One of the hardest things to accept about not raising a child I carried has been the fear of knowing that he could easily resent me for placing him. I’m terrified that he will grow up and think that I didn’t love him, when nothing could be further from the truth. I placed him because I love him, because I know he has a better life with his parents than he would have had with me.

Because that bond between mother and child is there with him and his mother, he and I need our own unique bond. He will go to his mother when he gets a scraped knee, but he has already come to me when he’s wondered about adoption. I’m so grateful that he has done that and hope he continues to. I do what I can to be emotionally available to him, to give him the security of knowing how much I love him.

Here are a few things I try to do to allow our unique bond to form:

Be there. 

A few months ago I received a call from my son’s adoptive mother. She told me that he was chosen in his 1st grade class as the “VIP” and was able to introduce his family on the last day of the week. It was Friday morning and apparently he had woken up and asked if I, his birth mother, was going to make it to his class. His mother was hopeful that I didn’t have plans that day. As luck would have it, I was free and able to make it to his class to be introduced. The bond goes both ways: he needs to trust that I can be there as much as I can trust for him and his family to want me there. I’m not saying that you need to drop everything when they ask, but when you can be there, be there.

Interact on his/her level. 

When my son was an infant, I held him. When he was a toddler, I played pretend with him. As a child, I build Legos with him. Though I want nothing more than to take him and rock him to sleep, he might think that’s pretty weird. (Let’s be honest, it would be.)

I know it seems like common sense, but interacting with your birth child on his or her own level will allow them to associate you with something they enjoy. I’m not very far into this “being a birth mother in an open adoption” thing, so seeing things in the long term is difficult. As with any relationship, however, being able to be yourself while accepting the other person will allow a bond to form.

Follow the adoptive parents’ lead. 

As my son grew older, I began to resent the adoptive parents for knowing him better than I did. He lived across the country for a few years and I had no idea what he liked. For his birthday, I had to ask his parents what to get him. It broke my heart.

I knew all along that I wasn’t raising him, but it got more and more real as he grew and I wasn’t there to witness it. It began my grieving process over again. Since then, I have accepted the truth that has always been there: that they are his parents. Once I accepted that, it’s been easier to go to them for advice about him. To know his personality.

At visits, I take the lead from his parents and we have enjoyed our time together.

Make and keep promises.   

The quickest way to lose somebody’s trust is to lie. There have been times I’ve been invited to soccer games, and, knowing I couldn’t make it, I told my birth son that I wouldn’t be there. I told him I would try to make it to a few games for him, and I did. One of my favorite games was when I showed up, in the pouring rain, only to realize the game had been cancelled. I called his parents just to make sure before I turned my car around to go home, and I was invited to come over. I spent the evening watching my birth son and the children that I’m raising play together—something I never thought I would see.

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