Open adoption is an unbelievable blessing. Adoption used to be taboo across the board, children were sometimes not told they were adopted until they were “old enough to handle it” (whatever that means) and birth mothers would disappear for nine months and come back after the baby was born. These days, those situations are nearly extinct, thank goodness. The majority of domestic adoptions are open, allowing for a different and more proper form of healing for all involved. Adoptees can know their biological roots. They can know they came from love and placed into love. Adoptive parents can live at ease knowing that there are more accurate resources for knowledge of their children’s medical history, among other things. Birth parents can form appropriate relationships with their children and their children’s parents, allowing them to know with a surety that their child is being loved and given a proper chance to live life to its fullest. There is one relationship that tends to be pushed under the rug, at least until the adoption triangle can figure themselves out. This is the relationship between the birth parents and the adoptive family.
I initially didn’t even consider having a relationship with my son’s extended family. It was his family that reached out to me and I had no problem with having more people to love. It helped me feel more of a connection to my son, as well. I was added by one of his aunts on Facebook, then another, then another. Then invited to his adoption finalization celebration (in Utah that happens around 6 months after the parental rights have been signed). So, my son was six months old, and I was thrown into meeting his entire family: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends so forth. I felt completely awkward and so out of place, but not because of them. They were kind and asked thoughtful questions, they brought me into their home and their comfort zone with no second guessing. As far as they were concerned, I was someone that gave them a gift they couldn’t get from anyone else, and that was all they needed to know. Time passed, and eventually I came out of my shell. I realized they were coming from a place of love and not judgement.
Not every adoption situation allows for this. I have talked to many of my adoption friends about this topic and there seems to be no trend. For where I am in life and for where my adoption is, it works for me to have relationships like these. It also helps that I live closely to my son’s family. There’s a birth mother I know who has met the family and is friends with them on Facebook, but they live so far apart that she has no real relationship with them. It would be more difficult to nurture a friendship over long distance. There’s another that has a family who, for whatever reason, doesn’t approve of open adoption, making it difficult for them to accept the birth mother’s role in their grandchild’s life. In another case, I have a birth mother friend that placed 20 years ago, when most adoptions were closed. She’s started her reunion by contacting his parents, to make sure they were ok with her reentering his life. After the reunion, his family is slowly adding her into their lives and she is expanding her previous idea of “family”. It’s unique and each situation person needs to decide what’s appropriate for them.
Open adoption is new; expanding open adoption to extended family is even newer. It’s an evolving, specific, and sensitive situation that needs to be constantly nourished. Even in my relationships, I try hard to keep up with my son’s family. I congratulate them on new babies, birthdays, graduations. In return I get the same treatment, I even received Christmas cards from them last year. While my open adoption isn’t perfect, I still feel as if it great enough that I can also put my efforts into having a healthy relationship with the extended family. This works out great for me because I’m often invited to my son’s birthday party, or a holiday dinner, with his entire family. My biggest argument towards open adoption is that, more often than not, it is simply more people to love the child. So, why can’t that love be extended?