By Birthmother – What is it like to see my children grow up with their adoptive parents? I get this question a lot.
For me, getting information about my children is like getting a breath of fresh air. When I see that my children are safe and loved and happy and normal, this information relieves a tension that I carry with me subconsciously no matter where I am or what I’m doing. When I know my children are safe, I can breathe, fully, in and out, in a way I could not do if I was living every day in doubt.
I felt the tension most when I first gave my daughter away, just after she was born. It was as if I had misplaced the most important item in the entire world and I couldn’t find it. Do you know that lost, helpless feeling? I’m not sure if I could have put it into words at the time. I experienced it as an animal would, pacing and agitated, knowing something was missing but not knowing what or why or where. I understand it now: I desperately needed to know how my daughter was doing, whether or not she was safe. So when I saw pictures of her in the arms of her smiling parents, I knew everything was ok. I knew that she wasn’t lost at all. She was found. She was loved. She was ok. And if she was doing ok, then I could be ok as well. Those moments of relief were priceless. I don’t know how I could have recovered from the pregnancy without knowing that my daughter was doing well. The pain and fear has gotten less for me over time, but the relief and joy at seeing my smiling children has gotten more and more.
Hearing from the adoptive parents is like hearing from long lost friends. It would have been impossible for me to choose an adoptive couple without caring for them in some way. After all, I CHOSE them because I LIKED them. so of course I enjoy hearing from them. And going through the adoption process together is quite a bonding experience. I learned about their struggles trying to have a child of their own. I learned about their families, their interests, their health. And they learned everything about me. That’s a lot of emotion and planning to share with someone! So in addition to wanting to know how my children are doing, I want to know how the adoptive parents are doing. What’s the latest news? How are they feeling? How are they coping with parenthood?
And I don’t ONLY want to hear the good stuff. After all, I probably wouldn’t believe someone who told me that my children were perfect angels. I can’t believe how many of my personality quirks got passed down to these children! And would you believe any parent who told you they did everything PERFECTLY without any struggle at all? Of course not! It’s the struggles you endure that prove what an awesome family you are. My son is allergic to peanuts. No problem, his adoptive parents love him anyway. My daughter’s parents got divorced. No problem, both of these parents still love my daughter and they continue to care for her in every way that they can.
Some adoptive parents feel a certain guilt at showing their smiling child to their biomom, as if they should somehow hide the fact that their child can live happily without the biomom being there. But I have no illusions that I could have been the smiling parent in those photos. I don’t believe that if I’d kept my child I could have boasted the same happy, shining family. I wouldn’t have needed adoption in the first place if I’d believed that I could be a happy parent! I gave my daughter and son up for adoption because I wanted them to be in loving homes with parents who could provide for them in every possible way. So when I hear from the adoptive parents it reassures me that I got exactly what I wanted for my children.
And when I see that my own life has gone on, that I am also doing ok and living well, I know that my choice was also the right choice for me. It is a bittersweet reality that a mother and child can live without each other and still find perfectly happy lives, but that’s exactly the truth of the matter. If adoption teaches us anything it’s that family is not built on genetics alone. We can find a happy family anywhere we can find love.
That being said, an open adoption means that the biomom and child are never COMPLETELY without each other. If a biomom needs to know that her child is ok, she can see it with her own eyes. If a child needs to know what her biological parents look like, she can see them for herself. Open adoption maintains that precious, frail connection between biological family members without jeopardizing the strength of the adoptive family. I cherish that connection and hope that, in time, my children will find value in it as well.