Adoptive mother: Reconnecting with family via adoption

When you live 3000 miles away from your family for more than a decade with little to no ongoing contact with your extended relatives, relationships tend to suffer. Closeness you might have felt at one time toward a person begins to fade despite your best intentions to keep a strong relationship going. You simply can not maintain healthy contacts with people if you never see them and rarely speak to them. Such was my predicament with my extended family in New York state and in other parts of the country before our son was born. I remember visiting with my New York cousins once at Christmas time years ago when a cousin’s spouse raised the question, “How are we, the cousins, going to stay in touch over the years?” The question was dropped over the dining room table like a bomb but I remember nobody had a definitive answer. The truth was, I wanted to be closer with my family but I didn’t know how that would happen living across the country from them.

Well the Universe must have heard my silent plea for help because when we finally got “The Call” that a birth family selected us to adopt their child, we learned that they happened to live in New York state just 15 minutes from several of my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, and only an 1 ½ hours from my parents house! I was astounded at our good fortune. The laws of many states, New York not excluded, require you to be in the state for a minimum of two weeks period so the birth parents have adequate time to sign legal paperwork which will take away their rights to parent their child forever. I ended up spending a lot of my time in New York reacquainting myself with much of my maternal side of the family.

It wasn’t just the maternal New York relatives that I began reconnecting with via my son’s adoption either but my Dad’s side of the family as well. When my Aunt and Uncle in Connecticut heard that we were beginning the adoption process they were very encouraging as they had acquired both of their children (my cousins) in closed adoptions years ago. My Aunt in particular, was very supportive throughout the process and began regularly checking in on me, mostly via email but sometimes by phone. Her support was especially appreciated during our long wait to adopt since she herself was not a stranger to the pains that infertility and adoption can bring. So the mere fact that we were adopting a child as well gave me a sense of connection to my paternal Aunt and Uncle that had never existed before.

During the two weeks we were actually in New York state, going through with the adoption my husband and I needed many things: a place to stay, a car, a crib, a car seat, a stroller, diapers/wipes, baby blankets, and a few articles of clothing. ALL of these necessities and more were provided to us with love by my relatives. (Many adoptive families spend a lot of money on a place to stay and car rental costs during this period.) My husband, myself and our newborn son were showered with generosity. The crazy thing is, had we ended up birthing a biological child we would have had a much smaller support group as we would have been in California, 3000 miles away from most of my family, plus none of the rekindled family connections would have ever taken place.

Our extended relatives STILL (four years later) talk about the time around our son’s birth because so many of them had some part of it. Just this last month, when I got together with some family members from New York, one Aunt in particular says that she feels a special bond with our son, for a time more so even than with some of her own grandchildren, and she will forever remember the weeks when we stayed with her as it was such an amazing and special time. Today, on my son’s fourth birthday, I can’t help but marvel at those events which forever impacted our new family. Our little boy, by being adopted and being born where he was, inadvertently removed all the feelings of isolation I had once felt toward my extended relatives on both sides of our family – for this amazing feat I am eternally grateful.

Birthmother: Eight years and counting

By Birthmother – Today is May 11, 2015. My first child, Catherine, will reach 8 years of age in August.  My second child will be turning 4 this very month.  These children are both fully and undeniably planted in their families, rooted into their own lives with their own routines, functions and dysfunctions, pains and joys.  Their lives are healthy.  This is what adoption allows us to accomplish!  Amen, praise God, and hallelujah!  I’ve posted my excitement and pride about adoption before, and I will most assuredly post it again.  There is so much uncertainty before an adoption takes place (as I’m sure you know), so many decisions to make.  What a relief to see that somewhere down the road the pieces begin to fit into place.

But as I stop to consider the passage of years I must not hesitate to mention the one person who, by choice, is not necessarily “planted” in these families: me, the Birthmother.  With each year that passes I become more of a stranger, and the process of staying in contact becomes more strange.  My open adoption contracts ensure that I will never completely lose track of these families, but distance ensures that my maternal connection to the children I carried will grow more faint each year.  Distance is the one reality of adoption that each birthparent must truly be willing to face.  My biochildren are very far away.  Our lives are very far apart.

