Open adoption is an amazing thing. I feel so blessed that I have been able to not only watch my child grow and progress, but that I can have a relationship with him and his family. They are a very special extension of my family and will always hold a place in my heart. Solely because of my experience with open adoption, I would highly suggest anyone thinking of placing should seriously consider it as an option for everyone’s sake.

With that, there are a few things I wish I had been told about open adoption before I placed my child. I wouldn’t have changed my decision had I known these things, but I would have been more mentally prepared and struggled less. Some of these things may seem like common sense, but in the intensity of the process, people try to be reassuring and optimistic, almost to a fault, and it can give an inaccurate picture of how an adoption will pan out.

I wish I’d been told that you see your child less and less as time goes on.

I had initially thought that I would take time to myself for a while to get used to the change, try to heal (physically, mentally, and emotionally), and get my life back on track, and then I’d be able to see him more without hurting as much. However, that is almost the exact opposite from what most people do. Birth mothers usually see their child quite often at first as a way to heal, then slowly but surely start to let go, and see the child and family once in awhile. Having chose a family only an hour away that I got along with so well, I thought this was ridiculous, and it hurt that I was being told my idea of an open adoption was fanciful and unrealistic. Over time I’ve realized we all have lives to live, obligations to keep, and things to get done. We do lead separate lives that only ever overlap every now and then. It makes sense, but I wasn’t initially prepared, and it made it that much harder.

I wish I’d been warned about the struggles my child would go through.

I was being constantly coached as to the struggles I would encounter and how to deal with them, but no one told me I’d have to watch my child struggle. In a closed adoption, if a child has trouble behaving at school, or develops a complex, or even gets social anxiety, you would never know. In an open adoption, you watch your child go through these things and can’t do anything about it. It’s like watch them from behind a one-way mirror, wanting to run to their aid, but you can’t; you’re not their parent. No one ever told me about this. I only learned about the hardships adoptees go through because of my studies within my college major. Children who are adopted go through a lot of internal trials that tend to be outwardly expressed as defiance, waywardness, out lashes, etc. As his birth mother, watching my son have discipline problems eats at me. I want to make things better and I want to make things easier for him, but I gave up my rights as his parent when I signed those papers. I can only be a cheerleader from the sidelines trying to encourage him to do the right things.

I wish I was warned about the presence (or absence) of other birth mothers within my child’s chosen family.

My son is one of four children in his family. His oldest sister is the only biological child, and then he, his other sister, and his younger brother were all adopted. Since I got to know his family a bit before I placed him, I knew his adopted sister didn’t have contact with her birth mother. And after his brother was born, they quickly lost contact with his birth mother. Being the only present birth mother has made things both easier and harder on my son and his family. I try to be inclusive of all of my son’s siblings, but there are times when I just want time with my son. Now, my son’s little brother is too young to know any different; he’s only a year old. But his older sister has been struggling with her birth mother’s absence since my son entered their family. It causes some contention between them when he goes back home after being with my family and me, and she sometimes exhibits those same struggles I talked about earlier because her birth mother isn’t around. It brings up a lot of questions that can’t be answered for her, and subsequently make her question her identity. It may not be a struggle my son is going through, but loving their whole family, it pains me to see her so upset and confused, and to think it may happen to his younger brother too.

There are a lot of things that make adoption difficult, whether it’s open or closed, but being adequately prepared will put your mind more at ease. When considering adoption, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to remember to ask all the right questions and know which ones to ask about post-placement. It’s a whirlwind of emotion and a chaotic experience, but as long as you’re trying to do what is right for your child, missed questions that stop your decision from being the right one.