Don’t Feel Ashamed About A Closed Adoption
If you’ve spent any time sniffing around the adoption community to help educate yourself, you’ve undoubtedly heard that “open adoption is best”. You’ve probably heard adult adoptees speak out about how hurtful their past is for them and automatically assume this is the same for any adoptee. You’ve likely seen Instagram-worthy pictures of families who seemingly have the “perfect” relationship with their child’s birthfamily and get together for every holiday, birthday, and Saturday night too. You’ve seen those families that drive across the country every year to see their child’s birthfamily, or ones that meet at Disneyland, or that even take family vacations together. You’ve seen adoptive parents shouting from the rooftops about how amazing open adoption is. You’re surrounded by “picture perfect” open adoptions, or at least it seems that way. The message of “open adoption is best” is drilled in to our mind as the only way adoption should be done and anything less-than is a disservice to our adopted child(ren). I see these families and I do think it’s amazing and wonderful. But it’s not the reality for all adoptive families.
Here’s the truth. So many adoptive families do not have the ideal open adoption – for many reasons. So many adoptive families are ashamed of that and keep quiet because we feel like we’re doing it wrong. So many adoptive parents feel guilt that they can’t provide their children with a healthy open adoptione. We feel inadequate and surrounded by those who seem to be much better parents because they have weekly visits with their child’s biological family or take vacations together. It’s so difficult as an adoptive parent not to let these experiences completely weight us down. The guilt we feel can be suffocating. It overwhelms us with anxiety, worry, and the fear that our child is going to become one of the hurt and angry adoptees. At times, I was nearly paralyzed with these thoughts and fears and wondered how in the world I would successfully raise my children when everyone else had these beautiful relationships with first families. Aside from the pressures and demands of parenting itself, we have an entirely overwhelming added layer of parenting an adopted child. This adds many dynamics that most can’t understand. Then, greater than any other emotion, it brings immense heartache to know that my children may grow up feeling rejected, angry, or hurt by their adoption. And that feeling is nearly unbearable when we love our children to the depths of our core.
Because I wanted so badly to be better equipped to raise my children, I joined every adoption Facebook group, followed every adoptee on Instagram I could find, read articles written by birthmothers, adoptees, and everyone in between. I met with other adoptive mamas in my area. Educating yourself about adoption topics is important. Listening to adult adoptees to get their perspective is important. Learning about our children’s roots and culture is important. Advocating for adoption and educating others is important. But these things also come at a cost. I found myself chest-deep in all things adoption. I lived and breathed adoption. And here’s where it got me: feeling completely inadequate to raise my adopted children. I felt immense sadness learning of the hurt of adult adoptees. I felt so guilty that I was granted the right to raise a child that was deeply loved by their first family. I felt shame for not honoring their biological family enough, not doing enough, not having a perfect open adoption. The guilt weighs on you with every passing day and social media post and article you read. The vast amount of differing information and the accompanying emotions was absolutely debilitating for me. When the heavily compounded topics and information overload hinder your ability to be an intentional and confident parent, it may be time for you to step away from the things that make you feel that way.
After living in this world for over 1.5 years, I suddenly had an epiphany that adoption is merely a part of our story – not our entire life or label. I could not wholly submerge myself in this world AND be a completely present and confident parent for my daughters. I unfollowed many of the accounts that left me feeling less-than and ashamed. I left negative adoption groups. I ditched some books that never sat well with me. I listen to my gut more and strangers on social media less. Because the truth is that there are a million factors that feed in to any person’s opinion on adoption. We never hear all of those factors to make our own judgements or to help us rationalize what we see in that little picture-perfect square. I started being the happy mother that my daughters so badly need. Now, I consider myself only ankle-deep in adoption. I’m still in a couple groups that I trust and connected to some with helpful information. But these articles and social media strangers no longer are my measure of how I’m doing as a parent. At the end of the day, we are a normal family. We fought to be together and live every single day in love, grace, and humility. And because no one has lived in our shoes, no one can tell me with certainty what is best for my children and our family.
If you’re feeling inadequate because you don’t have the ideal open adoption for whatever reasons, I’m here to tell you that IT IS OKAY. It’s going to be okay. Your child is going to be okay. I think that open adoption can be magical and so beneficial for an adoptee. But I don’t think it’s the only way. I think that a semi-open or closed adoption can equally be magical and beneficial for an adoptee. I don’t believe there is one right way to raise an adopted child. I don’t believe there is one right way to have an ideal relationship with the biological family. There are so many differing opinions and perspectives on a million different adoption-related subjects. But if we can all agree on one thing I think it’d be that each adoption is so incredibly unique and different. So if that’s the case, how can we have this image in our head that the only way to honor our child and their birthfamily is to have that picture perfect open adoption relationship with them?? Know that there is no one right way to raise an adopted child. Know that you are enough for your son/daughter. More than anything, your child needs to have happy parents who are loving and confident.