Question: We adopted our daughter 8 years ago. We have an open relationship with her birth mom, Jane, and visit a couple of times a year. Birth dad is out of the picture.
Jane got married a couple of years ago to a great guy, and their life is very settled. Joe loves kids, including our daughter, and we knew it was only a matter of time before they wanted to start a family.
Jane just told us she is pregnant, due in the fall. We are meeting up with her next month for a semi annual visit. We are all so excited!
Our daughter has, in the past, desperately wanted a sibling, and we’ve talked about that in the hypothetical. About how she would have a relationship with any other children her birth mom may have much like she has with her cousins who live across the country — they love each other dearly, they just don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like.
We are trying to anticipate the questions our daughter may have about a new sibling. We want to make sure that we answer as sensitively as possible. Some of the tougher ones that have crossed our minds are these:
- Will this child will come to live with us? (And why not?)
- Will our daughter go to live with her birth mother? (And why not?)
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Been There Done That (Birth Mom’s Side)
Guest responding is my friend Ashley Mitchell. Ashley is a mother of two and a birth mother of one. She is learning daily how to navigate open adoption and how to create a lifetime of healing and forward movement post placement. She is founder of both LifetimeHealingAdoption.com and BigToughGirl.com.
It is always such an exciting thing when we are able to watch birth mothers step into a space of healing, find love and move forward into starting a new family. The first pregnancy after placement can always bring up so much emotion and can be a delicate time for the mother.
I am a birth mother and placed my son for adoption 12 years ago. My husband and I have two children. When my son turned 10 we had our first sleep over. It was an exciting time but we knew that we needed to have some conversations with our children before my son came to stay. Up until that point he had been talked about as “family.” We have an open adoption and the kids had spent a lot of time together but we knew that in this more intimate setting, we needed to allow space for conversation. We talked about how he was in my belly, just like they were, and I was met with a classic response: “We were all in there at the same time?!”
Here is one thing that I have learned: it’s we adults who make things complicated. We have watched the relationships between our children develop and grow in nothing but fun, respect and love. They are family. I know that we have processed through a lot of questions and I know that there will be more to come but for now, we take it one visit at a time and we follow their lead. I have to say that watching my three children together has been the greatest privilege of my life.
Ashley Mitchell, owner of Lifetime Healing, set out to seek increased care, understanding, and resources for birth mothers. For almost a decade, Ashley has been one of the most consistent and sought after birth mother voices in the nation. Well known for her vulnerability and transparency in adoption, her story has touched the hearts of countless members of the adoption community.
My 2 cents (BTDT Adoptive Mom’s side)
Between my two teenagers, there are four first parents who are parenting previous or subsequent children.
I wish to address the specific questions you brought forth, for even if your daughter doesn’t ask, it is possible that she will wonder. Such questions could cause you to brace yourself, just hoping to hold on during the conversation. OR, they could, with attunement (which I can tell from our correspondence you practice) be an opportunity for deepening your relationship with your daughter.
I might say something like this:
Jane’s baby will live with Jane and Joe. They are ready to be parents now, and they have the ingredients they need to be good parents to a new baby. (Pause. Maybe ask how that sounds to your daughter. Maybe brainstorm together what those ingredients are.)
Back when she was pregnant with you, Jane loved you just as much as she loves this baby. The difference isn’t the baby. The difference is the timing. You needed ready parents then, and you got us.
Dear Readers, what advice do you have for Brooke?
- “Ask Amy”Got it Right about a Found Sibling: 3 points in favor of reaching out.
- I Know Something I’m Not Supposed to Know About My Child’s Birth Mom: At what point do I tell my son he has a bio sister?
- What Does “Real” Mean? An Adoption Talk with My Daughter: I was prepared to be discounted as a real mom, but it never occurred to me that my children might discount each other.
About this Open Adoption Advice Column
- I am not a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
- Readers, please weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. Remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor. We we aim to bring light rather than heat. People do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.
- Send in your own open adoption question for consideration.
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.