Receiving the gift of a child is one of the greatest treasures ever known. The pure joy and rush of emotions is overwhelming when you hear that you’ve been chosen as a forever family for a child. But if you’ve chosen an open adoption, not only are you receiving the gift of a beautiful child, but also the possible gift of including the birth parents and their families as well.
Choosing an open adoption means you and your partner have decided you want to have an ongoing relationship with one or both of the birth parents and possibly their families. The option of an open adoption gives you and your child the opportunity to know their history in all senses of the word, and some might say, gives a better overall experience for your child as he/she grows to know his/her story firsthand. But there are some things that aren’t always shared about an open adoption, little details that stay behind the curtain, and those sometimes can be just as overwhelming if they come into play.
Not everyone who comes to your door should be given immediate trust; the same is true with an open adoption. With the rush of emotions surging through you, it can be easy to want to throw caution to the wind and forget to set important boundaries.
We have friends who were chosen as a forever family to a toddler with the stipulation from the birth mother that the relationship would remain open. With joy in their hearts and trust in their souls, they gladly welcomed the opportunity to become permanent parents to a foster child they’d come to love as their own. Because they’d been overly open with the birth mother about their financial situation, after the adoption was complete, every time that she needed money she came knocking on their door–regardless of time…day or night. Her persistence to pressure them into giving her anything she wanted because, in her mind she’d given them her child, soon became too involved and they had to change their relationship.
In our own case, we learned another few important lessons. One of the most difficult lessons for us was not knowing to set limitations. Once our birth mother knew she had our full attention, she would share inappropriate comments with us in front of our child that were shocking to our adult ears. They were in no way, shape, or form something a child of any age should hear.
Over time if she sensed stress in our relationship, she’d over-dramatize a situation hoping we’d rush to her side and shower her with affection and love. When we didn’t come running, she started stalking us. It eventually became a dangerous situation for our child and for both of us as adults.
Tension & Relationships
Another unexpected lesson we learned immediately was not everyone in the birth mother’s family was agreeable to being included. We wanted our child to know about her story, to know about her birth mother and how she came to choose us as her biological child’s forever family; the biological grandfather wanted nothing to do with us. Although we had hoped for a better reception from her family, we respected the choices her family made.
An open adoption might mean you’re only welcoming one or both birth parents into your lives, and you need to be okay with that fact. The reality of an open relationship doesn’t always look like the picture perfect scenario it does in your mind. Be aware of your relationship with whomever you welcome into your world and be willing to change your rules and limitations if the need arises.
Take your time to ease into the new relationship with the biological parents and their families–learn what they are like as people. Just because they’ve chosen you to raise their child as your own does not have to mean you owe them. Learn about them, who they are at their core, and how they’ve walked their journey to you. Don’t be too excited to share everything at once, it’s not a race, but it is an important decision in your life. Remember that it is up to you to protect you and your family in the best way.
An open adoption can bring an entire new perspective to your family and your adoptive child; it can be an incredible, warm and loving experience. Just be sure to realize your limitations, set firm ground rules, and stay firm. Welcome to parenthood…your life will now be forever better.