I could write an entire book listing out the facts about open adoption I’ve learned since adopting. I could give you a laundry list of my opinions or views that have changed throughout this process. I could tell you a million things to prepare for and none of them could apply to your adoption situation. Perhaps the biggest shift in my perspective of adoption is specifically open adoption. What does that look like? Are we required to have an open adoption? How often do we have to see the birth families? Is it best for my child? These were just a few of the questions bouncing around in my head as we pursued the unfamiliar road of adoption.
I feel like my biggest fear as a parent by adoption is that I’ll get this all wrong. One day, my kids will be 20 years old and wake up feeling lost, confused, overwhelmed, angry about their adoption story because somewhere along the way, I didn’t do it right. I’m constantly feeling the pressure to “get it right”: use the correct adoption verbiage, honor their birth families, and embrace open adoption. I’ve gotten to know hundreds of mamas by adoption and see what their open adoption looks like. It’s hard not to compare or long for what someone else has or doesn’t have. But before you define what your “ideal” open adoption looks like, let me share a few facts about open adoption to keep in mind.
No Two Look Alike.
With or without adoption as a part of their story, moms are constantly comparing themselves to other moms, their kids to other kids. Open adoption is no different. When you hear of an open adoption story, take a moment to appreciate it. But don’t let that become your sole expectation or standard. Take these stories and stuff them in your pocket to consider in a much larger perspective of what open adoptions CAN look like. I can assure you that no two are the same. For some, it looks like a phone call and pictures sent once a year. For others, it’s texting, holidays, birthdays, and weekend barbecues. Your family’s story is special, unique, and the opportunity for an open adoption, of any kind, is a blessing. Embrace whatever you have in front of you.
Is this the most common phrase used in relation to adoption? I feel like it’s a constant. It’s hard. It’s going to be hard. Once you have your precious, perfect baby in your arms, your adoption journey is not over. Not even close. After a birth mom places her child, lots of emotions and feelings are going to be stirring on both sides. Life may feel overwhelming: 1) new baby (minimal sleep makes everything in life harder, too) 2) the thought of “now what?” But let me tell you something: you don’t have to figure it all out now. Let the relationship develop naturally, whatever that means for you. If your child’s birth mother is open and ready for contact, pursue her. Wrap her in love and support as much as you can while bonding with your new bundle of joy. An open relationship may feel forced or difficult in the beginning. It means sacrifices and understanding on both sides. It means grace and humility. It’s hard. It will continue to be hard. But take it one day, week, month at a time.
It’s Always Changing.
Just when I thought I’d figured out our relationship with our birth families, it changes. For a million reasons. Situations change, dynamics change just as they do with our other family and friends. During some seasons, we’re closer, talk more, and plan visits. Then we go months without talking. Sometimes I send one picture and sometimes I send twenty. Sometimes I text one of my girls’ birth mothers and I don’t hear back. Sometimes the girls’ birth mothers tell me they need some space and it’s painful for them to see pictures right now. It’s okay. I don’t take it personally. Wherever your open adoption is right now, it’s exactly as it should be. Don’t stress or worry or compare to other open adoptions, just embrace where you’re at right now and keep making an effort. You’ll never regret that.
Do What You Feel is Best For Your Child.
This is the premise of every single open adoption. This is why we all make sacrifices and power through hard days or weeks in our open adoption relationships. Because, ultimately, we all want to love and protect our children. As a mother by adoption, I feel a constant pressure to love and protect my children with every cell of my being. When you’re questioning your open adoption, take your personal emotions out of it and consider what is truly in the best interest of the child. Sometimes this means planning a visit when you really don’t want to drive three hours to see the birth family. Sometimes this means setting hard boundaries with the birth family or refusing to visit if it’s unsafe. When my girls’ birth mothers handed me my child, they both mumbled through tears something along the lines of “please love and protect them like your own.” I made that promise to them. I will always put my children first – before my own desires. That is open adoption.
What other facts about open adoption have you learned? Share them in the comments!