How Much Input Should the Birth Family Have on How Adoptive Families Grow?

Everyone's got an opinion, and they're probably not afraid to tell you.

Melissa Giarrosso October 26, 2014
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I’ve always been someone who likes to please other people. I don’t like confrontation, I don’t stir pots on purpose, and I like peace in my world. Adoption has caused this to be difficult as confrontation is often necessary for growth, and our definition of peace is far from what it used to be.

When we adopted our first child, his birth mom asked me whether we were planning on adopting again. We only had a three-day match, and we were texting back and forth as my husband and I rushed from Tennessee to Texas so we could have a few hours with her before she went into labor. She asked me via text if this would be our only child and we answered as honestly as we could, “We want to focus on this experience right now because it deserves our sole attention. We aren’t sure what’s in our future, but right now we feel open to adopting more than one child.” I didn’t know if our son would be born with unexpected special needs or if we’d find parenting one child overwhelming, but I knew it was possible we’d eventually parent more than one child. She responded, “Oh, I probably should have asked that before I chose y’all.” Ouch.

We weren’t necessarily surprised that we were met with some opposition from our son’s birth mom when we began talking about adopting again. We expected it. And for someone like me, who desperately wants everyone to be happy and hates being the one to disappoint anyone, it was hard for me to hear that we were making decisions (decisions we felt were best for our family, including our son) that our son’s birth mom didn’t agree with. We just had to do what we had to do. We knew there was another child out there for us, and we knew we had to find a way to respectfully say that the time had come for us to begin the process again.

Still, I felt guilty. After years of infertility and constant disappointment, I wanted joy for us and our loved ones when it came to growing our family. The guilt hung like a cloud over the process of adopting our second child, despite her kindness in trying her hardest to be happy for us. During the period of time when we waited for our next child, I addressed with her what we felt was an underlying fear: she would not, could not, be replaced. Her son would not, could not, be replaced. Our hearts would grow to accommodate everyone. Yes, we would be busier. But we would never be too busy. Her son was born to be a big brother, and we genuinely felt we were making the best decision for everyone by adopting again. She had no way of being sure that the love we felt for her–or her son–was unbreakable, but we knew. We asked her to trust us.

On our most recent trip to visit both of our kids’ birth families, we were asked a lot whether we’d be adopting again. Everyone had their opinions. Our daughter was only 8 months old, and honestly, I was worn out from chasing a 3-year-old and a very mobile 8-month-old around. The idea of a third child wasn’t anywhere in my near future because I prize my sanity and the little alone time I can steal away almost as much as I cherish the time I have with my children. I know my current limits. So, when my kids birth moms both asked me if we were planning on adopting again, I answered them honestly.

The truth is, I don’t think so. But I just don’t know for sure. What I do know is that what’s meant to happen will happen. And when it does–either way–I hope everyone will trust us enough to make our own best decisions for our family. When my son’s birth mom turned the tables and asked what I thought of her having another baby sometime soon, I told her that I was going to answer her in the same way I hoped our loved ones would answer us if the time came for us to grow our family again: I’m happy when she’s happy. What she chooses to do in terms of building her family isn’t up for my approval or disapproval. But she is my family and I love her no matter what. And that’s the truth.

When all is said and done, we have to make our own best decisions. Our kids’ birth families trusted us with something so precious and so sacred that they do enter our minds when we’re making big decisions for our family. Sometimes my husband has to ask me, “What decision would you make if you didn’t think his/her birth family would have an opinion?” on everything from homeschooling to medical decisions. I realize I’m afraid of their disapproval. I’m afraid they will regret placing their children with me. I fear seeing that look on their face when I share news with them and realizing they aren’t happy with a choice we’ve made. And then I have to snap out of it. They trusted me. I trust me. Yes, I trust us–my husband and me–enough to ask for respect from everyone in our lives, birth families included, to make our own best choices and I hope to respect others by doing the same.

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Melissa Giarrosso

Melissa Giarrosso is a Staff Storyteller at Adoption.com and a mom to two quirky kids through open adoption, all thanks to infertility and the belief that adoption is never second best. She and her family reside in a suburb of Memphis, TN where they remain faithful members of numerous open adoption communities, gently advocating the opportunities that open adoption affords all members of the adoption triad.


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