I recall a thread on an adoptive parents forum called something like, “Why I am anti-Open Adoption.”*
The conversation went on for four pages before I was brought into it, against my best intentions.
You see, the conversation starter had found an open adoption blog and began using excerpts from that blog to prove her anti-open adoption points. She didn’t realize that the blog she was quoting was mine. The one you’re reading.
I joined the fray, which wasn’t really much of a fray. The one thing we agreed on, respectfully, is that we will not change each others’ minds.
So why did I spend quite a bit of time responding? Because some future person on that board who has not yet made up her mind about openness might read through that thread. I wanted to have my counter-view there for her to factor into her decisions on how to parent her child, how to relate to her child’s birth parents.
And why am I going to share my salient points here? Because the thoughts expressed there are possibly also felt by people elsewhere who are evaluating how much openness they themselves are open to.
So this is for you, future googlers.
I have a confession to make.
Back during Adoption School, when being a mom was just a theoretical concept (by the way, our agency was nothing like what’s been described in this thread — it told us the benefits of open adoption to the child and said we would eventually form our own relationships with first parents, which it then left us to do), I did not embrace OA because the highly-paid social workers said it was proving to be better for the child than shame and secrecy. I did not choose it out of gratitude to the woman who would eventually make me a mother.
I chose OA for selfish reasons. I looked ahead to the time my theoretical children would turn 18 and *I* didn’t want to go through the jealousy and insecurity *I* might feel at that time if they decided to wonder, to seek, to meet their birth parents.
That, I thought, would gut me. I thought I would feel betrayed. I worried I would think my children disloyal.
And then I wondered how that might feel for them. Being split between their love for their parents and their curiosity about their birth parents. Would they be afraid to even wonder (much less search and meet) because of the ensuing feelings of disloyalty for my husband and me?
How could I do that to them, tear them in two?
I think it’s natural to wonder. I would, had I been adopted. This doesn’t mean all will, for I’ve certainly met many closed-era adoptees who have expressed no desire to explore their roots.
But if my children turned out to have the curiosity that I do, I didn’t want them to have to mend an 18+ year split. I thought that reunion at that stage of life would be incredibly complicated because of all that was missed. How would you forge a relationship with a stranger who was once (and, in my view, always) so intimately integral to your very being?
It seems to me that search and reunion after a lifetime of separation would be very difficult to navigate — not just the relationship, but the feelings that go with establishing it. If I can prevent my children from having to go through search and reunion, I thought, I will. The way to do this is to facilitate contact with birth parents from as early on as possible.
(I am not talking about the “scary” birth parents you fear — I’m talking about normal people who made a tough decision and who give me the same respect I give them.)
Turning over the reins
For many years, you will be able to call the shots about your children and their birth parents. You can direct the language and titles they use, you can direct the amount and type of contact, you can control what information gets through in either direction. You are in complete control.
But at some point, your growing or grown children may wonder. They may want to explore their heritage. They may want or need dynamic medical information. They may want to explore their feelings about their birth parents. Are you going to try to stop them? Are you going correct them if they use terminology you don’t like? Are you going to squelch their curiosity? Guilt them into not wondering, not seeking?
Trying to love your child’s birth parents gives your children permission and encouragement to love themselves because of the prominence you have in the child’s life. I suspect that any feelings you have about birth parents, positive and negative, end up internalized by your child.
When you get your spouse, you also get in-laws. And you make it work.
When you got married, you got not only the one you love but also his/her family. Same with adoption. You could think of your child’s birth family as in-laws or extended family members. You don’t get to choose them, but you do your best to make it work because of your common love for another. If everyone gets along — BONUS. You rarely cut in-laws out of your life just because you want to be the Only Important Person to your beloved.
Open adoption is not co-parenting. But it is honoring the role of the birth parents in my children’s lives. That takes away nothing from me; it only adds to my children.
PLEASE REMEMBER I am not talking about the stereotypical crack-whore-birthmother [said tongue-in-cheekily, a la Claudia and her CWBM shirt] or the abusive birth father that you can encounter with fostering (edited: although, as SocialWorker24/7 points out, openness makes sense for these children, as well, for the same reasons; it just has added facets that the parents involved must work out).
I am talking about two people who happened to get caught having sex via unplanned pregnancy and who love their child so much they made a huge sacrifice for his/her well-being. (And this is why lack of coercion is so important to YOU the adoptive parents — so that the decision to place is made freely.) These are loving, honorable people, not too different from all of us, probably.
Why so closed up?
I ask you this: as you read through my| posts | that | bothered | you, did you feel threatened? Why do you feel motherhood is a coveted position? Did you yourself once covet it? What is behind your need to be the “only”? Why does it have to be either/or for you?
* No parts the thread except for my own contributions are directly quoted here. The statements of others are merely paraphrased here in my words.