In the initial stages of the adoption process the thought of having an open adoption with a birth mother evoked some concerns and fear in our mind. At the time, our perception was heavily influenced by the media, our lack of education and a few Lifetime movies. But now having some personal experience in this relationship and as an adoption consultant who walks with families through the process, I understand the benefits of an open adoption to all three parties of the adoption triad. Myths such as “open adoption is co-parenting” or “open adoption is only beneficial to the birth family.” Today I will be discussing how our insecurities can play a role in negatively shaping the way we view an open adoption.
Early on in the process, I realized these misconceptions surrounding an open adoption not only stemmed from lack of education, but also my own deep rooted insecurities that had been brewing for many years as we struggled with infertility. I thought that if we had an open line of communication with a birth mother it would make me feel like less of a mother and be a blatant reminder of my infertility and empty womb. Perhaps I also believed the lie that an open adoption would somehow undermine my role as a mother. I quickly discovered a connection between my insecurities and the initial fear I had regarding an open adoption.
Throughout our struggle with infertility, I allowed my barrenness to define me. Many days I felt broken and the odd one out among my friends. There was a time when I equated “being a woman” with a growing bump and a positive pregnancy test. But when the growing bump never came and hundred of negative pregnancy tests later, my definition of “womanhood” didn’t fit. It was a lie. “There has to be more than this,” I said to God one night through tears after throwing another negative pregnancy test straight into the trashcan along with what seemed at the time, my hopes and dreams.
Over the next year the Lord carefully and lovingly removed the false identity I had unknowingly placed on myself. I was reminded through reading the Word, my personal suffering and talking with other friends that my identity is solely and explicitly found in Christ. For those who are a child of God, nothing from this world can take away the fullness that is found in Jesus Christ-not even an empty womb.
I’m grateful I had this “break through” before we started the adoption process, as I continued to carry this truth with me. Even so, reminders of my “old way of thinking” sometimes crept back in. When our home study provider began describing examples of what an open adoption looked like practically bitterness, insecurity and jealously stirred back up again. “I could never do that,” I secretly thought to myself. But, as we received education from our adoption consultant, read blog posts, listened to podcasts and heard stories from birth mothers, adoptees and other adoptive families we came to realize the benefits of an open adoption far outweighed any fears we had. We knew an open adoption wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.
Where and who we find our identity in has a profound effect on the way we interact with others and respond to circumstances. When our identity is found in Christ-we are free to love others and embrace the uncharted waters, we may encounter without fear. Because my identity is rooted in Christ, and not on my role as a parent, I can embrace the beautiful reality that the twins have two mothers, with distinct roles, who love them immensely. Their first mama lovingly carried them for 9 months, brought them into this life and chose adoption for them. Their birth mother made me a mother. She gave them life and I have the privilege of raising them. She chose us to be their parents because she felt it was in the best interest of her children. Can you imagine that kind of love? A kind of love and strength that it takes to place the baby who you carried in your tummy for 9 months, the baby who you felt kick, the baby you heard cry for the very first time, the baby who has your nose and your eyes, into the arms of another woman who her child will one day call mama. That is a self-sacrificing kind of love; a love I want my children to know.
Some research indicates that on going communication with birth parents allows adoptees to have a deeper understanding of identity and where they came from, access to important genetic and medical information and a distinct understanding of why adoption was chosen, which can decrease feelings of abandonment and increase feelings of belonging. And so I propose this question: How could we as adoptive parents, knowing this truth, not take the opportunity to have an open adoption with our child’s/children’s birth mother if that option is laid before us? I’ve spoken with adoptive families who wish they had the opportunity to have an open adoption with their child’s birth family. They would give anything to be able to answer some of their child’s lingering questions about where they came from.
If you were like us, and struggled with the thought of having an open adoption with your child’s birth family, I encourage you to take a few moments and examine your fears, insecurities, and concerns. Birth mothers have given adoptive families a piece of their heart, one that they are entrusting them with forever. There is so much love in that decision. Not only do I want my children to hear about her unconditional love from us, I want them to know her personally. In our mind, the more love the better.
-CAC Senior Consultant, Kelly Todd