A letter to Other Adoptive Parents
There is an issue that has been weighing on my mind lately. I have heard from a number of birthmothers who chose open adoption who feel forgotten by and disconnected from the families that adopted their baby. Some have had promises broken, some do not have the contact that was discussed, others have felt that they have become an afterthought or no thought given to them at all. It is heart breaking to see their longing to participate in a relationship.
I know that as parents we are busy. I get it- babies take time, there is sleep deprivation and the search for the elusive binkies and time to shower. Then as time goes by there is school, sports, practices, activities, figuring out what is for dinner, homework, grocery shopping, work and still finding time to shower. I get it- we are parenting- loving, worrying, teaching, helping, hoping. It is all encompassing. Free time and social time can often disappear. It is joyous and wonderful and the most difficult thing- to be the parent we want to be. But we can’t forget- we are able to be a parent to this child because of the sacrifice of another. There is another who loves your child, who worries and hopes and loves.
Now I am not asking you to continually worship at the pedestal of “birthmother”- this idea is distasteful to everyone involved- what I am asking you to do is to remove the pedestal and recognize that your child’s birthmother is a human being with whom you can have a real human relationship. Will this relationship look the same for every adoptive family? Of course not. Every family, every birthmother, every child is different. But what we can, as adoptive families do, is to get to know our child’s birthmother and find out what her needs are, what her hopes are and be open to this relationship evolving. I am begging you not to forget that placement was a beginning, not an ending.
I am asking every adoptive family to examine their feelings, attitudes and relationships in regards to birthparents. What is keeping us from having a real relationship? A relationship with give and take? Acknowledgement of the role they play in the creation of our families? Again this will look different for everyone, but ask yourself if what you are giving is truly what is wanted, what is truly your best effort? Is a few email updates a year really what is wanted? Is that really a relationship?
Unless your child’s birthmother tells you, I have always found that more is better than less. What keeps you from giving more? Is it fear? Fear of what? The unknown? Fear of the “worst case adoption scenario”- which for the record happens mostly on tv. Is it fear of being hurt or your child being hurt? Are you fearful of managing another relationship? Of boundaries? That someone (maybe you, maybe them) might say something inappropriate or hurtful? Is it fear that by including your child’s birthmother, it somehow makes your family less, instead of more? Adoption is about love, not fear. As we open our hearts to our children- how can we not open our hearts to their birthmother? How can we not let her know of our love by thoughtful communication and acknowledgement? Will our children’s birthmother always be in our first thoughts daily? Not usually- that place is often reserved for our children, but she should not be relegated to our last thoughts or not thought of at all. Our children’s birthmothers should not be a box to check off- yep, sent the yearly update- but we should have a sincere desire to let her know who our child is becoming. Be secure in your role in your child’s life. We share our children with many people- grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, why would we shut out the very person who gave them life?
I have met many birthmothers and I have yet to meet one who wants to “co-parent”. Their sincerest desire is to know and have a relationship with you and the child that they placed for adoption. That is why they chose open adoption. It is not to interfere with your family. They will never forget the baby they placed, the baby they broke their own hearts for. Please don’t forget them. I am not asking you to be best friends, but I am asking that you keep your promises, that you open your heart, that you acknowledge this unique human relationship, that you create what works in your family for the entire adoption triad, not just what is easiest in your busy life. Please remember that we are all human and we will all make mistakes, but we can put forth our best effort. I have different relationships with my children’s birthmothers- one is easy, one is not as easy- I sometimes have to remind myself not to be offended, as I believe she means no offense- but I can’t imagine not having and maintaining regular contact. I believe that this is best for me, for them and for my children.
Please, families, if you have lost contact, lessened contact or pulled away, even unintentionally, consider the effect this has had on your child’s birthmother and what effect it may have on your child, now and in the future. Can you imagine how a birthmother feels when the adoptive family doesn’t even send pictures anymore? Examine your interactions, are they sincere? Can you do more?
Please let faith replace fear and let open adoption be a joy in your life.
An Adoptive Mom