My Open Adoption
Written by Birth Parent, Tamra Hyde
I sometimes hear adoptive parents, especially new ones, expressing concern and frustration about knowing how to navigate relationships with birthparents, especially when the 2 parties may find they are on different pages in regard to boundaries and expectations.
I have observed a few things that seem pretty consistent to most open adoptions–
Birth parents who feel confident and secure in the relationship they have with you and feel that they can trust you are generally less needy and more able to leave the ball in your court and see themselves as a resource to you. Adoptive families who are fiercely loyal to their birth moms often have birth moms who are fiercely loyal to their adoptive families.
The more natural and normal, the less obligatory, scheduled, and contractual the relationship, the more secure birthparents seem to be. As birth mammas we do want pictures and info, but we really want to be loved and included and remembered. That’s what means most.
We all know already how to be a friend or relative. Occasionally, in any human relationship, more is required of us. When a person goes through a loss for instance. What your open adoption is in the beginning is not what it will be later on. You’re dealing with someone who is likely in the middle of an identity crisis, rebuilding their life and trying to decide who they are, not to mention they’ve just broken their own heart and defied their instinct, and they may also be young. Grief can make us a bit self absorbed but it’s temporary. With time, these things will subside and find balance. In the mean time, you are in a position to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Whenever I’ve been willing to wade with someone in their deep waters, to not look away so as to spare myself feeling any of their pain, to show up, even when it’s hard, I’ve always remembered those experiences as having been an honor. Please know that her pain isn’t your doing. You need not feel any guilt for it. I have found that we can be happy for ourselves and hurt with someone else simultaneously, and vise versa. I could have my broken heart and be happy for them and they could let their hearts break with me and rejoice in their gain.
I’ve had adoptive parents say to me on occasion something along the lines of “man, I wish our birth mom had the maturity and perspective that you do”. They are perhaps forgetting that I am in my 30′s and have had 18 years to figure it out.
As a brand new birth mom and 18 years old, I unwittingly said a couple things that I can now see were pretty insensitive. They cut me slack, gave me the benefit of the doubt, chose their battles, had perspective, and showed patience and forgiveness.
Remember, she is also new at this. We all get a learning curve. Don’t think that just because she makes a mistake or you are at a loss that open adoption has failed or isn’t for you, it just means that you are humans dealing with a human. Be humble and own your mistakes to her and she will be likely to follow your lead. Tell her it’s ok if she’s not always sure what to do, that you aren’t either, but that you have confidence that you will all be able to figure it out. Let her know that you trust her to continue to put the child first and ask her to trust you as well.
Communication is always the answer. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic discussion, just let them know what they can’t see from where they stand. It’s so much kinder than resenting or feeling annoyed without them understanding why or knowing that they are giving offense. I like to use humor in potentially tough conversations. It’s disarming and it expresses that this isn’t a crisis, just room to improve.
It’s totally fine and totally normal to feel insecure, threatened, jealous, etc. (not that you do or everyone does) so long as we recognize that it’s our own stuff and work through it so that our decisions will be for our child, and not for ourselves.
More important that what you do or say is how you feel and what your true intent and motivation is. If you can see her as a person, with complex feelings and experiences, who tries and errs, just like you, and not a walking uterus, she will feel the difference. If your heart is truly right toward the other party, that is what they are most likely to perceive, whatever actions we take. And we’re more likely to take the right actions when our “way of being” is one of love.