Lately I seem to find myself in a lot of conversations where someone is telling me that - they want to adopt, but don't think they could handle open adoption. Truthfully, I felt the exact same way. It wasn't until I was actually in the adoption process that I realized this was the only way I could imagine it. The same way all new parents have a list of everything they swear we won't do or become, and then we all know we end up doing most of those things and become that parent we swore we wouldn't. How does that saying go? "I was a really good mom before I had kids." Haha! It's exactly right, just like "I had a really closed mind before I had an open adoption."
I have a few adoptee friends who all have met a minimum of one member of their birthfamily, for some they continued relationships and for others it was just something they had to do at least once. Whatever the reason, it happened. It's human nature to seek your origin.
Open adoption exists because the last generation of adoptees from closed adoptions grew up and realized they had a better way of doing it. Open. They chose to educate others or chose to adopt their children and then chose to be open with their child and everyone around them from get-go!
Now I know what you are thinking, "I still couldn't do it." You could and you would, because the love you have for your child will make you want to do everything right by them.
Typically in conversations about my open-adoption I get asked, "What are the legalities on how open you have to be?" Well my friend, you can be as open as you feel comfortable. I know there are some legal commitments you can set, but in the situation that adoptive parents don't follow through - hiring an attorney to file the paperwork might be too expensive for some birthmothers. Our Attorney advised us to make no promises, because you never know how you will feel in coming years. I really liked that approach, I feel it made our situation more genuine in nature. I agreed to send picture updates & said we were open to physical visits, but we didn't ever talk about specifics for the future. When she handed me her baby, I promised I would love and take care of her child to the best of my abilities. That was the first promise I made.
With our daughter being in the NICU for 5 weeks, I saw her birth parents almost every single day. Talk about open. One of the first "open adoption" decisions I faced was regarding hospital bracelets on the day they signed their relinquishment papers. The hospital allowed 2 per child, obviously one for mom and one for dad, right? Well LeeLee wanted to keep that bracelet and it was the second promise I made to her, "after you sign these papers, I will not take your bracelet away." We established trust very quickly. One of my biggest fears was that LeeLee would change her mind. Legally there was nothing she could do, but that wasn't my concern. My worry was that she would regret her decision, a choice I was so glad I didn't coat with "promises". My heart would have been completely shattered if she ever told me she regretted the decision to place her baby with us. There was a moment in week 1 in the hospital (before papers were signed) where she said to me, "Even if I wanted to keep her, I couldn't." That pained me so deeply. This woman is grieving while I was experiencing such intense joy. I promise you, if you are human and adopting domestically, you will definitely experience this "guilt". This is an emotion I never anticipated when we started this process.
Open Adoption is like a marriage, no two are alike. The matching & choosing process is unlike anything I've ever experienced. When we received the call that someone had chosen us as parents for their baby, I knew I could love them because they saw something they loved in us. Our relationship started with a blind first date and its growing on a healthy path. We are blessed. I've seen all different types of OA relationships. From adoptive moms inviting their child's birthmother to live with them to some whose child's birthmom is not in a healthy place to continue an open relationship. I've seen birthmoms in pain because their child's adoptive parents fell off the map after the papers were signed. Feeling tricked and misled. They have to live everyday in that regret that I was so afraid of our LeeLee living with. Let me clarify, these moms don't regret placing their child, they just regret the persons they chose. They aren't trying to co-parent, they just want the promises made to them -kept. After all the HUGE promise they kept literally broke their own heart.
Fast forward 2.5 years, we've had about a dozen visits with Finley's birthfamily and I text with her birthmother at minimum once a week, this is just how our relationship has organically formed. This last October Fin's biological grandmother passed away. I loved her, she always had the most thoughtful gifts for us and was just a very sweet lady. My husband, Fin, and I attended her funeral. At the service they read, "Candice is survived by her Husband, her sons, her daughter, and 1 grandchild." There I was, holding her granddaughter. I was overtaken again by the beautiful and unanticipated emotions of open adoption. All of these thoughts ran through my mind, I was mostly just so happy that we had memories to share with Grandma Candi. When we had visits we included all the family, I felt like it was normal to do so. I've seen and collected so many old photos, that in certain pictures I can see Finley's Grandparents features through her expressions. That is the magnificence of open adoption.
It's hard for me to sum this up into one short conversation, unless we have hours to talk. Honestly, I have so many more stories that support my growing love for open adoption. I always hear about its benefits for the adoptee, but I believe the benefits are shared by everyone. I will never feel threatened by Finley's birthmom, because I've invested in our relationship and I know her, she's become my friend. She always thanks me and let's me know how so grateful she is that she chose me to raise her child. I'll never forget the day she chose me. The day I knew my arms would never be empty again, the day my heart knew a mother's love. It wouldn't be possible without her, and I'll never forget that. So when you think of "not being able to handle open adoption"- think about not being able to continually show love, compassion, and gratitude for the most incredible gift you've ever received. I assure you if everyone is healthy in your Triad, you will find nothing more natural than open adoption.
: A term used to describe the three-sided relationship that exists in an adoption between birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptee, each of which is interrelated and inter-dependent on the others.