Let’s talk about open adoption, shall we? The mere mention often strikes fear in the eyes of future adoptive parents, family members and others within your social circle. I remember and still marvel at the responses I get if I share that we have an open adoption with our sweet birth mama. Overall, most people seem to act like this type of relationship is the most unusual thing they have ever heard of and are very curious about how it “works”. So, I am doing a series of posts discussing open adoption. I’d like to start with my own personal experience and thoughts about how my open adoption relationship functions.
Our birth mama (who I will call C) is one of the most amazing women I know. She has a big heart and I have a huge amount of respect for the woman who made me a mother. We have both worked hard to build a relationship built around this trust and respect. It’s a unique relationship, one that I don’t share with anyone else in the world. It’s really hard to explain. When I take a picture or my daughter accomplishes a new skill, of course I want to share it with our family, but I also immediately think, I can’t wait till C see’s this. We both know our roles and stay within them. There is no competition about whom mama is and C supports that in a way that amazes (astonishes) me on a daily basis. There was my first Mother’s day text she sent that said, “Happy Mother’s Day you amazing woman!” Then there was the day she sent me a picture that said, “You’ll be her first role model, her first friend, her first love. You are her mom and she is your whole world. She is your little girl.” I stand in astonishment of the love C extends to my daughter and me as she acknowledges me as mama. I wish people could see this. It would debunk so many myths people have about open adoption.
C and I have worked hard at developing this relationship (stay tuned for my post discussing building relationships and boundaries in open adoption). I know at times she doesn’t always agree with me, but she has always supported my decisions with my daughter. I think this has come from the open and honest communication we have. One of the best things about having this relationship is that I know my child benefits from it. The healthier the relationship between her mama and her birth mama, the better it is for her. If C views the adoption in a positive way, this will be relayed to my daughter in the future through C’s words and actions. That means 2 out of 3 members of the triad will be positively reinforcing her adoption. My daughter will know we are 2 women who both love her fiercely. You don’t have to take my word for it; just take a look at the research on open adoption. Deborah Siegel, Ph.D, LICSW, DCSW, ACSW recently did a longitudinal study looking at many facets of open adoption. She found that young adult adoptees all “preferred knowing their birth parents over not knowing.” “None saw openness in adoption as a major issue in their lives.” Have you listened to adult adoptee’s perspectives on knowing their history? Yes, not all adoptee’s desire a relationship with their birth family, but a large majority desire to know where they came from. My child will never hypothesize or create grand ideas of what her birth mama is like because she will already know. Through positives and challenges in this relationship, she will have knowledge about her history and she will be able to integrate that into her self-identity, grow as a person, and cope.
So…how do you explain these complexities to people who wonder about open adoption? Well, first I would say, you don’t have to. However, if you feel like you want to help others wrap their mind around this relationship, then this is how I explain it. Our child knows that there is a mother who brought her into the world and a mother who has walked with her in that world every day. I will not stifle my child’s ability to love. I know she has the capacity to love and have empathy for more than one person. Why would it be any different for this relationship than any other in her life? Relationships aren’t competitions; each type adds benefits and challenges to our lives that help us grow. Every relationship has their role and function. I recently read a comment saying something to the effect of “if as a mother I can love more than one child, then why can’t my child love more than one mother.” I know this is really hard for some people to wrestle with. When discussing open adoption, one sweet adoptive mama stated, “I just wanted to be enough for my child.” It was obvious that she was having a difficult time thinking about open adoption. I wanted to wrap my arms around that sweet woman and tell her, dear child, you will never be enough for your child. Only God is enough!
If you want to know more about adoption and how we can help partner with you, please contact me at Amber@christianadoptionconsultants.com