Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Open Adoption Roundtable: Approaching Openness Differently in 2013

Reading/listening to the recordable book "All the Ways I Love You" - a gift from his birthmom.

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community.

Roundtable #41: Are you approaching openness differently in 2013? What experiences from the past year influenced you most?


When I was first learning about adoption and preparing myself for this mystical thing called “open adoption,” I knew absolutely nothing. I didn't know what it was going to look like for us. I didn't know what it should look like or what was expected of me. I didn't know if it was going to be difficult or come naturally. But I was optimistic.

All I knew was that 1) there was no way I could deny my child a connection to his roots and 2) there was no way I could cut off contact with the woman who carried and gave birth to my child. … That was enough for me to embrace the idea and to find a way to make it work, whatever that meant.

I'd heard of “open adoption agreements” and how sometimes couples and birth parents would sit down and actually write out in the beginning their expectations for exchanging letters, pictures, gifts, personal information, etc. I dismissed that at the time, because I thought a truly open adoption would just flow... Who really needs a document telling them when to send pictures? I thought it was silly and unnecessary. We would just wing it – exactly like we were winging the whole adoption thing in general. We didn't have a clue what we were doing and we were scared out of our minds. But my optimistic approach was that we'd “figure it out.”

At first, it was pretty easy. I just uploaded a billion pictures to Facebook (like any other new mother). But life got busy, like it always does (especially with a baby who is now a toddler and runs around with the energy and destructive force of the Tasmanian Devil). I sent pictures in the mail. We visited. But as time has gone on, and life has gone on... I've gotten much less consistent in my communication. And that makes me feel guilty. Especially since I love his birth family to death and we get along so well. Sometimes the distance makes me sad and I wished we lived closer.

The thought occurred to me at one point that it would've been nice to have that open adoption agreement to fall back on – to know that even when things get busy I'm still doing enough to include my son's birth family in his life, even if I could only manage to do what we agreed on and nothing more. But then I realized at any point in time a standard could be set on what is expected out of this open adoption. Just because we didn't write anything up in the beginning doesn't mean I can't come to a conclusion about being consistent now. I just have to start doing it. So, I sat down and wrote out what I thought would be important to send on a regular basis and how often we'd like to try and visit, what bare minimum would look like in busier times, etc. Done. That was so simple. Why was I making it so difficult and worrying over nothing?

I know that the success of his open adoption in large part depends on the choices we make to reach out and include his first family in his life. He is too young to establish that relationship for himself, so it is our job to do that for him... so that the relationship will already be there waiting for him when he has questions and needs that connection (I call it “returning to the well”). That's why I let myself feel guilty and I let myself wonder if I'm doing enough, because it is so important. If any of his birth family is reading this, they are probably laughing at me for over-worrying, because I'm pretty sure they think we do an awesome job at keeping things open! 

This year, I want to be more consistent. But my main resolution is to give myself a break and realize that I truly am doing the best I can to be a mother... and an adoptive mother in an open adoption... and a wife... and every other role that I try to fill. There is so much to do in life! So many things that are important to me. I can't go all out with everything all the time, ya know? My heart's in the right place, I think. And this year is definitely a new beginning. A time to celebrate what we've done right and release some of the guilt and anxiety that we let build up... over nothing, really. I think the majority of us are doing better in life than we think we are. We can make goals to be a little more this and a little less that. But we should also take some time to pat ourselves on the back. :)


  1. That's a great idea to go back to a routine way to send updates. We are very open with our son's birth family and see them often. But our daughter's not as much and we don't have an agreement in writing. I need to write something up for myself so I remember to keep her updated. She doesn't have email either, so that makes it more difficult.

    1. For me, it's just the distance. I forget to call my own mom sometimes, so it's not just with adoption. Ha ha. I've recently learned having a routine doesn't mean that it's a "forced" relationship and I had to give myself a break about that kind of thinking.

      I just started following your blog! It's so interesting to hear about other people's adoption journeys. I'm looking forward to getting to know your family's story. :)


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