When my husband and I adopted our daughter, semi-open adoption was just becoming the standard, and we were counseled by our social worker that if we chose to ask for a more closed adoption, we would most likely turn off many expectant parents looking to place.
My husband was fine with the idea of six months of letters and phone calls and then a yearly update—this seemed to him ideal. What he didn’t know was that I had been praying and a very clear thought had pierced my soul: “You are not only receiving a child, but that child’s mother and that mother’s family.”
So when the woman who chose to place her child with us wanted more contact than the current norm, I basically told my husband to get on board, because all of these people were now part of our life.
Looking back, this may have not been the best way to get him to accept a totally open adoption. I asked some members of the adoption triad their advice about talking to spouses or partners beforehand about open adoption and here are some of the great ideas they had.
Get to know actual birth parents. Make attending a birth parent panel (or more than one, if you can!) a priority. For my husband and me, these were invaluable in opening our eyes into the humanity and beauty of open adoption, as well as bashing the stereotypes that we brought with us.
Consider joining an adoption group. Find a chat room (do they still have those?) or a Reddit or Facebook group where positive experiences from all adoption angles are welcome. Simply hearing from others about the positive effects of open adoption (or the heartbreak that birth parents feel when open adoption agreements are broken) can put the issue into focus for a reluctant spouse.
Listen to your spouse’s concerns with an open mind. I am not a good example on this one. Another adoptive mother told me that just allowing room for her husband to voice his fears and concerns helped both of them feel more secure.
Consider best and worst case scenarios. Maybe your wife is terrified of her motherly affections being “replaced.” Maybe your husband is worried that his wife will have her heart broken. Maybe your wife watched a really terrible Movie of The Week and is convinced a family of hobos will move in and steal not only your child, but your entire identity and then sell everything on the black market. Talk them through. Consider canceling your cable.
Realize what is rational and what is most likely ego. Like some of the above scenarios, there are things in adoption that are more common than others. Children are going to want to spend time with a new face or a fun family member no matter what—you can’t avoid it. But you can work to become secure in the relationship and love you and your child will share. Ego tells you that you should be the only parent; rational thought tells you that, at the end of the day, your child will know who her mother is.
Be honest, be honest, be honest. When it comes down to it, you and your spouse or partner owe the expectant parents the truth; don’t become so fixated on “getting” a baby that you lie about your comfort level. Some of the hardest stories I have ever heard involve a birth family who feels lied to because the adoptive parents severed ties shortly after placement. Be willing to say “I don’t know how open we can be, but we will try these things and evaluate.” Be brave enough to be honest. If nothing else, you owe it to your baby to keep those lines of communication as open as possible.
What have you experienced when deciding on the level of openness in your adoption? What stories do you have to tell? Let me know in the comments!
If you’re ready to move forward with a domestic infant adoption, click here to connect with a compassionate, experienced adoption professional and get started on your adoption journey.