Birth Mothers Amplified Season 1, Episode 24

Are you a birth mother seeking to connect with other birth mothers? Are you a potential adoptive parent who wants to learn more about open adoption and what it can look like? Perhaps you just want to learn more about adoption in general. In any case, I recommend you check out Birth Mothers Amplified, a podcast on YouTube. 

About the Birth Mothers Amplified Podcast

Birth Mothers Amplified is brought to you by the Gladney Center for Adoption and Adoption.com. The podcast is hosted by two awesome women, Emma and Muthani, who are both birth mothers. Birth Mothers Amplified covers topics related to being a birth mom and adoption, such as open adoption, semi-open adoption, closed adoption, transracial adoption, and birth mother experiences. The podcast aims to provide resources and support to birth mothers and to raise awareness about adoption. 

Emma is a birth mom who placed her baby with an open adoption. She got pregnant at 17 years old when she was a senior in high school. Emma was fortunate in that her mother was also a birth mom. She also had the birth father’s support throughout her pregnancy. 

When Muthani became pregnant, she recognized that she was not yet ready to be a mother, so she placed her child with an open adoption. She continues to be involved in her child’s life. Muthani has participated in several birth mother panels where she has shared her experience with others. 

Birth Mothers Amplified Season 1, Episode 24

Birth Mothers Amplified Season 1, Episode 24 features a panel on open adoption. The panel includes three birth mothers: Nikki, Katie, and Nicole.

Nikki placed with an open adoption more than 20 years ago. She has connected with her daughter in just the past few months. Nikki says her journey has been a wild ride. 

Nicole also placed with an open adoption. She had two children before placing her third daughter for adoption. She is married to her daughter’s birth father. The daughter she placed for adoption is 9 years old. 

Katie was 16 years old and a freshman in high school when she became pregnant. She placed her son with a semi-open adoption. She is 18 years post-placement, and her adoption agreement just ended. 

I was particularly interested in this episode of Birth Mothers Amplified because Katie placed with a semi-open adoption. I had not heard any birth mother experiences about semi-open adoption and was curious to see how this type of adoption differed from open adoption. 

What is the difference between semi-open and open adoption? 

A semi-open adoption allows birth parents and adoptive parents to share updates and photos with one another through a third party. All identifying information, such as last names, addresses, and phone numbers are typically not shared in a semi-open adoption. 

An open adoption allows birth parents to have direct contact with both the adoptive parents and adoptee. The terms of the open adoption are agreed upon by the birth parents and adoptive parents. Types of contact that may occur in an open adoption include phone calls, emails, letter updates, photos, and visits. No two open adoptions will look exactly the same; they are all individual and unique. 

Muthani starts the discussion by asking Nikki what she believes the pros and cons of an open adoption are. Nikki believes that the biggest advantage of an open adoption is knowing how your child is doing and that she has hit all of her milestones. She shares that watching her daughter graduate from high school was one of the most special moments of her life. 

Muthani says that a disadvantage of open adoption for her was the power shift. She says that the adoption can be as open as you would like it to be, but in the end, the adoptive parents have the power. 

Katie chimes in and says that a major disadvantage of a semi-open adoption is the 18-year adoption contract. She says that you think that 18 years is a long time, but it goes by quickly. She says after the adoption agreement is over, your contact with the adoptee is just cut off and you just have to wait and hope that the child will reach out to you. She shares that it’s difficult to go from getting an update and photos every year to not getting them anymore. 

Emma notes that it’s important to recognize and discuss both the pros and the cons of the different types of adoption. She says that they emphasize the advantages of open adoption on the podcast because they believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages but that it would be unfair to listeners to deny that there are any disadvantages. 

Nicole shares that when she was initially exploring adoption, she wanted a closed adoption. She wanted to have her baby, place her, and be done with it all. The agency she went with, though, only did open adoptions. Nicole shares that her mind didn’t change until she actually met the adoptive couple and started to get to know them and their background. She said that she knew open adoption was the right choice for her at that point. 

Katie inquires as to why Nicole initially wanted a closed adoption. She wonders if Nicole was trying to protect her heart. Nicole says she was absolutely trying to protect herself from the pain. She states she thought a closed adoption would allow her to have the baby and then block it out for the rest of her life.

Emma declares that Nicole’s story is interesting because most of the birth mothers they talk to on the podcast know they want an open adoption from the beginning. She says it is important to recognize that not all birth mothers want an open adoption. 

Nicole goes on to share more about her situation. She tells us that her daughters have a very close relationship with the daughter she placed. She says that when her daughters talk on the phone or get together, you can tell they have a sisterly bond even though they are growing up in different homes. 

