Although our story hasn’t had its happy ending (yet), I want to take the chance talk a little bit about open adoption and what led us to choose open adoption in the first place.
There are a lot of misconceptions about open adoption. Brian and I had the chance to learn more about the unique nature of open adoption through a few couples we know who built their families through open adoption, as well as through the information provided by our adoption facilitator. The more we learned about open adoption, the more we knew it was the right decision for us.
To sum it up, open adoption means that the child grows up knowing he/she was adopted, and that the birth parent placed (chose) the family for the adoption. It isn’t a family secret, and there is no shame associated with the adoption. The adoptive parents and the child may have some sort of relationship with his/her birth mother/father/relatives during childhood and beyond. This could range anywhere from a yearly letter with pictures, to monthly visits, to texts or phone calls. It may change throughout the course of the child’s life, and is up to the discretion of the parties involved. Open adoption is NOT co-parenting. It does not mean that the child grows up confused about who his/her parents are. It doesn’t mean that a child’s “other mom” comes to babysit.
So why would we want this? When Brian and I thought about adoption, we really wanted it to come down to the baby/child, and what was best for him/her in the long run. While it seems like it would be “easier” for the adoptive parent to pretend that whole biology thing doesn’t matter, we know that this isn’t the case. Any child (or person for that matter) would want to know where they come from. It’s only natural. Keeping the adoption open allows the child access to age-appropriate information. The child will grow up knowing that their birth mother chose the adoptive parents because she wanted the best life for her baby. I think it’s hard for most people to imagine “sharing” their parental role in any way, but again, we thought what would be best for our child, not what would be easiest for ourselves.
We had prepared ourselves for some difficult conversations in the future, because we’ve seen our friends have these conversations at ages 5 and 8 and 12 and 15. We’ve seen them struggle with keeping birth families appropriately connected and struggle with explaining hard things to their kids. Open adoption isn’t EASY adoption – nowhere near it, in fact. But I truly believe in open adoption, in spite of everything we’ve been through.
I hope this answers some of the questions you may have about open adoption. Open adoption is becoming more “mainstream” these days, but we know that there are many people out there who have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept. And that’s okay. Trust me, we are all still learning here.
I guess a good place to start is with just a little bit of background on why choose adoption in the first place. Even before we were married, early in our “honeymoon dating” phase, we discussed the idea of adding to our family trio (even before our fur baby, Panda). Without hesitation, we both expressed the desire to one day foster and/or adopt a child…or 2…or 3. Of course, this was in addition to the naturally conceived children we hoped to have. As it would turn out, there is more to that part of the story as well. A story for another day. But in the mean time, let me start by saying, adoption was never a question of IF we would, but rather WHEN. And that leads us to a little over a year and a half ago, when we began to seriously pursue avenues of adoption.
As Diane mentioned previously, there are definitely some preconceived notions which fall very far from the truth regarding adoption in general. I think there is a stigma attached to the process which often times labels the adopting parents as desperate, while labeling the birth parent(s) as careless, unloving, and selfish. All of which, in most cases, is farthest from the truth. The desire to adopt, for us, was not born out of desperation to have a child. We didn’t need another child desperately. We did however have an immense level of love we wanted another child to feel and experience. Love that the child might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience in this life due to the unfavorable circumstances they faced possibly being born into. As for the birth parents, how can anyone assume that letting go of a child would be a deed anything less than selfLESS? I’ve heard people ask, “How could a mother/father let their child go? Don’t they care?” In my experience, it has been quite the opposite in fact. The birth parents love and care for their child so much that they would even entertain the idea of giving their child a better chance at a better life than they could provide. I won’t add too much more to that, but let it serve as a reminder that I won’t entertain any discussion arguing otherwise.
Even before I knew the true definition of open adoption, I had hoped for a way to avoid the many pitfalls that I had seen surrounding adoption: Children being blindsided by finding out they were adopted, adopted children feeling like they were betrayed by having the adoption hidden from them, children feeling disconnected and as if they don’t belong because they don’t know their background. I wanted to avoid all that. I wanted to raise a child knowing love comes in many different forms and from different places and that adoption should not be what defines them, but be ok allowing the love and honesty provided to them be the contributing factors for defining their own happiness in life.
There really isn’t much more to add than that. Obviously, there is a way to systematically and practically go about giving out appropriate bits of info to your child. But I will always believe that the more you keep hidden from your children, the more curious they will become. They’ll seek those answers on their own. And do you want them getting misinformation from others? They WILL eventually find an answer, although the answer may not be the truth. So why not give it to them and save any possible feelings of resentment or betrayal? I hope I get the chance again to test this theory out. Either way, I will proceed with my with my child’s best interest at heart. That is what I feel open adoption provides.