Forming and nurturing a relationship can be challenging for some, especially when that relationship is between a birth mother and her child’s adoptive parents.
On one extreme side of the spectrum, some birth mothers don’t want a relationship at all, and should that be respected. At the other extreme, some want to be integrated members of the family so they don’t miss a single thing with their child’s development, which is also understandable. A level of communication comfortable for everyone can be worked out among the birth mother, adoptive parents, and probably a social worker. All wants should be respected as they come from a very valid, emotional place within, but usually compromise rather than consensus must be reached to fit both schedules.
I was one of those birth moms who definitely wanted an open adoption. I wanted to know for myself my child was being well taken care of. However, as I was figuring out who my son’s adoptive parents would be, I grew to know and love them and their family. By the time my son was born, I wanted an open adoption—not only to maintain a relationship with my son, but to maintain a relationship with them. On my end, it seemed almost natural to be close with them. But this did not come without its challenges. So here are some ways I, as a birth mother, have tried to build and maintain a relationship with my child’s adoptive parents.
Building the Relationship
1. Care about the answers you receive from the questions you ask.
When trying to figure out who will be raising your child, don’t ask questions just to back them into a corner or so you can dig up dirt to reject them. Try to get to know them for your child’s sake, and your sake. Yes, you need to know the good and the bad, but only trying to find the worst in them won’t help you choose your child’s family.
2. Answer their questions honestly with more than just one-word answers.
Please don’t lie to families when you’re talking with them. These amazing people have put so much time, energy, faith, and love into trying to expand their families and deserve honesty, just like you do. They want to get to know YOU, so if you choose them, they can have a sense of what your child may be like. And don’t be surprised if they actually care about you and want to know who you are.
3. Take intentional steps towards growing closer.
Just like any relationship, there are general milestones you take to becoming more familiar and comfortable with one another. After you both feel comfortable with the emailing process, maybe try phone calls. Then when that feels good, maybe try Skype or FaceTime. Finally, try to take that leap to meeting in person. Most likely it’ll be in a public place for the first time or two like a park or the zoo, but if an open adoption is the desired end goal, it may come down to BBQs at your house or game nights at theirs. All these things will help you build up the lasting relationship.
Maintaining the Relationship
1. Be understanding of boundaries.
Just like you have your boundaries, adoptive families have theirs. Boundaries don’t necessarily mean they’re trying to slowing push you away. They may simply have lives to live with plans, schedules, errands, and commitments. They may also have other birth families to keep in contact with; perhaps one of their children has additional needs and takes more of their time; or maybe they’re sick and don’t want (or have the energy) to share that part of their life with you. And there may be times they do just need their space. Be respectful, understanding, and forgiving, and be willing to work with them as they were willing to work with you.
2. Communication, communication, communication.
If you have strong feelings about something they’re doing, as long as telling them can be constructive, tell them. If they are trying to communicate effectively with you, be willing to listen and adjust as necessary. A relationship with an adoptive family is a two-way street, so be willing to initiate and adjust to changes over time.
3. Don’t make everything about your child.
If you really want to have a relationship with your child’s adoptive parents and other family members, don’t make everything about your child. Try spending time with just them and no kids. Keep emailing, calling, Skyping, FaceTiming, and meeting up with them just to catch up. Include them in your daily life. If they have other children, spend time with your child’s siblings. Recognize and be supportive of their achievements. If they adopt again, be willing to help, and be happy for them. Develop love for them. Love them for being more than just your child’s parents. Love them simply for being who they are.
Of course, these are just a few tried-and-true ways I’ve found for building and maintaining a relationship with my son’s adoptive parents. Everyone and every relationship is different, so do what feels right; not just what feels right for your child, but what feels right for you and the family. Be open-minded and try to understand both sides of the relationship. In the end, if you work together, you can build and maintain a relationship to last a lifetime.
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