Shortly after our daughter’s second birthday, we decided we were ready to begin the domestic infant adoption process again. We always knew we wanted her to have a sibling and that our family was not yet complete. Ask any adoptive parent and he or she will tell you how little control you have over the timing of things (including sibling spacing), but this felt right for us.

We enjoyed a very open adoption with our daughter’s birth mom and family, and I naturally wondered what it would look like with a second child thrown in the mix. We hoped for another close relationship but understood there were factors we couldn’t predict—not the least of which was what sort of relationship a future expectant mom wanted to have with us.

What if we were close to one child’s birth mom but not the other? Would the kids be jealous of each other? Would one grow up feeling neglected by their birth family, seeing all the attention their sibling received? What would the dynamics be like?

Once again we had the opportunity to relinquish control and joyfully open our hearts to whatever might come.

As it turned out, we were soon matched with an expectant mom carrying a son and quickly formed a close relationship. Once again, our family did not just grow by one child, but by an entire extended family.

Almost three years into our family having two children with two open adoptions, here are a couple things I have learned.

Relationships are unique, and that is okay.

Relationships are just as unique as the individuals involved, adoption or not. My friendships look different. My family relationships look different. Every single relationship has unique qualities and habits, so why should it be any different with open adoption?

We are thankful to be very close to both our children’s birth families, but they aren’t identical. The frequency and type of contact varies organically, depending on timing and person. And that is okay! We should release ourselves from the obligation to make things the same or equal every single time because that isn’t the reality of how a relationship works.

The more the merrier!

My husband and I have said before that our family did not just grow by two children, but by a great big bonus extended family. We would not have it any other way!

Even though it is never expected and they are not obligated to, each of our children’s birth families treat the other child equally with time, attention, and even gifts. Each child benefits in a beautiful and unexpected way through the relationship with his or her sibling’s birth family—something we never take for granted.

Last summer we hosted one joint birthday party for both kids, and our house and backyard were packed with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents by both birth and adoption. It warmed my heart beyond measure to look around and observe the crowd of people brought together by two children who are unrelated biologically, but still brother and sister.

Open adoption is blessing us in ways we never expected and could not have dreamed up on our own.

This is family.