We adopted Maddie when she was 18 days old. She has had an open adoption relationship with her birth mother and birth mother’s family, as well as with her birth father’s parents and siblings, for as long as she can remember.
Open adoption was a fairly new idea at the time, and while we could see the benefits from such a relationship from adoptive parents’ eyes, we wondered how it would impact our daughter. She is a 16-year-old now, and for anyone wondering how it has worked out, here are her feelings and perspective on having an open adoption.
The following questions came from birth and adoptive parents from various adoption-related Facebook groups.
Q: What is one thing you think you got from your birth mother? Your adoptive mom? What advice would you give to birth and adoptive parents considering open adoption?
A: I got a lot from my birth mom: how I look, my personality, determination mixed with a little stubbornness, and my parents always tell me we make the same facial expressions. We are so alike. Whenever I go and visit her, people mistake us for sisters.
I think that my adoptive mom has given me the knowledge of how to be a mother, how to love and serve others, and how to act.
I would recommend open adoption because it helps to know my birth family and who they are. They don’t have to be completely out of my life and I don’t have to wonder what they are like.
Q: Do you feel that knowing your birth family while growing up has helped you?
A: Knowing my biological family has really helped. It helps me understand more fully their love for me. It also helps to understand how much they sacrificed for me. It leaves out a lot of the confusion that comes from not knowing them. I haven’t met my biological dad since I was 4 and that has always been hard on me. I think if I didn’t know my biological family, it would leave me to just wonder why I don’t know them, how they feel about me, and what they are like.
A closed adoption might bring confusion and some hurt, but an open adoption is amazing. To me there is nothing negative about having an open adoption; it just makes me happy to know that I have that relationship.
Q: Do you feel confident in knowing who you are, where you came from?
A: Yes. Knowing that I am a child of God and He is my Father gives me the assurance that everything happens for a reason. We are all His children and sometimes I think it can seem weird or confusing to have two sets of parents, but I know that we are all beloved sons and daughters of Heavenly Father before anything else.
Sometimes I feel alone because my birth family is far away. I don’t know why, but I just do sometimes. But I think that having an open adoption helps me see that I am where I should be. I know that I am where I was always meant to be. I have been given everything: my family—including a mom and dad plus siblings, a wonderful place to live, and my faith. It gives me the perspective that I have been given so much more because of a loving decision from my birth family.
Q: Is it possible to love four parents and not just two?
A: Yes. You can love an infinite amount of grandparents, sibling, cousins, etc. That love doesn’t stop; you don’t just stop loving people. Although a relationship with a parent is a different type of relationship, it isn’t a different type of love. When you look at ancestors, family now, and future family, the love that you have for them is the same. I love to do family history and the farther I go back, the more people I find. There are millions of people on my family lines (both adoptive and biological). I have come to love each one of them so deeply that I can’t describe it. So if there is ever a question about whether or not you can love your biological family and still love your adoptive family, the answer will always be yes. Families are eternal and the love for them is too.
Q: What level of openness do you have with your birth family? What kind of contact?
A: I have an adoption that I think is really open. I fly out to visit my biological family at least once a year. This last year I flew out four times. I also talk to them on the phone frequently.
Q: Are you happy having an open adoption and do you ever wish it had been closed?
A: I’m so grateful and happy that I have the blessing of having an open adoption. It has been one of the greatest gifts that I have ever been given. It brings me so much happiness every day. I would never want to have a closed adoption. Having an open adoption has helped me grow so close to my biological relatives and my biggest fear would be that somehow I wouldn’t have that.
Q: Have you ever had any feelings of rejection or ‘why me’?
A: No. Although I have wondered what it would have been like to live with my birth mom.
Q: What are some things you think are particularly cool about your open adoption?
A: I get to travel more than I would have. I was able to go to my birth mom’s wedding. I think it is cool that I can call whenever I want to.
Q: What questions do your friends ask you and how do you feel about those questions?
A: My friends are sometimes surprised to find out that I’m adopted. They ask what it is like and sometimes it’s confusing because they don’t use the correct terminology. They say your “real parents” and I don’t know who they are referring to, so sometimes it’s entertaining trying to figure out what they are asking.
Next month, Maddie’s birth mother, Amanda will share her feelings on open adoption, then the following month, I (the adoptive mom) will share my feelings as well. So if you are interested in learning about open adoption from all three perspectives, stay tuned.
If you have any questions you would like answered from the birth mother or adoptive mother point-of-view in these subsequent articles, please comment below and we will try to address them.