In June, 2012, my husband and I started the process of adoption. We were so excited about this decision that we were shocked when our friends and family had concerns.
Many, many people asked what we would do about the child’s biological family. This is a huge issue for people who don’t understand adoption, and I’m happy to share my experience.
Before we started trying to get matched, I did a lot of research on the best ways to work with a birth mom and how to set up a relationship in the child’s best interest. Everyone has a different experience and opinion on that, so I will keep this to the important facts for adoptive families and their supporters.
Adoption is hard. It is harder than birthing children in many ways. For me, the hardest time (by far) was before birth because I had so little control over anything – from pre-natal vitamins and mother-baby bonding to baby showers and due dates – everything was an unknown for me.
Some of the adoption agencies I worked with encouraged us to develop a relationship with a potential birth mother. This made me super nervous because I didn’t even know what to say, let alone how to develop a relationship.
We had two adoptions fall through before the baby was born, which is a devastating loss. But, after this happened, I thought a lot about how I could have communicated better to recognize potential problems earlier.
Adoption agencies put a lot of emphasis on your relationship with your birth mother because it is vitally important. Of all the varied ingredients of a successful adoption, it is probably the most important.
Not all birth mothers are the same. And, some birth mothers are not in the best place in their life. Their comfort zone for contact varies, but a good relationship between the adoptive parents and the birth mom increases the likelihood of her placing the baby from 5 to 25%.
Adoptive parents need to understand that the process of giving up a baby for adoption is very difficult for a birth mother. She may be experiencing pressure from the biological father or from her parents, but she may also be flooded by her own hormones and emotions telling her to nurture the baby. This is totally normal and we must be supportive. Until the adoption is completed, that is her baby and she has the right to decide to keep it.
As adoptive parents, we must reassure a birth mother that we love and care about her and her baby as much as she does. This means answering the phone when she calls, celebrating milestones together and going to doctor’s appointments, if she’s comfortable with that. Sometimes a birth mom may not be in the best circumstances. If that’s the case, do not be condescending or embarrassed. You should let her know that you appreciate the decision that she is making and show an interest in her well being.
We also have to inform our friends and families what a stressful time this is for us. The chances of the birth mom changing her mind are extremely high, and the emotional and financial loss that adoptive families suffer is great. This is a very scary and unpredictable roller coaster. It will likely be the best and worst experience of your life.
There are two broad categories for relationships between adoptive families and biological families: open and closed. Open adoption means that the two families know one another. Closed adoption means that the two families part ways when the baby is born.
For most adoptive families, this is a personal topic and they prefer to keep the arrangement private.
Open adoptions are much more popular in recent years than they used to be and they vary greatly. In most open adoptions, the birth mom wants an update by letter and pictures once a year. This is sort of the standard setup, as it helps ease the birth mom’s mind and keeps the lines of communication open for medical issues. It is also nice to have some contact if the child ever wants to meet his or her birth mom.
Some families communicate more regularly with their child’s biological family, which is easier with technology. Some of my friends write blogs about their kids and their birth moms can check those out anytime. Another friend posts daily photos to Instagram. I have an open relationship with Oliver’s birth mom and we communicate a lot by text, and we also get together every few months.
I am very happy with the relationship we have with Oliver’s biological family. We have a lot in common and our relationship formed fairly easily. This was not the case with my previous two experiences, and I now know to be patient and wait for the perfect match.
You will be matched with a birth mom who has the same open or closed relationship preferences as you. So, it is important to think about what you are capable of before you complete your adoption applications. However, once you get to know your birth mom, you might make a mutual decision to be more open.
Once the adoption is finalized, the decision to keep up the relationship is with the adoptive parents. If you agreed to an open relationship, I think you are morally obligated to send photos at least once a year. But, if you think it’s in the child’s best interest to cut off communication, you have the right to do so.
Figuring out the relationship is sort of like having another set of in-laws: sometimes you mesh perfectly and your relationship is seamless, other times you have to work a little harder to figure out your place. Either way, it is not as scary or complicated as you think it will be.
Being a parent is more amazing than anyone ever lets on. And, adoption is much more attainable when you are informed and prepared. I hope you’ll let me know if you have any questions about the process.