The Pain In Open Adoption

Open adoption is far more complex than it seems.

Annaleece Merrill July 19, 2017
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Sometimes open adoption is painted as all sunshine and rainbows, a perfect solution to any issues that arise in an adoption. Adoptive parents are blessed to raise their child, birth parents’ grief is eased by continued contact with their biological child, and adoptees get to have relationships with both sets of families. The best of both worlds! While all of this is true, it’s a rather oversimplified explanation. Open adoption is far more complex than it seems, and there is quite a bit of pain that oftentimes goes unaddressed.

While the point of open adoption is to benefit the child, it will not completely eliminate emotional complications for the adoptee. Open adoption still means that the adoptee is not raised with their biological family. They may still struggle with many of the feelings adoptees from closed adoptions struggle with, such as feelings of abandonment, isolation, etc. The hope is that the birth parent’s involvement will help the adoptee to have greater understanding of their adoption story, thereby lessening those complications.

Open adoption will not always be easy on adoptive parents. Feelings of insecurity (“Will my child like their birth mom more than me?”) are prevalent among parents with open adoptions. Adoption does not cure the pain of infertility. Sometimes relationships with birth parents are difficult to maintain in a positive way. Sometimes things will come up that will be difficult to explain to the child.

Open adoption does not automatically heal a birth parent’s grief. Watching the child you bore be raised by someone else can be an incredibly painful experience. The feelings of loss remain the same. Sometimes the continued contact re-opens the wounds of saying goodbye.

Open adoption, with all its imperfections, is still almost always the best thing for all involved. Adoptees can have access to their birth parents and have a wonderful relationship with them. It might not solve all the feelings, but it will answer the questions. Adoptive parents and birth parents can form beautiful friendships–I know because my birth daughter’s parents are just like a brother and sister to me. Sometimes there are miscommunications, but that’s no different than any other relationship. Watching a biological child be reared by someone else can hurt, but not as much as not knowing where they are, or if they are being well cared for.

Adoption is all about love, and love hurts sometimes. But with effort, communication, and patience, that love will be enough to carry you through the tough times in your open adoption.

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Annaleece Merrill

Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.


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