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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love

“Why Do You Have an Open Adoption?”

"Do you want to join my friend Molly and me for a girls’ night out, dinner and a few drinks?” my friend Sarah asked me not too long ago. "Yes! Yes, I do!" I responded excitedly. I had not seen my dear friend in some time and was really looking forward to catching up with her. My husband and I haven’t gone out much since Max’s arrival, but like most parents, we occasionally welcome the time away. 

When our girls’ night out finally arrived, I put Max to bed. My husband settled in with the DVR and rented some gun-flinging, fist-flying, heavy-on-the-special-effects movie I would never want to watch. Out the door I went!

When I arrived at the restaurant, Sarah and Molly (whom I had never met) were already there. As I sat down, they were discussing their children. I ordered a margarita and settled in, ready for good conversation over great food. As we chatted, the subject matter ranged from childcare and kids to cell phones. At some point during our conversation, they began to discuss their labor and delivery experiences.

Sarah, aware that Max is adopted, didn’t find it odd that I was not sharing the details of my own experience. Molly, who is a very sweet person, eventually looked at me and said, “We haven’t let you get a word in edgewise. Did you have an easy labor?" I was going to reply with something along the lines of, “No, I didn’t. It took hours and hours before we were finally able to meet our son!” That isn’t a lie. Max was born in Florida, and we live in Ohio. We set out for Florida on a Sunday, taking two days to make the drive and arriving in Florida on Monday. Max was born on Tuesday, and we picked him up from the hospital on Thursday. So we literally spent days waiting in a hotel room before we were able to meet Max! I consider that my labor and delivery experience.

I was just about to reply when Sarah spoke up and said, “Oh, I should have told you. Sharon adopted her son." Molly clearly felt uncomfortable, and I did my best to reassure her that all was fine. The misunderstanding actually made space for a beautiful conversation about my adoption experiences.

Just when I thought the conversation had run its course, Molly asked me one last question. “So, why do you guys have an open adoption?" It’s one of the questions we are most commonly asked. It’s so common a question, in fact, that back when we first began to discuss our adoption plan, my husband even asked why we would have one.

When deciding what type of adoption we wanted for our son, I couldn't help but think about my own adoption experience. Did I want a similar situation for Max or something different? For me, growing up, I didn’t have a desire to seek out my birth family. I had no desire to form a relationship with people who were strangers to me. To me, family is the group of people I grew up with. My parents are the people who raised me from the age of 4. And the very few memories I have of living with my birth family prior to being placed with my forever family are not enjoyable. For this reason, my lack of desire to rekindle a relationship with my birth family is something that I am easily able to understand.

But what if somewhere down the road, that desire did exist? What if I wanted to ask my birthmother or birthfather why things happened the way they did? What if I wanted to know the most basic of things, like whom do I resemble? I have no pictures of myself until I am 4 years old. Maybe my birthparents have baby pictures of me that they would be willing to share. If the desire to find my birth family arose, my ability to find them would be seriously impaired by the limited information I have because of my closed adoption. (Though my siblings and I never sought out our birthparents, when I was 17 years old, my birthmother located us. This is a subject I will discuss in a later blog post.)

After a lot of soul searching, I decided I wanted our son to feel differently about knowing his birth family than I feel about knowing mine. Because the circumstances surrounding our son’s adoption vary so greatly from mine, I expect that Max will eventually want to know his birth family. If there was someone who had made such an amazing sacrifice for me, I think I would want to know that person.

Furthermore, if Max has questions about whom he looks like, I want to be able to pull out pictures and show him. If he wants to know what circumstances lead to his birth family formulating an adoption plan for him, I want him to have someone to seek out and ask. If he wants to know whom his musical talents come from or why he so easily gets ear infections (is the propensity for them hereditary?), I want that information to be available to him. If he wants to know what course his birthmother's life took after placing him for adoption, I want to be able to say, “Here, this is what I know." I want to be able to give him a way to reach out to his birth family if he so desires.

