About our Open Adoption

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. 

Adoption Triad: 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.

Adopting Educational Terms

Odds are you've come across - What Not to Say - type articles, this one is a little different. Having been a part of the Adoption Community for almost 3 years, I've learned a lot.  I realized that there is still so much to learn.  I've asked my friend Becca to weigh in and add to my article.  She's an Adoptee & also a Birthmother- she recently placed her beautiful daughter.  She's also the gal behind the Inspirational Adoption Instagram @adoptthelove.  It never baffles or upsets us if, in a genuine conversation, any wrong terms are used.  It just always makes us think we want to help in the education process.  Adoption being a taboo thing to discuss, is a thing of the past.  Open-Adoption has become more accepted and as a result, there are terms that everyone needs to be aware of. No one ever wants to sound inconsiderate or ignorant, especially when in a sincere conversation.  So here are some adoption terms that we suggest you learn & hopefully use:

1. Birth-terms. Birth, Birth, Birth. Instead of referring to a child's "real" mother, the appropriate term is "Birthmother".  Both moms are real, right? One gave birth and the other is doing the rearing.  Birthparents also often like to be referred to as, "First Parents" and this is acceptable too.  We even have some friends who like to be called "Belly Moms".  Once the Birthmother signs the papers relinquishing her rights, the "Hopeful Adoptive Mom" becomes "Adoptive Mom" or preferably just "Mom". If you are friends with the BirthFamily- you may want to ask them what they would like you to refer to the Adoptive Parents as. Actually this can apply when describing all adoption-related family members, unless you know them by first name. It's always a safe question to ask.  

2.  Placed. "Why did she place her baby with you?" Instead of "why did she give up her baby?"  You'll commonly hear the words "given up". (I know they even use this term in Juno.)  With domestic adoption the way it is now (open), most Birth-Mother's had the ability to choose the family that raises their child. Which is really incredible. Even if a Birth-mom chooses to be in a closed adoption,  she still gets to choose the family that she places her child with. [In many Foster situations the child was most likely taken away, and even then - the term "given up" does not apply.]

3. Biological Child. This one is probably the most common in my life, and again - it does not upset me - I'm just trying to encourage appropriate word usage. "Do you want to have a child of your own?" I always say, "You mean a biological child?"  My adopted child is my own, but I get the question that is being asked.  Let's make another mental note with this one, I believe it's 75% safer to assume that people choose adoption as a "last resort" in growing their family. Not everyone is like me and the rarer few who chose it before fertility treatments.. So, asking about a hypothetical future biological child will likely just strum up the kind of emotions that you do not intend to by asking that question.  It's pretty safe to stay away from that one, unless you want to discuss fertility and miscarriage, then by all means- discuss that. I'd lead with a different question though. 

4. Expectant Mother. A Birthmother remains titled an Expectant Mother until she signs the parental-relinquishment papers. Typically these papers are signed once she is realeased from the hospital - about a few days post birth. An adoptive mom may be talking for months with her potential child's expectant mother, hoping that one day she becomes their child's birthmother.  Pretty simple, yeah?  

5. Placement. You may have seen a viral video going around of a "placement ceremony". I had never seen anything like it, but apparently it's not too uncommon in some states. I got a little flack on my ignorant comment that I thought it "seems like something you'd do in a closed-adoption?" (Yikes! Hey, I'm still learning.). Actually some Birthmothers love that their child's parents receive a ceremony like this.  Placement can happen at any time and differs in each adoption process. It is when the Adoptive Parents take the baby Home or into their custody.  This time can vary from, as soon as baby is discharged from hospital - up to a few weeks post-birth. 

6. Being Triad conscious in Open Adoption. This isn't really a term, but I felt it was necessary to include. It's most important to be conscious of everyone in the triad, which is the Birthparents, Adoptive Parents, and Adoptee.  Most importantly the Adoptees. Like any parent, we are always wanting the best for our child.  When applying this logic to adoption it just looks a little different. When you dive into researching Adoption the evidence is overwhelming that Healthy Open-Adoptions are most beneficial to the Adoptee. Makes sense, right? Never having to question where you came from? Or Wondering who's eyes and nose you have?? Parenting in the triad will differ in each adoption. Some Birthmothers live with their biological child and his/her parents. Some get pictures once a week, some get visits once a year. There are many degrees of "open" and there's no right or wrong.  Open adoption typically is any adoption where Birthparents identity and medical records are present.  In most cases there are no legal contracts bindibb the adoptive family as to just how open they shall remain, it's basically left to the honor system.  Some states carry a 310-contact agreement. However, if a birthmom can't financially keep the agreement in current legal standings, she hold no legal grounds.  I find it heartbreaking when my friends, that are healthy Birthmothers, are cut-off from their biological child's life because "open adoption" doesn't fit into their lifestyle anymore. I wrote a letter to myself the day we took our baby home, I often re-read it to remind myself how grateful I am for the Birthparents who chose us. They handpicked us and placed their baby into our arms. They made our family complete and for that we are eternally grateful. 

Adoption is such a divine thing, and although I think it's interesting to see the memes that say "Adoption is the new pregnant" and "Adoption is the Cool Option" - I'm gonna have to add those to this list.  Please don't send these to your Hopeful-Adoptive friends.. The Adoption community views these as inconsiderate to parts of the triad and for different reasons. (I agree.)

My husband and I grew our family through the Adoption Process. There is SO MUCH to learn, and I have to say I'm so proud of our family and friends who use all of these terms appropriately. If you have a friend that is a member of the triad, I bet they will be pleasantly surprised if you appropriately use any of our suggested words...try it! 

(This photo is of Becca & the lovely woman who Adopted her daughter. This pic just says it all.)