Muthani wonders what motivated Katie to want an open adoption. Katie says she always knew she wanted a semi-open adoption. She states that open adoptions weren’t very common 18 years ago. In fact, she doesn’t even remember an open adoption being presented as an option to her. She could only choose from a closed or a semi-open adoption. Katie shares that she needed to get a letter update and photos of her son once a year–it was non-negotiable for her. 

Emma reflects on how much adoption options have changed over time. She said both her mom and her aunt placed babies for adoption. She said that her aunt’s, her mom’s, and her own experiences could not have been more different based on the options that were presented to each of them. 

Nikki shares more of her story with us at this time. She says she had a private adoption where she and the adoptive parents each had their own attorneys. She admits there really was no “plan” for the next 18 years when she placed her child. She gave full control to the adoptive parents and hoped they would choose to communicate with her. Nikki shares that she placed within her biological family, so her placement was a little unique. 

Nikki’s relationship with the adoptive parents and the child she placed has been a rough one. She said she had annual visits with them for the first four years of her child’s life. She said she received a lot of photos of her daughter up until she was 9 years old. Then from the time her daughter was 9 to 14 years old, there was no communication from the adoptive family at all. She said that when her daughter was 14, her adoptive mom emailed her. Nikki and the adoptive mom emailed for the next six years. Nikki says that now she has direct communication with the daughter she placed. 

Nikki says that her daughter always knew she was adopted and that the adoptive mom would tell her about Nikki and her family. Her daughter always knew about her birth mother and her adoption story. 

The conversation turns to what makes a successful open adoption. Nicole believes the three things that make an open adoption successful are honesty, trust, and respect. She emphasizes that honesty, trust, and respect need to go both ways in the relationship.

Emma asks an interesting question. She wonders if it is difficult for Nicole to see the adoptive parents parent in a different way than she does. Nicole says that they are all so close, it really hasn’t been an issue. She says she’s never had a visit where she didn’t like how the adoptive parents were parenting. 

The discussion then focuses on how the type of adoption a birth mother places with can help or hinder the healing process for her (you can hear more about this topic by watching Birth Mothers Amplified season 1, episode 23). 

Katie believes her semi-open adoption helped her healing process. Katie thinks her semi-open adoption provided good boundaries and allowed the adoptive parents to move forward as a family. She said that receiving photos and updates helped her get some of the closure she needed, seeing how her son was doing with his adoptive family. 

The panel chats about asking for what you need as a birth mom. Everyone agrees that they fear asking the adoptive parents for what they need because they are afraid their contact with their child will be cut off. They admit that even when the adoptive parents have been open and receptive to requests that they are afraid of asking too much or overstepping. 

This seems to be a big issue for many birth mothers. I feel birth mothers should ask for what they need, knowing that they may not always be able to get it. As Nicole pointed out, honesty is essential in an open adoption and that means a birth mother being honest with herself and the adoptive parents with regards to her needs. 

It’s also important for birth mothers to recognize and be okay with the fact that the adoptive parents may say no to requests. For instance, Katie asked to see her son when he was 14 years old. The adoptive parents said no, that they felt it wouldn’t be in his best interest because they didn’t feel like he was ready. Katie was disappointed, but she wrote the adoptive parents another letter letting them know that she respected their decision and that she got to see his adoptive parents being great parents. 

Muthani shares that she has been disappointed with decisions the adoptive parents have made, and she was open with them about it. She says she’s lucky that they welcome her feedback. 

Nikki chimes in that she always had a fear of asking for things from the adoptive parents, but any time she did, they granted her requests. She says she isn’t sure why that fear built up in her. 

Emma notes how important communication is in an open adoption. Communication helps set expectations. She states that birth moms should continue asking for what they need, recognizing that it is okay when the adoptive parents say no to requests. 

Nicole says one piece of advice she’d give to birth mothers considering open adoption is to communicate how open they want the adoption to be before placement occurs. She says when birth and adoptive parties communicate their needs honestly, it is less likely that disappointments occur after placement. Muthani notes that when you have good communication with the adoptive parents, you can work through disappointments more easily; disappointments are inevitable. 

The panel wraps up with a discussion on what type of adoption might be most beneficial to the adoptee. Emma notes that like with so many other things, it probably depends on the individual. 

This episode of Birth Mothers Amplified was an excellent one with a lot of invaluable information and experiences. I encourage you to check out this awesome podcast. It is an invaluable resource for birth mothers, adoptive parents, adoptees, and people interested in learning more about adoption.

Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.