Our son is too young right now to make this decision, so my husband and I are making the decision we feel is best for him. In the end, the decision to maintain continued contact with his birth family is our son’s decision alone. I have no idea if he will want a continued relationship with his birth family or not. But if he does, I want to know that we have done all we can so that he will not have to look far to find them. The decision we have made to maintain an open adoption is not the best answer for all adoptive families, but we believe it is best for our family.

When Molly asked me, “Why do you have an open adoption?” I responded from the heart. I said, “Our son’s birth family is a very important part of his life. They are a part of him just as we are. He is just a really lucky little boy with tons of family to love him!”

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I love your response to Molly. Bravo to you for using your own experiences and your intuition about your son to make the best decision you can for him.

By Lavender Luz on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm.

Wonderful post, Sharon. My husband and I have made the same decision for our 2-year-old daughter. We’ve had one visit with her biological family so far and hope to continue on this path. I think contact will only benefit my daughter throughout her life. (But of course that will be her choice to do so when she’s old enough to decide.) I think every child would like to hear directly from the source that they were, and are, loved very much. How can that ever be a bad thing?

By Barbara Herel on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm.

Lavender Luz, thank you for your kind remarks! Much appreciated!

Improv Mom, I can’t wait to read your next post about your visit, you left us hanging. smile LOL! I hope it went well for all involved. I remember feeling very nervous on our first visit, but in the end I am glad we did it. Now when it is time for a visit I feel a little more at ease. I agree, hearing directly from the source about how loved they are can’t possibly be a bad thing for our children. When is your daughter’s birthday? Max will be 2 on the 28th. I can’t believe the way time has flown by!

By Maximilian's Mommy on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm.

I think more information is always better than less. Good for you in wanting more for your son than you had yourself! We’re not in an open adoption (international) but I do hope that in time we can make some contact with my son’s birth-mother. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, but it will be difficult to say the least.

Nice post!

By Jeff on Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm.

Great story, thank you so much for sharing!  Love how you answered that question straight from the heart. =)

-Independent Adoption Center

By IAC on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm.

Open adoption can be a good thing, however, we went into an open adoption with a friend.  We wanted her to be able to be involved with our son until she began to show signs of deep regret and mental illness. Then the harrassment began, and at one point she removed Thomas John from our home prior to the close of adoption. While she later returned him to us, the adoption finalized, we still live in fear of a repeat episode. While it is my belief that open adoptions should always be an option, I no longer believe adoptions should occur when the two parties know each other and/or have a past. For me, the adoption experience was and is painful at best but after reading many of the positive experiences such as yours . . .I can and will move forward with hope.  Markus Wilhelmson

By Markus Wilhelmson on Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 11:09 pm.

I have 3 children that are adopted, along with each child came, older siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, even as niece and nephew and cousins. Contact with birth parents as well. Being that our children were adopted out of foster care, we had to be careful with some contacts we had. What has that meant for my children, it has meant many birthday parties, laughter, and sometimes tears. We have attended family get torturers and for the last 3 years we have hosted a bio family Christmas party, in which attendance has reached well over 30 each year. We have also held our childrens hands as we visited a dying father and grandmother. It seems all rosy, and in most scenarios it has been. Recently however, we are starting to question a contact source for one of our children. His bio mom lives in the same city as us and our son knows this, his older brother has decided for him that he should have no contact with her due to her mental stability. We struggle with this one quite a bit, not what we wanted for our son. At his grandmothers funeral, we were asked to bring our son to a private viewing apart from the funeral so his mom would not have to see him. Our son sobbed and could not understand this at all. We are now unfortunately questioning the relationship with his family now and thinking it may not be in his best interest.
Overall, contact has been great for our children and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Gotta run, preparing for a bio cousins birthday party.

By frosty on Monday, February 09, 2015 at 6:05 pm.

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Maximilian's Mommy

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