Tag Archives: open adoption advice

How Can We Open Up Our Adoption When We’ve Been Hurt So?

Question  from a reader asking for open adoption advice

Dear Lavvie: We want an open adoption to avoid a future search for birth parents by our daughter one day, and we don’t want her to have to walk this path alone or to feel like she has to do it behind our backs or without our support.

Your book pushed us to think about our triggers and boundaries. We had a failed adoptive placement prior to adopting our daughter in which we returned a child after 2½ months with us. It was highly traumatic.

We went on to adopt our daughter, now 5, and we are working through our issues. We would like to have a more open adoption someday that includes contact with her birth family. We talk openly and positively with our daughter about adoption and her birth family, and are figuring out how to make the move from Box 3 (low contact + high openness) to Box 4 (high contact + high openness).

How can we navigate our triggers and form appropriate boundaries, in light of the trauma we experienced and the issues we’ve had with a birth parent?

(One example of an issue is that we do not post photos online of our children, but our daughter’s birth parent is posting photos on an unsecured homepage. We were furious because we’d asked please not post photos.)
open adoption adviceMy response: It’s understandable that you would have triggers from a failed placement. And it’s commendable that you’re willing to do your part to heal that trauma. Two things will come of that.

First, healing! Find a trauma-informed therapist in your area (see this excellent state-by-state guide to adoption-competent therapists compiled by Adoption Today magazine) and have that person help you process and release. As I’ve heard said, “what we can feel, we can heal” — which means you’re already primed for healing simply by acknowledging your pain and being willing to release it (sometimes holding on to pain seems like a good idea but really it’s not).

In addition, you’re already doing well in knowing that this past trauma may be affecting your ability to open up. You’re mindful of what may be influencing your openness-in-adoption decisions, which is a strong step forward. [see also Kellie’s comment below, her first point.]

The second benefit  that will come is knowing that healing comes. This means that if/when your daughter is faced with her own grieving and healing one day, you’ll be in position to help her understand that healing can come, will come. You’ll be able to uphold that for her from your own profound experience.

At this time, I would say don’t push Box 4 (but also, don’t push it away). Focus first on cultivating openness within your home, your heart, your relationship with your daughter. This will give you space and time to heal from your wounds and deal with your triggers. As you attune to her long-term needs for her roots, her story, her identity, this very opening to her is what will transform your fear of contact into a desire for contact –the shift into Box 4 that you want to want to make (<== that’s not a typo, wanting to genuinely want something.).

The focus on open-heartedness, on being cautiously vulnerable, will also help make boundary-setting easier. When boundaries are set from a place of love for your daughter rather than fear of hurting your own tender spots, they are more likely to be more functional, effective, appropriate.

Regarding the photos, that sounds like a conversation that needs to be had [please see Kellie’s comment, her second point, below]. You can say to the birth parent (let’s pretend we’re dealing with a mother named Kayla) the same thing you might say to a sister-in-law or aunt who posts pictures after you’ve expressly asked them not to. Firmly yet gently, I would say something like,

Kayla, do you realize that even after we asked you not to, you posted photos of our daughter online? We have reasons why we don’t want pictures made public, and we’re happy to tell you why we think it’s in Daughter’s best interest to have this policy. When you go against our reasonable wishes, it harms our relationship. I’m guessing that you WANT to have a trusting relationships with us, with our daughter, so that we can more fully include you in our lives. When you break our trust, it makes us want to hold back and not even give you the pictures because we think they’ll be misused. Isn’t that the opposite of what you want?

Sometimes I take the tone I would use with a loved one (say, my son or daughter) and use it with the birth parent [please see Kellie’s and Amy’s comments below]. By this I mean even if I’m furious, my goal is not to discharge my anger but to help them find their own reason to change their behavior. To teach them how to treat me instead of to punish them for not doing so.

Dear Readers, what say you?

