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two moms in open adoption

22 Years of Adoptee-Orienting: 2 Moms in 1 Open Adoption

Before You Know It

The moment you become a parent, time seems to stop and you can’t see beyond the sweet baby or toddler you have before you, looking up at you with those big eyes that say you are everything. Those days of full dependence on you feel like they may go on forever – in all the ways that bring feelings of both tenderness and exhaustion.

But this podcast is called The Long View. We know that those days give way to the next days, and the next and the next. Days become months and months become years. And before you know it, you’ve got a young adult looking you eye-to-eye as they step out into the world.

two moms in open adoption
Adoption: The Long View
504: What Does It Take to Do Open Adoption Well? Two Moms Tell.

Adoptee-Orienting for the Long Haul

What might this look like in a long-enduring open adoption? How do birth parents and adoptive parents stay steadfast for the adoptee they both love, through thick and thin and across decades? The adoptee is going through their obvious developmental stages that take them from fully dependent to independent. And at the same time, each parent is advancing along their life, through less distinctly obvious adult stages. Each is navigating the challenges of adulthood and parenthood, continuing to grow and gain abilities, clarity, and wisdom about boundaries between themselves and others.

Here with us today are two women who entered into what became a long-enduring open adoption nearly 22 years ago when Katie Cowles placed her daughter into the arms of Amber Wooten. Neither of them knew all that was to come. Neither had completely worked out how to navigate their own big emotions, let alone each others’, and eventually those of the daughter they both loved and claimed.

But step by step, day by day, they worked at it. They loved tenaciously. They endured hard things, never quitting on themselves, each other, or their daughter.

Katie and Amber are here with us in episode 504 to reflect on all that. I know you’ll want to hear what they have to say.

About Katie Cowles, Birth Mom in Longtime Open Adopton

Katie Cowles is many people—leader, a baker, an auntie, a dreamer—but what brings her to this podcast is that she is birth mom to the beautiful 21 year old, Ellie. Along with our second guest, Katie has been navigating the ups and downs of open adoption since 2002. During this time, this complicated and bittersweet duo have become the dearest of friends.

Katie is a director of product at a payroll company in Richmond, VA.. About 5 years ago she fell in love with her new-found hobby of baking. This avenue for her creativity resulted in the amazingly delicious Katie Bakes RVA, of which I have had the good fortune of partaking.

Katie is passionate about family (she has lots of nieces and nephews who make her life full), therapy (because we all need it!), and living in that balance of the day to day of laundry and grocery shopping…and dreaming of opening a bed and breakfast in Italy.

"You don’t go into adoption for yourself. You become second after your child. Third, after your child’s birth mom. You back up and take the lower seat, orienting on others." -- Amber Wooten in Adoption: The Long View ep 504
"But even in that, we never really faced difficulties because we were both focused on what is best for our daughter. That helped us skip the hardness." -- Katie Cowles, Adoption: The Long View ep 504

About Amber Wooten, Adoptive Mom in Longtime Open Adoption

Amber Wooten and her husband Chris are parents to three lovely daughters, all who came to their family through open adoptions. They are currently aged 21 (Katie’s daughter), 19, and 16. Amber continues to enjoy and navigate relationships with all of her daughters’ birth mothers and birth fathers with varying degrees of contact.

Amber loves being able to stay home to raise her girls. Now that they are older and active on their own, she has found a new passion for tennis. She is very involved with her church, which keeps her busy planning events and parties and retreats. Amber loves to read and travel and very much enjoys time with family.

"You can’t manage everyone’s feelings, either. So you just continue to be the caretaker of these relationships. " -- Amber Wooten, Adoption: The Long View ep 504
"I bought into the narrative of “because it turned out beautifully, you don’t need healing; you don’t have to grieve.” But of course there was grief." -- Katie Cowles, Adoption: The Long View ep 504

Ep 504 about Two Moms in Open Adoption

In ep504, Katie and Amber share about the evolution of their relationship, from the early beginnings, through all the stages, until now, Eliie, with their daughter grown and crafting her own life.

I ask about the hard times between mothers and between mothers and daughters. What are some of the guiding principles for these times?

What about setting and navigating each others’ boundaries? Katie and Amber address that.

I explain why I chose not to invite Ellie to be part of this interview. (Hint: it has to do with when an adoptee can give their actual (not just legal) informed consent to speak on their adoptedness in light of the inherent power dynamics within a parent-child relationship. It may take beyond our concept of legal adult age. Hat tip to Sara Easterly for this thought.)

Of course, there are many BothAnd moments. The fact that both Katie and Amber refer to these confirms yet again that this concept is a crucial one.

Lastly, Katie and Amber offer their takeaways for those who are striving for enduring, adoptee-oriented, resilient open adoptions over the long haul of parenting.

"Daniel Tiger says you can have two things be true at the same time. I can both watch, love, and admire Amber and also acknowledge there is a cost." -- Katie Cowles, Adoption: The Long View, ep 504
"Two things can be side by side. Your child can love you for who you are, and still have a great need for a biological connection. " -- Amber Wooten, Adoption: The Long View, ep 504

Show Notes: Katie & Amber on What a Healthy Open Adoption Requires

How to Tune In Regularly

Lori Holden of Adoption The Long ViewYou can find Adoption: The Long View on and on these other platforms.


A new episode comes out the first Friday of the month. Thank you for sharing, subscribing, and rating this episode wherever you listen!

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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