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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

When the Open Door Is Shut
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When people consider adopting domestically, they have to decide what type of relationship they desire with their future child’s birthparents.

Usually the term “open adoption” scares hopeful parents because they aren’t sure exactly what they’re agreeing to. One thing I wish I had been told in the beginning is that on open relationship with birthparents is like any other relationship: It’s unpredictable and will change over the years.

I know many people who participate in open adoptions and each one has a relationship with their child’s birthparents that’s different than they originally anticipated. Some of them began with a “semi-open” adoption, but after placement they chose to be much more open with information. Most often I hear of relationships starting out fairly open, but evolving over time to include more distance. Perhaps this is because the adoptive parents or birthparents find the relationship difficult to maintain as life situations change. I don’t know.

When Paul and I first considered birthparent relationships for our children, we decided open communication was best for us. Our adoption profile had our last name splashed across the top, said where we lived and shared that we were open to direct phone calls and visits if possible. We had thought our children’s birthparents would be active in our lives. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

Our first adoption was easily the most open of the three. After being chosen by the potential birthparents, we called them directly, flew for a visit during the pregnancy, went to the final prenatal visit, and were present in the delivery room for our son’s birth. We developed a very close relationship with the birthparents and were excited to see where it would lead. After placement, we still talked over the phone and even visited them when Keith was 6 months old. Since then, we have sent annual letters and pictures but have not heard anything in return. It has been over six years.

It breaks my heart how much our open relationship had changed. Recently, my son asked me if his birthmother “was dead” because he hasn’t heard from her. Paul and I chose an open adoption so our child would not have to wonder about his birthparents. When I don’t have definite answers for him, it tears me up.

Our daughter’s adoption was a “hospital birth,” which means the birthmother selected our profile after the baby had been born. Our only meeting was after delivery, and it was simple and short. Due to her complicated life, we did not foresee any open relationship with her. We did send letters and pictures, and two years later we spoke to her over the phone. It’s now been three years since we’ve heard from her.

Our third adoption was like the second, and the birthmother had already been discharged from the hospital when we arrived in town. We had a lovely dinner with her after placement.  We’ve been sending her letters and pictures, but as our son is only a year old we are not sure where this relationship will lead. I’m hopeful that it will continue over time.

Some people could look at my personal stories and think, “Well maybe it worked out for the best because now they don’t have to deal with the complicated relationships with those birthparents.” But Paul and I wanted those relationships very badly. We are very hopeful that in the future these relationships will become open once again, even if it’s 20 years down the road.

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Meet the Author

Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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