Adoptive mother: Questions about open adoption

I often get questions from people about our open adoption. Questions are usually those based on fear. For example: “Aren’t you afraid that the birthmother will want him back?”, “Aren’t you afraid that your son will be confused about who his ‘real’ mother is if spends time with his birthmother?”, and “Aren’t you afraid she will step in someday and try to parent him?” These questions come from various sources, even people who have adopted themselves but have not gone through an open adoption. I’m used to these sorts of questions and I understand people’s concerns as I too asked similar questions when my husband and I pursued our own adoption. However, having recently gone through an open adoption and being in regular contact with my son’s birthmother I can honestly say “No, I’m not afraid of any of those things.” Letting fear get in the way of things is not what a successful open adoption is all about.

Open adoption means opening up to the birth family in whatever way all involved feel comfortable. When I first heard about what an open adoption was about, I admit, I was terrified and did not want to open up my life to a stranger. Luckily my husband and I worked with an agency in our area who took the time to educate us on the benefits of an open adoption verses a closed adoption and in our training sessions with them we realized being open was a very good thing for everyone in the long run. By the time we were officially on the list to adopt a child our minds had transformed so much that both my husband and I commented that if we didn’t have a chance to be involved in some way with the birthparents then we weren’t sure we’d want to adopt that particular child.

Perhaps because I’ve been immersed in the adoption world for a fews years now I forget that not everyone knows what I do about adoption and questions that I get from other people still catch me off guard at times. Two months ago, a hairdresser who was cutting my 1 1/2 year old son’s hair found out he was adopted and asked me, “Why didn’t his birthparents love him?” This particular question was so astounding to me because it was clear how terribly misunderstood adoption is. Why didn’t they love him? Are you kidding me? His birthparents have nothing BUT love for him. Clearly this person just really didn’t get the sole essence of open adoption which is in a nutshell, immense love. I assure you, a birthmother that didn’t love her child would never in a million years go through the painful process of birthing her child; find suitable adoptive parents to raise her child; and then give her child to them – only to have her choice be misunderstood by society later on.

My son’s birthparents put faith in us to raise their child when we could not have a child of our own. They gave us the biggest gift anyone could ever give another person – a family. How could we as adoptive parents be fearful of the very people who gave us this gift and put such huge faith and trust in us? To deny them the simple pleasure of seeing how their child is doing over the years to me is clearly not an option.

In adoption the adoptive parents are often viewed as saviors. What many people don’t realize is the adoptive parents don’t view it that way at all. In fact, in my husband’s and my case we view the birthparents as being the saviors. If it weren’t for them I shudder to think about where I’d be right now. But I do like how our son’s birthmother put it in one of her emails to me: “We, all 4 of us, saved our son. And maybe our son is saving all of us in return. Maybe we are all saving each other.” So true. Our little boy has saved me. If I died tomorrow he would have saved me from the deepest, darkest despair. It’s amazing to think that one person, even a little baby, can make such as huge difference in this world simply by being. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson a birth of a child can teach us, that simply by “being” each and every one of us is making a difference in this world.

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