Letter Writer: So you already know about our son’s birth mom who had an endless need for us to send pictures. Your advice was SO helpful and insightful and we are now changing the way we think about her and approach Bianca. The second part of our request for advice has to do with a cancelled visit and with what I’ve seen on Bianca’s social media.
In the winter, we set up a date for Bianca to see Charlie, but on the day of the meeting, she stopped responding and hasn’t made an attempt to meet back up. We’ve tried to assure her that we’re happy to set up another date at any time.
Also, I saw on Facebook that Bianca has been sharing pictures of Charlie publicly, and in the comments, it looks like she and her family call him Frankie. Bianca’s mother also has Charlie’s photo as her profile picture.
Initially, I was bothered that pictures of Charlie were being shared on the internet without our permission, and that they are calling him something other than his name. I’ve also been bothered by the fact that Bianca’s family has reached out on Facebook trying to get me to add them as a friend (one aunt even said that she was frustrated that she wasn’t asked to adopt Charlie). I’ve had questions in the past on whether or not Bianca feels like we’re just babysitting Charlie or if she realizes that we are her parents, so this definitely stirs up some feelings in me.
I don’t want to overreact. I realize that my emotions and gut reaction might not actually be in Charlie’s best interest, so I’d love any insight or advice on how to handle all this.
Hi again, Carla. The fact that Bianca backed out of a meeting and has not responded to you in several months makes things feel unsettled. She seems to have closed a door, probably to protect her heart in some way. Besides that, the plot thickens with her calling Charlie by the name Frankie. Add input from her relatives and you have a pot of worry stew!
So let’s untangle things. Let’s list the worries and categorize them.
What you can’t control
- When Bianca responds to your overtures to meet.
- Bianca’s Facebook presence.
- The photos she posts on Facebook (I get your stance on this. We also requested that people not post photos of our kids on social media. More on that in this post.)
- The name Bianca calls Charlie.
What you can control
- Your response to Bianca’s Facebook photos.
- Your response to the name Bianca calls her/your son.
- Your response to Bianca’s family members asking to be Friends on Facebook.
- Your response to questions about you merely babysitting. If you know this is absolutely not the case — that you are NOT a babysitter — and if you know in your bones that you are a parent to Charlie, this will not trigger you. Do some internal work so you can neutralize this trigger and it has no power over you (more on buttons and neutralizing them here). Note: you want to do this work before Charlie himself is the one to challenge your validity as his mother.
- Your orientation of keeping Charlie as your focus. Brava! Your last two sentences show that you are thinking of the long and broad view with your son at the center of your demeanor and decisions, and that you are willing to do some self-examining inner work. Good for you!
What you can influence
- Bianca feeling like she can re-engage with you. How about sending her a picture by text several times a week (it takes only a second), along with a connective greeting. Like Thinking of you today! or Doesn’t he look adorable? or Can you believe he’s this big already? or Hope to see you soon — we all miss hearing from you. Do it unfailingly, even if you get no response. She may be unconsciously testing you — perhaps her experience is of of people who have continually let her down — to see how steadfast you are. Pass that test. And commit to being in this for the long haul.
- Her posting photos of her/your son online against your wishes (addressed in this post). Help her understand why it’s in Charlie’s best interest for her to refrain from doing so. Are you asking Bianca to comply with the same rule you have for others in your extended family?
Trust takes time. It’s likely Bianca is wary of you and doesn’t trust you. After all, how well does she know you? Maybe it has something to do with you and maybe it’s not personal at all (due to her experiences, it’s possible she has difficulty trusting anyone). Commit to being a safe and trustworthy person to her. Always make your actions match your words. Never give her a reason to doubt your commitment to this open adoption.
Deal with your own insecurities about anyone considering you a babysitter. It’s painful only if YOU believe it.
Policy on posting. Make sure your policy on posting picture of Charlie online is consistent among Bianca and other extended family members. If the policy is different for Bianca and her family, ask yourself why. If it’s the same, educate her the way you educated your extended family members when you asked them not to post.
Coming up: we’ll tackle your last query about actual verbiage you might use to get your points across.
First/birth moms: have you ever cancelled a visit, and not for logistical reasons? If so, can you shed light on what was going on for you?
- How to Open Up When it Feels So Vulnerable | Includes the photos-on-Facebook issue
- Neutralizing Your Triggers | Owning that you are a real mom
- The Open Wounds of an Open Adoption | birth/first mom account in The Atlantic
- When a Birth Mother Closes an Open Adoption | Musings by Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy on why a birth mom doesn’t want contact
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. This is a teaching endeavor, not 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 young adult daughter, writes 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. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.
Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.