When the Door Shuts on an Open Adoption

One birth mother shares her story.

Denalee Chapman June 10, 2016
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Alysia was already a mother when she chose to place her next child with an adoptive family. But it didn’t feel like she was “placing”—it felt like she was giving away. She knew what being a mother entailed and she knew what was best for her baby. Her heart and her mind were in conflict.  She chose to follow her mind.

That was a long time ago. Adoption was shameful and usually kept secret. Still, Alysia was able to choose a semi-open adoption (although there was no name for it at the time). She hoped that keeping the door ajar would mean that the relationship would slowly develop and eventually she and her child would get to know each other well. It was her hope that there would never be any confusion for her child—Alysia wouldn’t be just a name, she would be a person. Her daughter wouldn’t have to wonder why she was adopted, what circumstances surrounded her birth and subsequent adoption, or have any other unanswered questions. But things didn’t go as planned.

Everything started out pretty good. Adoptive Mom seemed to be a nurturer, offering words of comfort and emotional support to Alysia when it was needed. Gifts and cards were exchanged, photos shared, and adoptive mom even referred to the child as “our girl” when talking with Alysia.

As the years passed, Alysia braved up and began to share her story in the hopes of helping others. She started to feel like she was involved in a true open adoption. But when she started to ask for more contact (age-appropriate introductions, social media connections, etc.) she was informed that the extended adoptive family frowned on it all. They didn’t know there had even been any contact with Alysia. The adoptive mom had kept their relationship (which Alysia thought was a friendship) secret.

All the previous shame came flooding back. Alysia was hurt and embarrassed. She was disgusted with herself and her self-image plummeted. Anger seeped into her heart—anger with the adoptive family, but mostly with herself. It was too hard. Too painful. There was no good coming from a continued relationship. Especially if it was to be kept secret. What kind of a relationship was that? Alysia closed the door. Tight.

What could have been done differently so Alysia’s daughter could have had an appropriate association with her? Admittedly, Alysia was naïve and uneducated about adoption. Her advice to other birth mothers is to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to make sure everything is clear and understood. What does “open” mean to you? What does it mean to the adoptive parents? And her advice to adoptive parents? “Love without fear. These amazing women only want what is best for their babies and to love them and be a part of their lives. If the relationship is stable on both sides and healthy boundaries are set and grown, there are no limits to the love this child could know. What ever could be wrong with that?”

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at DenaleeChapman.com.


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