The times are changing and have been for quite some time. Back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, etc etc (you get where I’m going with this), a closed and secret adoption was the “norm.” Most babies placed were whisked away from the mother and handed off to a waiting couple or to an agency worker. Contact before and after birth just didn’t happen. I’m sure if you’re on any social media, you’ve seen those photos where someone is holding a poster with all the information they have about their birth and birth parents, hoping to reconnect. Hoping to have questions answered. Sometimes they’re reconnected and all goes well . . . but what about those that don’t? Can you imagine never knowing your full story?
I never wanted LT to question his history and how he came to our family. A big thing for us was to make sure when he has those hard questions about the WHYs of his adoption that he is would be able to ask his gorgeous birth mom, RW. There will no doubt be times when I tell him his story and he sits in disbelief, but when she tells it, it will all make sense.
We almost had a closed adoption. At our first meeting with RW, she announced she didn’t want contact. She would allow us to contact her mom and her sister but she didn’t think she could watch somebody else raise him. I almost choked on my drink. It was 2012. Open adoption wasn’t new. All we learned about was open adoption. Nobody taught any classes called “Your Closed Adoption.” So we sat there and said that if that was what she really wanted, we’d respect her wishes and keep contact between us and those she designated. When we got in the car to leave, we looked at each other and knew it wouldn’t last as a closed adoption. Luckily, we were right. Three months—and lots of photos sent to her mom and sister—later, we had our first in-person meeting with RW. Now I can call our adoption relationship open and it’s been the best thing ever!
Here are some things we’ve done to help strengthen our relationship:
1-Make visits. We don’t live super close but we live close enough to make a weekend trip to where they live. We make sure to let them know when we’re in town and ask to meet up. Even if it’s just for a quick lunch, time at a park, a meet-up at the grandparent’s house, or really, anything that works for them. It never has to be extravagant, but make that effort to see them!
2-Connect online. We started out texting pictures, but it moved quickly to us being friends with her mom and sister on Facebook. Before too much longer, I asked RW how she’d feel if I added her. And of course we’re connected on Instagram so we can share all those photos.
3-Invite them to be a part of special events. When we had LT sealed to us in the LDS temple, we invited her family. When he had his first birthday, we invited them. Really anything that we’d invite our families to, we try to invite them to. After all, they are family.
4-Treat them like family. I know this doesn’t work for everyone because there are different personalities, but if at all possible, talk to them like you would any other mom, aunt, grandma uncle, etc. We’ve warned LT’s birth family that they’re stuck with us and, to be honest, we rarely call Grandma K his birth grandma because to me it feels like we are separating “them” from “us.” She’s just Grandma. Always has been and always will be.
5-Do what you say you will. Never make a promise or commit to anything you aren’t 100% sure is feasible. Backing out and breaking promises lead to hurt feelings and deep feelings of distrust. It will only hurt your relationship.
I’d love to hear from others in the comments on what ideas YOU have for bettering relationships.