The Importance of Boundaries
Let’s call her Winter. We first met her at the adoption worker’s home, which was in the town of
Kaysville, halfway between Ogden and Salt Lake City. It was finally happening, a Utah adoption.
We had been picked by a young woman and we were there to meet her because she was
considering us as adoptive parents for her baby. After years of waiting and dreaming of holding
that new born baby in my arms, this was really happening. We were about to meet the woman
who could make us parents.
I had spent 2 years getting ready for this moment, that is meeting our birth mother. When we
very first started the adoption process we were with an agency that really wanted to educate
their adoptive parents on how to treat the birth mother. They really had hoped that with good
education, open adoptions could be fostered. They invited hopeful adoptive mothers to attend
their birth parent support group.
As soon as I heard I could actually attend a birth parent meeting I was crazed. I wanted a baby
so badly all I could dream of was babies and I knew the only way for that to happen for me was
for a girl or woman somewhere to ask me to do it. It didn’t seem possible that anyone could
really be brave and selfless enough to willingly give their baby up for adoption. Now, I could
actually be in a room filled with people willing to do just that. I had to go. So I went once, and
then again and again and again until I had gone so many times, I felt like I was part of the
Eventually, they stopped letting adoptive parents attend but by that time, I couldn’t wait to have
a birthmother. I had heard so many stories of happiness, hope and heartache all I wanted to do
was treat her right and by that I meant spoil her! The woman who would do this greatest gift for
me I wanted to give back everything I had for her.
I think you can see that this attitude of mine could have led to a complete disaster! I easily
could’ve overwhelmed her by being around her all the time and never giving her room. She
could’ve easily asked for gifts so enormous and out of my desire to please her and with my
heart completely opened to catering to her every whim, I would’ve gotten my husband to give
her whatever she asked. This could’ve ended badly for everyone, the writing was on the wall!
However, serendipity prevailed and as so often the case in life, the very things given to us are
not necessarily what we thought we needed but what was best. Winter was perfect for us. We
met her and her two children. I thought she was just checking us out, be we found out later, she
actually wanted us. She told us a little about herself and why she was placing her baby. She
gave us some health history of her pregnancy and then she did the best thing she could’ve done
right then, she laid down the first boundary. She explained she was smoking during the
pregnancy and it wasn’t something she was willing to give up and if that was a problem, then
our relationship wasn’t going to work. Now granted smoking during pregnancy isn’t great, but
the fact is she was upfront and open and we knew where she stood and we knew we had to
choose take it or leave it. She took the first step in developing a relationship where nothing
would be hidden from each other. We decided we could live with it and our “courtship” began.
From there, I really did want to be with her all the time, the mother of our child, but I also
realized she needed time to herself, so I took a deep breath and made sure she had space. I
didn’t just pop in to see her, I called and we made plans. When we were together I listened to
her and the things she liked and I tried to plan activities for her and her children that would
break up the humdrum of her sitting around waiting to have the baby. I really did try and give her
as many things as I possibly could, not to win her favor but because she was giving me the
world and I wanted to give her as much as I could in return. When it seemed I was going a little
overboard, she again would put the boundary down,” thank you,” she would say, “but that is too
Basically our relationship worked because she was able to help, with my husband, draw good
boundaries and be honest about what she needed and what was excessive. Now not all
birthmothers are good at this, just like I wasn’t good at it as an adoptive mother, but truthfully to
have a really great open adoption they have to be drawn. There is absolutely nothing wrong with
wanting to love all over your birthmom. Everyone needs to be loved and especially someone
going through such a traumatic situation, but there is something wrong with overwhelming her
and making her feel obligated. It is a fine line and it’s one we found together. It can only be
found by honesty and kindly stating what you need and then allowing the other party to freely
choose if that is going to work for them.