HELEN was across the park when we spotted each other and waved. I could tell by the way she buried her head into her sister’s shoulder that she was already crying. We were, too.
My family was in the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, where my daughter was born. It was our second trip since 2006, when my husband, Walter, and I hired what in adoption circles is known as a searcher to find our daughter’s birth mother. We asked if she wanted to know what had happened to the infant she had kissed goodbye on a September morning in 2004 when she was not in a position to raise her.
She did want to know. Desperately.
* * *
Our decision to open our daughter’s adoption was possibly reckless and probably naïve. We did it because her foster mother had met Helen, the birth mother, and told us she loved her very much. If American women and men deserve to know what becomes of their children, it seemed hypocritical to deny Helen what we saw as a human right.
* * *
Still, I was terrified. Were we inappropriately imposing our Oprah-style enthusiasm about the healing power of truth onto a culture that didn’t accept or even want it? Would the search expose Helen and put her in danger? What if the facts of our daughter’s adoption were so sordid we couldn’t bear them? What if we didn’t like Helen?
Most important, what if our daughter one day resented that we made such a colossal decision when she was too young to decide if an open adoption was right for her?
Most of those fears proved to be unwarranted, though we are still waiting to learn what our daughter will make of this when she is old enough to process it. But we suddenly had another challenge: How were Walter and I going to navigate a relationship with a woman we didn’t know but with whom we shared so much?
Untying a Birth Mother's Hands
From the New York Time's Modern Love column, opening up a previously-closed Guatemalan adoption: