Years ago, the term “Open Adoption” was virtually unheard of. An unplanned pregnancy was dealt with in secrecy and shame. Most women were not allowed to choose the family their baby would go to, and once the baby was out of their arms, they never saw that child again.
Thankfully, things have changed. Today, open adoption is encouraged and celebrated, but for a hopeful adoptive mother, the idea of an open adoption can seem very frightening. Most adoptive mothers will tell you that when their journey began, they felt unsure of what an open adoption really meant for everyone involved. I’m here to assure you that those feelings are normal! As an adoptive mother, I’d love to share with you what I have learned.
1. I love my son’s birth mother. We started out as strangers. I was a hopeful adoptive mother, and she was a woman who had decided that adoption was best for her son. But from the minute we said “hello” over the phone, I couldn’t help but love her fiercely. She was kind. She was funny. She was brave. We spent three months getting to know one another before our son arrived, and when she placed that boy in my arms, my heart broke for her. She had become my friend. We shared two sacred, life-changing days in the hospital together, and the thought of just walking away and losing her was unacceptable to me. I felt a bond with her that I wasn’t willing to break.
Right now, while you are waiting, the idea of a “birth mother” is abstract. She doesn’t yet have a name and a story. The thought of “sharing” a child with an abstract concept sounds strange. However, I can promise you that the minute the “concept of her” turns into a real person, your feelings will change. You will want her in your life.
2. Attend a birth parent panel. Many adoption education groups hold birth parent panels. These are educational sessions where birth parents tell their adoption stories and allow time for questions afterward. Attending a birth parent panel has changed many adoptive couples’ minds about having an open adoption. They have gone into the room with doubt and fear in their hearts, and once they’ve heard the stories of the men and women who have placed their children for adoption, their hearts are softened. Birth parent panels take away the ambiguity of who a birth parent is. They give a face and a story to a live person. They remove the stigmas and myths about the type of people many believe birth parents to be. You will walk out of that room having developed a love for a woman you have yet to meet.
3. Open adoption is good. I know, it’s what all the experts say. I’m not an “expert,” and I’m not talking about it in terms of being “psychologically healthy.” What I mean is, I love the fact that there is another woman in this world who loves my son as much as I do. Grandmas, aunts, cousins, and friends love my little boy, but it’s a different kind of love. She’s his mother. There is no love like a mother’s love. I can text her pictures and stories of the cute, funny, or naughty things he says or does and know that the twinge in her heart is as deep as my own. I love watching him develop certain characteristics and knowing exactly where they came from. He never has to guess who he looks like or where his love of jazz music or horseback riding comes from. He knows. It’s a blessing for all of us.
4. It’s not always going to be happy. Open adoption is a relationship. Just like all other relationships in life, it’s not always rosy. Adoption stems from loss. Birth mothers lose their birth child and adopted children lose their biological families. Many adoptive families also come from a place of loss where they have struggled to have biological children. When you bring hurting people together, hard emotions can surface. Insecurities rear their ugly heads. People don’t always handle difficult emotions in the right way. People get angry. People lash out. People need to take breaks. Some days are wonderful. Other days are not. Just know that you can get through the hard days by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Remember where they are coming from. Work on building a relationship of open communication. Choose to respond with love. Things will get better. The pendulum will swing back the other way. Just hold on.
I promise that regardless of the difficulties it brings, open adoption is worth it. It is good for the child, good for his biological family, and good for adoptive parents. You will learn to love in a way you have never experienced before. Don’t let fear take that experience away from you. Move forward with an open heart, you will be glad that you did.
Are you ready to move forward with your domestic infant adoption? If you are, click here to connect with an experienced, compassionate adoption professional who can help you get started.