Not Communicating Enough
I was guilty of this one. When the adoption was new I was terrified that the adoptive parents would close it as soon as papers were signed. This kept me from telling them when issues came up. Instead of talking to them in a healthy way, which could have been anything from using a mediator, like my case worker, to just using kind words, I closed myself off. I was already battling depression and not being honest only began a cycle of fear that fed my depression. It took counseling to pull me out of the fog and I believe that if I had told the adoptive parents where I was at, emotionally speaking, they would have been understanding. They probably could have helped me with a few extra pictures or squeezing in an extra visit. However, I allowed my fears to control my side of the adoption and it took a while to rebuild the trust of open communication.
Not Being Honest if an Issue Arises
Open adoption can be scary. I’m nearly 7 years post-placement of my birth son and I feel like I have a great relationship with him, his parents, and even his extended family. That’s not to say that we haven’t had any awkward conversations. But I would rather have a thousand awkward conversations instead of one where we weren’t honest and ultimately shoved a wedge in our relationship.
For example, after I got married, the adoptive parents were nervous about how my birth son would interpret my husband’s role in his life. They were concerned that his train of thought would be, “If she’s my birth mom, and that’s her husband, then that must mean he is my birth dad and we are a second, traditional family.” Until they knew how to approach the scenario, they asked me and my husband if we could respect and honor a distance between my husband and birth son. I was crushed, as was my husband. I had no intention of trying to confuse my birth son by convincing him that I was his “real family,” but just wanted everyone to love everyone.
That being said, if they had not been honest about their reservations, and I had crossed a line by something as simple as taking a picture of my birth son, my husband, and myself together (which could have been like I was insinuating that we had a family picture), they could have closed the adoption. But, since they were honest, we were able to find a place of comfort for all parties. One where my husband was still involved in the adoption but not in a way that my son’s parents felt threatened. I’m happy to say that since my birth son is getting older and able to grasp the idea of adoption a little better, his parents are open to my husband being more and more involved. All thanks to open communication.
I do understand that sometimes things happen and plans will need to be cancelled . . . sometimes. I put this one on my list because this is a door that swings both ways. If adoptive parents are always canceling on a birth parent or birth family members, it causes a constant train of thought of, “What did I do wrong?” or “What can I do to fix it?” which brings up feelings of insecurity and fear. Actions that spring out of insecurity and fear are not good actions.
Now on the other side of the coin: Birth parents who are constantly canceling visits, if the child is old enough to get excited to see them, are hurting the child.No parent likes to see their child in emotional distress. As a protective measure, the adoptive parents might stop making plans for a visit just to stop their child from getting hurt. I would do the same thing if I was in their shoes. If you know you’re going to be busy for a few months, communicate. Even saying something like, “I’m sorry, her birthday is really busy for us. Can we make it work in a couple of weeks?”—just so the other party knows they aren’t forgotten—can make a huge difference in how visits go.
This one should go without saying, but the list seems incomplete without it. Of course lying will ruin trust in any relationship. Especially in a relationship that can be very fragile, lying will not only put a crack in it, but completely destroy it. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard stories of birth mom’s being promised the world only to have it taken it away when the adoption is finalized. Or vice versa, where adoptive parents are promised a certain amount of restraint from the birth families, just to have boundaries pushed. Worst of all, in my opinion, is when birth parents promise something to their birth child, and then won’t deliver. That will crush the child, who will blame themselves, and crush the adoptive parents, who will want to protect their child from feeling that kind of rejection again. If we can’t be honest with one another, there is obviously no room for trust.