Six Ways to Create a Healthy Open Adoption

A quick list of ways to help each other out from the perspective of a birth mother.

Ann Owen September 29, 2014
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1. Be yourselves.

Be completely honest about your likes and dislikes, and what you are willing to put into a relationship. When I was searching hopeful adoptive parent profiles, the first thing that struck me was how they all seemed to be written by the same person. Practically all the couples seemed exactly the same, and that was part of why my daughter’s parents stuck at me so much. Their profile showed their unique, amazing life, and I knew as soon as I saw their spontaneous picture of happiness that they were the ones for me.

2. Don’t call her a birth mother or try to downplay her role in the child’s life.

She is not a birth mother until she has signed the paperwork. She is an expectant mother, and even after she signs, she will always be the biological parent of that child. Period. There is nothing that can ever alter that fact.

3. Don’t make promises you can’t or don’t intend to keep.

It is much better for everyone involved if you only promise things you are capable of following through with. If you only think you’ll be comfortable with two visits a year, tell them that. Don’t promise more and hurt the mother by not going through with them. It’s much better to promise less and give more, and it’s much healthier for your relationship.

4. Get to know the birth parents as much as possible before placement.

Feelings can change pretty quickly after the baby comes, and it’s easier if there is already a solid foundation there. Karen spent a lot of time asking me a million questions about my life and interests, and this somehow caused us to become so close we would do anything for each other. It’s no longer about our child; she is my best friend and biggest champion.

5. Be honest with the child regarding the adoption.

Studies have proven it is much better for the child to grow up knowing their story. It prevents so much heartache and drama in the future. My daughter’s adoptive parents made Sarah her own fairy tale book on Shutterfly. They read it to her constantly as an infant, and her story became something natural in her life. As a result, she is an extremely healthy, intelligent 3-year-old who often talks about her adoption and her family in California.

6. Don’t be afraid to talk about the big stuff.

Sometimes people think it’s easier to avoid the heavy stuff, hoping it just goes away. This just causes wounds to fester and problems to go unsolved. It’s much better to talk about things before they became a huge issue. For example, the first six months after I placed, I talked to Karen about my emotions a LOT. I didn’t realize this hurt her and affected her ability to bond with our baby because of all the guilt she was carrying around. I was so caught up in my own pain, I didn’t consider hers. As soon, as she got up the nerve to talk to me about it, I realized she wasn’t the person I should be talking to about it. She doesn’t deserve the guilt my emotions caused, and that was a great turning point in my relationship.

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Ann Owen

Ann Owen is the mother of an 11-year-old girl she parents--and also of a 3 1/2-year-old girl she lovingly placed in a very open adoption. As well as writing, she enjoys singing in her free time, and is classically trained in opera. Currently she is working on a book with her best friend (who happens to be the mother of her youngest child) on the benefits of open adoption.

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