’s body type is more like Emily’s than mine. And it’s another way to connect her to this child we share. I am in no rush for my 19-year-old to get married. But I still have the fantasy that when that day arrives, and if Emily permits us, Emily will be escorted down the aisle by her father and both her mothers.

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