Keeping Open Adoption Promises

A lifelong commitment.

Jessie Lundell August 28, 2014
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Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing birth moms, women that I consider some of my dearest friends. Just like Amelia and Mason’s birth moms, they are trustworthy, kind, and loving, and they want the best for their children. That’s why they chose adoption. So it surprises me when I talk to them and hear their open adoptions are not-so-open anymore. Their relationships with the adoptive parents are not what they had talked about, and their open adoptions seem to be closing more and more.

Any relationship has its ups and downs: times when you communicate a lot, and other times when you don’t. Sometimes, one person needs more space and, another time, more contact. None of us knows what the other is thinking. We need to communicate and tell one another what you need. I hope that our birth families are always involved in our lives, and I tell them that often. But I will honor their wishes if they need some time for themselves. Adding a second child, Mason, to our family three weeks ago has thrown off my groove. Schedules have changed, sleep is deprived, and having a clean house is out the window.

Mason’s birth family lives five hours away from us, so weekly visits, like we had with Amelia’s birth mom, are not an option. I wasn’t sure if we were doing enough to stay in contact with her. I had been texting photos and talking on Facebook, and we comment on one another’s posts. I wondered what Makena, Mason’s birth mom needed. So I text her, “Do you need/want more or less pictures? What do you need from us? We love you!” She responded with, “More pictures please! Other than that, keep up the good work!” Not only did she tell me what she needed, she complimented me and told me that I was doing a good job. Even though this is our second adoption, I still feel inadequate sometimes.

I always like to relate adoption relationships to any other relationship that you have with a family member. What would it take for you to cut your brother, sister, or parent out of your life completely? It should take that same kind of event to cut birth parents out of your life, too.

Birth moms, more than anyone else, want to see you succeed as a family. They are your biggest cheerleaders and fans. They didn’t place their child into our homes hoping for failure and wanting to disrupt your life. They placed because they thought you would be amazing parents! Just like you had to trust their word that they would place with you, birth moms have to trust that you will honor your open adoption promises and keep them in your life. Amelia’s birth mom told us, “You have to trust me for the next three months (until she is born) that I will place with you. I have to trust you for the rest of my life.” Think about the promises you are making to your birth parents. It is a lifelong commitment, much like a marriage.

Bottom line, don’t say yes to something that you aren’t sure you are comfortable with. If openness to you means yearly visits, don’t say that you are open to whatever your birth parents needs. What if she needs monthly visits for a while? If you say no when she asks, you are going back on your promise. I have seen too many birth mom heartbreaks because of adoptive couples going back on their word. I understand that adoptive families are eager to adopt, but before you say yes to having an open adoption, make sure you are 100% comfortable with exactly what you are saying yes to. Under promise and over deliver! This is a lifelong relationship that you are signing up for. Make sure it’s a relationship you want to have in your life, and be willing to work to keep it in your life.

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Jessie Lundell

Jessie loves CrossFit, competitive waterskiing, cooking, and eating dinner as a family every night. She is the mother, through adoption, of one very active 2-year-old and a new baby boy! Jessie and her husband are the chairs over a local adoption group, United for Adoption, and enjoy advocating for open adoption and educating the community about adoption.

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