I was 21 years old when I placed my daughter for adoption. While I wasn’t all that young, I was still naïve to the reality of what adoption would entail. I, like most birth moms, thought that all the hard work was over. I was wrong.

While it was incredibly difficult to go through the pregnancy knowing I wouldn’t have a baby at
the end, and it was very painful leaving the hospital empty-handed, the hard stuff was just the beginning.

Open adoption is a fairly new concept to most Americans. Closed adoptions that happened behind closed doors was the norm for a very long time. Because of that, most people—including birth moms—really do not know what to expect from an open adoption. They don’t realize that there is much that goes into maintaining a lifelong relationship with a couple or person that you had only just met within the last nine months.

When I first met my birth daughter’s parents, I was six months pregnant. I had only made the decision to place her for adoption a month prior.

Meeting them was incredible! They exceeded all my expectations. When we talked about what we were expecting as far as openness, we were on the exact same page. We talked over the next three months and our relationship blossomed. They came to all my doctor’s appointments and spent time with me after. We talked on the phone regularly and they helped me out with some things that I needed. In the short time before my birth daughter’s arrival, we had managed to build an amazing friendship.

Then on January 25th, 2012 my birth daughter made her debut. It was an amazing and spectacular sight. I, along with her new parents, spent an amazing four days with her in the hospital. We got to know this little one and took care of her. The day of placement was beautiful and heartbreaking. As I left the hospital empty-handed and spent a month processing through that, I thought I had made it through the hardest part. What became abundantly clear as more time when on, however, was how much I would have to work on this relationship.

In order to have a healthy adoption relationship, everyone needs to put in effort to show love and respect to one another. You have to foster a relationship outside of the child. To love that child well, you have to love each other well.

When I entered into this adoption, I thought my main relationship would be with my birth daughter. The reality is that my main relationship is with her parents. With every year that goes by, I realize just how much my relationship with them is like a union of sorts. With an open adoption, you are making a marriage of two families. You are signing up for a lifetime commitment to each other. To honor and love one another, in sickness and health, until death do you part. It really is incredible! And the significance of this commitment is often overlooked pre-placement.

So, how do we make these relationships succeed in a world where divorce is so common?

First, we have to tell ourselves that there is no quitting. We have to commit to each other that no matter how rough it might get, we have to work through it. Because, just like in a regular marriage with children, the child in an open adoption benefits the most from everyone involved loving each other and making it work.

Second, we have to put in the same amount of effort as we would our spouses. Imagine a marriage in which each spouse only did what made them happy, or only talked 3-4 times a year, or only communicated when they wanted something from the other. That marriage would never last! It is the same in your relationship to each other in open adoption. No adoptive parent wants to feel like you only speak to them when you want visits/pictures/updates or whatever. And no birth mom wants to feel like you’re giving her the least possible effort .

In order to have a healthy adoption relationship, everyone needs to put in effort to show love and respect to one another. You have to foster a relationship outside of the child. To love that child well, you have to love each other well. You cannot do that putting in the bare minimum. Maybe just send a text saying, “Hey I love you.” Or have lunch just the three of you. Put in the effort to build that relationship up!

Lastly, you need to be selfless! Selflessness in an essential part to any marriage. If you only did the things that made you happy, and expected your spouse to only do things that make you happy, your marriage would be doomed! I know as a birth mom it can be easy to feel that certain expectations we have are “owed” to us. But that attitude will destroy your relationship with the parents. If each party goes into things with a “How can I bless?” attitude, it will make your relationship bulletproof. Of course we are all human, and being selfless 100% of the time is not possible. But we can strive for it every day!

Open adoption is full of trials, just like marriage. The key to surviving those trials is a good foundation. I am four years into my adoption and I’m still learning new things all the time. I am making mistakes and learning from them. Life will not always be fair, and not everyone will have this attitude. All I can do, all any of us can do, is control the way we conduct ourselves. And, if anything goes wrong, if one party gives up, we can hold our heads high and say we did everything we could! So let’s all get out there and love one another well!