What To Do When You Haven’t Heard from Your Young Child’s Birth Mother in a While

At times, your child's birth mother may need to step back for a while. Here's how to deal.

Kenna Shumway June 16, 2015
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Upon bringing home our son after placement, I sent his birth parents a photo of him tucked up in bed with a caption that read, “Home safe. We love you.” They were in Texas, and we were in Utah, and we wanted them to know that they were on our minds.

Our son, Harley, and his birth parents have a very open adoption. This was the conversation and goal from the very beginning. We see open adoption as a spectrum.  There is the ability to slide either way to help make the situation comfortable for all those involved. I, for one, am so grateful it’s not all or nothing. All the updates or none of the updates.

For the past almost five years, we’ve been sending photos via text and email, as well as having Skype dates and phone calls. We have really tried to let Harley’s birth parents take the lead with the openness. There was a good two years that Harley’s birth father wasn’t in the picture. From what we understand, he didn’t have a phone and wasn’t really into social media, so that made it harder to find a place where we could still share Harley’s life. We resorted to snail mail, which is fun because who doesn’t love happy mail? Included in these packages were usually photos and pictures drawn by Harley, along with a little note telling him how much we loved him. However, within the past year, Harley’s birth father was able to secure a job and thus secure a phone. He has been more active with Harley. This is usually by texts and me sending photos and videos. I feel like we are at a good place with his birth father where all of us are comfortable with the level of openness.

Things with Harley’s birth mom, however, have been different in that we have always had a high degree of openness. She moved to Utah a few months after placement, so we would talk on the phone, text photos, and have her over for visits. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t an adjustment for all of us, because it was. Adoption is complicated and ever-evolving. When we moved to Ohio a year and a half after placement, we promised that we would continue to be open. There are days when I get caught up in life, but I try very hard to make sure Harley’s birth mom is a part of our lives. We do everything minus visits, unless we make a trip to Utah, in which we make immediate plans to hang out. It’s been at a high degree of openness for a long time, but lately, I’ve noticed a shift.

Harley’s birth mom has been having a hard time finding balance in open adoption.  She isn’t quick to respond to texts, and when we send photos via our phones, we know that usually we won’t get a reply. This is fine, of course, since we all have lives that keep us busy. Our Skype calls have become few and far between, as she loves them in the moment but has a hard crash after. She doesn’t initiate conversation or ask for updates, and I have found myself struggling because I hate that she hurts, but I want her to be in Harley’s life. So what do you do when you haven’t heard from your young child’s birth mother in a while?

I know this will all be easier said than done, and that every open adoption works differently. From my experience and from what my heart tells me, I will always be at the ready to involve her in Harley’s life. I make sure to keep records of what Harley is doing at certain stages (5-year-olds have a lot to document!), so I have that information for her when she is ready.  I make photo books, I collect little pieces of art, and have a folder for all of Harley’s hilarious videos.  There is loss on all sides of adoption, but I feel like hers is no doubt overwhelming and deeper than mine. I know we shouldn’t compare, but that’s just how I feel about our situation.

My biggest piece of advice would be to never give up. Never stop documenting (as if that is hard, at least for me, as there are *cough* over a thousand *cough* photos of Harley on my phone). Never stop praying for her, loving her, and showing her that love. Never stop telling your child about her, how much she loves him, and how important she is to your family. We all go through phases, and the ebb and flow of life is different for each person. Let her find her comfortable place, even if it takes a long time. Never give up on her. Ever.

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Kenna Shumway

Wife. Adoptive mom. Writer. Photographer. Endometriosis survivor, infertility warrior & adoption advocate. Rock star on weekends. Currently calls Ohio home with her pharmacist husband and their ginger son. Read more from her on her blog.


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