See also: How to Set Adoption Boundaries

~~~

About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • Rather than tell people what they should do, instead I say what *I* might do were I in the asker’s position.
  • I reserve the right to call on others to help with answers from time to time, to tap into group wisdom.
  • Please understand I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.

As always, readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that 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 question for possible inclusion. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

The Launch of an Open Adoption Advice Column

Last week someone  volunteered me to start up an advice column.

I don’t know what came over me during that webinar. I’d been fielding many questions in advance of it, and people were lining up afterward to ask even more questions. We couldn’t get to them all in the allotted time so out slipped the outlandish notion — from my own mouth — that I would answer in this space anyone who emailed me at a later time.

open adoption adviceIt’s odd,  the prospect of giving advice.  I’m no expert, and I live my life far from perfectly (just ask anyone who lives with me).

At the same time, I did a much better job on this than did the venerable Dear Abby.

To make advice-giving feel doable and true, I have three declarations. (1) I won’t be telling people what they should do. I’ll be saying what *I* might do, were I in the asker’s position. (2) I may call on others to help with answers from time to time, tapping into group wisdom. (3) I am not trained as a therapist.

As always, readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that 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 question for possible inclusion. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

This concludes the MicroblogMondays portion of this post.  What is #Microblog Mondays? A post that is not too long. Head over to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.

We’ll launch the advice column below with a short Q&A for those who want to continue.

Open Adoption Advice Inaugural Question

Dear Lavvie: What if the woman who is considering placing with us wants a closed adoption. Is there anything I can do to offer more openness? We talk currently through the agency. She has started to open up more as the wait and due date has gotten closer, though.

It’s great that you are open to openness even from this early stage. Be advised that openness is not the same as contact, and that independent of the decisions made by a birth parent, adoptive parents can still cultivate openness.

There will likely be wide swings of emotions between now and birth and placement, and decisions may be subject to change, so don’t fret now that she’ll NEVER be available.

Should the mom still want to close the door behind her after placement, you may simply have to accept. This means you find yourself in Box 3, in which you can focus on openness with your child, even with a lack of contact with his/her birth mom. In Chapter 9 of my book (The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption) we talk about how to maintain an “open door” adoption in the absence of a participating first parent. I hope you find it helpful.

See also: Can Closed People be Nudged Toward Openness?

Dear Readers, what say you?

What’s Your Parenting GPS?

What happens when your electronic GPS system doesn’t work?  You have to rely on something else — maybe even something so antiquated as your inner guidance system. Remember what it used to be like to get somewhere by feel? You had to tune in to something within.

But what?

If you are or will be a parent by adoption  or donor conception, you may want to consciously decide whether you will root your parenting inner guidance system in fear — or in love. The decision, consciously or unconsciously made — will have a profound impact on the rest of your life, and on the life of your child.

It’s a decision you’ll have to make again and again. This is why we are called on to cultivate mindfulness.

If regular old parenting takes courage, adoptive parenting takes super-courage. Did you know that the word courage comes from the same root as coronary? Ha — no coincidence!

Cuer (Old Fr), Cor (Lat) = heart. The heart as your parenting GPS.

gps for parenting via third-party reproduction

From Fearful to Fearless in Adoptive Parenting

Here’s the fourth and final question I was asked by an audience member in a webinar I led earlier this year. The webinar was on openness in parenting via donor conception, which has a lot in common with parenting via traditional adoption. Once again, I’m encouraged the question came up, as it indicates that adoption professionals, embryo or otherwise, are grasping the WHY of true openness and ready to focus on the HOW.

Q: ­As an adoption professional, how can I assist waiting adoptive families to move from fearful to fearless?­

I set out a few years ago to create such a guide. People living in adoption shared their stories with me and the result is  The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, which turned 2 years old this week.  This post from my archives, ” ‘Real’ in Adoption and How it Splits Our Babies” offers a brief intro to shifting from an Either/Or mindset to Both/And heartset, which is one of the steps of moving from fearful to fearless. Thirdly, in the book there is a link to this audio exercise on mindfulness. Becoming more mindful about our own fears and motivations is a key part of resolving fear and becoming fearless as we parent via adoption.

Other resources I highly recommend to help adoption professionals and their clients better understand the openness (and the effects of closedness):

What do you think? How can people move from fearful to fearless in parenting? How can they continually orient their parenting decisions in their hearts rather than in their fears?

Other questions in this series:

Image courtesy nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

~~~~~

This post is also part of #Microblog Mondays. What’s that? A post that is not too long. Head over to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.