When we first started talking about adoption, the idea of an open adoption seemed daunting. How would we build an ongoing relationship with the birthmother—and possibly birthfather? If they were involved in our child’s life, would he or she be confused about whether we were his or her parents?
We could appreciate that it might be better for the child to have that relationship with—or awareness of—the birth family. But an open adoption seemed to bring a long list of challenges for us as parents that would increase as the child grew older. As it turned out, we felt drawn to adopt from China, where open adoption isn’t really an option.
After adopting our sons, my perspective hasn’t undergone a complete transformation, but it has changed. As I look back, I feel that some of my thoughts on open adoption were rooted in my insecurity, especially as someone who had never been a parent.
As a mother now, I can see how much it must benefit children to be able to share so much of their personal story with them—and to offer them links to their past. Our sons are absolutely our children, but they have stories that transcend our family.
I feel so grateful and connected to those who had roles in our children’s lives before we met them. Our boys were—and are—deeply loved. Just look at these photos of the nannies at Daniel’s orphanage looking at a photo book we sent them a few months after we brought him home. (The photos were taken by a friend who was adopting her daughter from the same orphanage.)
When I write to Leo’s foster mother, I boast about him in a way that I don’t do with anyone else. With his foster mom, I feel it is OK because she helped him to become all he is and will be delighted to hear how well he is doing. And she is.
Those are different relationships than those we would have with birth families, but they have shaped my perspective on open adoption.
This evening I came across this story about a couple who adopted the son of an Iowa college student, and I was fascinated to hear how extremely open their adoption is. Most open adoptions are not open to this extent.
I’m not sure that a similar relationship would work in our family—in fact, I’m fairly sure one that is this open would not—but I admire the couple and the birthmother for embracing the situation and putting their child’s needs ahead of egos and convenience and whatever personal feelings might have stood in the way.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.