By Birthmother – Pictures on the fridge: Benefits of open adoption
Adoption isn’t what it used to be. I always had the impression that adoption was a simple formula: a distressed biomom hands her baby away to a social worker, never to see or hear from the child again. And in this formula, when the adopted child eventually grows up and starts asking, “Where do I come from?” she must become an amature investigator, digging through scraps of information on a daunting quest to find the mysterious disappearing biomom.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that this was NOT a successful formula. Can you imagine going through your life with so many unanswered questions?
I’m happy to inform you that society has evolved and has created safer, healthier ways to build an adoptive family. Adoption today is whatever you and your adoptive parents decide it will be. The options for building an adoption contract are as diverse as the individuals seeking adoption, and I can tell you: this is a very diverse group! You may choose a closed adoption, where the biological family stays entirely out of the picture. Or you may choose something completely open, where the biological family and adoptive family interact, exchanging letters and pictures, or even seeing each other in person.
For a biomom, open adoption means watching your child grow even as you know he/she is not your child any longer. The best comparison I can make is following your favorite celebrity on TV; it’s as if my children are TV superstars and I can’t WAIT to see the next episode. I feel a fascination with my children even though I’ve only met them once or twice, only seen a glimmer of who they really are. And I am always curious to learn more. What is their everyday life like? What are their favorite things? I see that my daughter was in a dance recital and of course I wish I could see her dance. I learn that my son is speaking his first words and I wish I could hear them. I hear that my daughter enjoys learning about science and wish I could join in one of her mini “experiments.”
Even in an open adoption, being a biomom means never being a full part of your child’s life. I will always be on the outside looking in. I will not get to see every laugh, every tear, every accomplishment. People ask me if this is painful. Sometimes it is. Of course it is. It may always be painful for me to be reminded of what I chose to give up.
BUT, seeing my children and their adoptive families also reminds me why I chose adoption in the first place. I see the adoptive parents blossoming and smiling as they experience the family they always dreamed of. I see that my children are in homes filled with love. I see my children surrounded by opportunity and support that I could never have provided them. I wouldn’t trade these glimpses of family for anything – they are the moments where I am assured that I made the right choice.
What is the opposite situation, in a closed adoption? Not knowing anything? In a closed adoption you could hope that your child was thriving… but you wouldn’t know! You could imagine what your child looked like, but you wouldn’t see her with your own eyes. My own curiosity would never permit me to survive in a situation like that. It’s the difference between missing someone you care about and losing them completely.
What’s best for a biomom might vary depending on her personality and her situation. But here’s my bottom line: open adoption is for the child’s benefit. I chose open adoption because I don’t want my children to walk around with the nagging questions of “Where did I come from? Where are my biological parents? Why did they give me up?” When my children have these questions I want them to know exactly where to go for answers. I spoke once with a woman who had been raised by an adoptive family, in a situation where her biomom was not known to her. She explained how much it would have meant to her to hear anything from her biological family. She always wondered if her biomom was thinking about her, if her biomom remembered her at all.
I want my children to know that I think of them every day and that I will always miss them.