Does this sound tragic?  It isn’t.  It may be painful, but it isn’t tragic.  The important thing to remember is that distance can be healthy for everyone involved.  Distance allows the adoptive parents to grow secure in the fact that they are THE PARENTS.  They need to know that their position of authority is sound.    Distance allows the children to grow up in their own ordinary, everyday lives without being bogged down by their (sometimes very confusing) heritage.  Distance allows birthparents to feel safe their own decisions and to carry on the processes of building their lives.  In fact, I purposefully chose birthparents in far away states to ensure that healthy distance would exist.  As much as I believe that I will never become the tragic biomom stereotype who changes her mind and tries desperately to get her children back, I do not want to be faced with such a temptation!  Hormones are strong, my readers; studies show that frequent interaction with a child can trigger parental behavior in just about everyone.  Don’t worry, folks: the laws of our country are increasingly changing to protect the children and their adoptive families from any such tragedy, hormones or no hormones.

OK, so I’ve established that the distance between me and the adoptive families is healthy.  What about contact?  Almost every adoption site will list GREAT reasons for keeping an adoption open (the list at includes avoiding the consequences of secrecy, encouraging open communication, and acknowledging the fact that children will always be related to their birthparents).  From what I understand, the benefits of an open adoption are strongest for the children being adopted.  An open adoption makes an adopted child’s heritage more transparent for them, with less feelings of doubt or shame later in life.  But what feelings arise for the parents in the meantime?  That’s what I’m learning about right now!  For instance, I’ve had a few questions on my mind this month.

Question 1: Do I persist in staying in contact when the adoptive families are ambivalent about my presence?  Catherine’s adoptive father explained to me recently that by this point in our journey he “feels like there is a hurdle that has been passed.”  He doesn’t dwell much on the subject of adoption one way or the other.  Catherine is his daughter.  What’s done is done.  (Isn’t his sense of security amusing in contrast to the constant questions and feelings that Karen and I express on this site? Ha!)  So if the metaphorical adoption hurdle is passed… where does the biomom fit in?  To help you understand the feeling, imagine being a far-removed aunt or cousin who insists on sending birthday cards and Christmas letters, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she is nothing but a footnote in the lives of the people she contacts.  I know, I know, I’m more than a footnote in the grand scheme of things, and the adoptive parents care for me very much.  I’m not discounting their attention to me.  What I’m trying to say is: I feel like I don’t belong!  I fear that my very existence might undermine the happy, ordinary lives that my children have found!  As much as I want to keep in contact with Catherine, I have no idea how much contact or what kind of contact to give. But I can’t let my own insecurities (or those of the adoptive parents) stop me from doing what I hope will be best for the children.  So I continue to send presents and letters to my biochildren on their birthdays and at Christmas. Which brings me to…

Question 2: What (if anything) do I say to a child who doesn’t know me? Yes, Catherine and my son know that I exist.  Open adoption helps with this.  But let’s be real – I’m not there every day (or every month, or every year).  From the perspective of a 4 year old child (or an 8 year old child), what is my relevance?  I’m not too concerned about this question right now.  When I was 8 years old, I thought that getting letters was pretty much the coolest thing ever.  I had many pen pals.  I don’t think it would have mattered to me if the person writing the letter was a friend, or an aunt, or a biomom, or a second cousin twice removed.  So, I’ll write about whatever pops into my head and hope for the best.

I will continue to post my feelings and questions here, as will Karen, but our stories are only two out of THOUSANDS.  Our stories will not be yours.  If you have questions about which type of adoption is best for you, I encourage you to connect with an adoption agency or support group for more information.  Ultimately, only you know what your preferences are.  And guess what: your preferences may change over time, long after the paperwork is signed!  How troublesome is that?  At least an open adoption leaves some room for adaptation.

I suspect that no matter what you choose you will eventually find yourself like me, trying to navigate within the reality of your very unique adoption experience.  There isn’t an etiquette book for this (the parents who adopted baby Catherine and I learned this very quickly)!  Sooner or later you will find yourself with questions that no one but you can answer.  Truly, I wish you the best of luck and all the blessings that God can bring.