Openness in adoption refers to the amount of contact among birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adopted child. The amount of contact may vary from family to family and, within a family, may change over time.
Open adoption refers to a post-placement agreement in which a birth mother continues to have a relationship with her birth child throughout his or her upbringing. You’ve agreed to provide updates to your baby’s birth mother. But now that your baby is home, what information do you share?
Just like you probably felt throughout the adoption process, it’s not always easy to navigate the unfamiliar and challenging emotions that will arise in developing an open adoption relationship. However, this openness provides a healthy opportunity for a child to grow up being loved by two sets of parents. The child might also have a better sense of identity.
Building a relationship with your child’s birth mother will take time, just as any other committed relationship. The key to a healthy open adoption is to respect each person’s distinct role in the child’s life. You will always be your child’s only mom and dad. And your child’s birth mother will always be the special woman who gave him life and who shares a part of his personality, heritage, and physical traits. Each role is unique and invaluable to the open adoption experience.
As parents, you’ll have infinite time to bond with your baby. You’ll sit quietly at night with her wrapped in your arms, as you rock her to sleep. You’ll be her comfort when she cries, and the reason she will know that she’s safe, loved, and part of a family. With this understanding, there is so much more you can comfortably share with your child’s birth mother.
As you develop your relationship, you should give your child’s birth mother opportunities to see that her child is healthy and happy. In doing so, you honor the plan she made for her child, and allow her to see that it is working well. Through phone calls, letters, photos or videos, you may include the birth mother in exciting milestones, such as the baby’s first words, first steps, or the first time he sleeps through the night.
Tell her about his favorite book, favorite stuffed animal, and funny habits, and send clear, close-up pictures of your baby smiling. Sharing such things can help your child’s birth mother heal, move forward, and fulfill the commitment she made to her child to stay in his life through open adoption.
The appropriate level of contact will vary with each and every situation. Try to communicate and understand each other’s expectations and to establish a plan for contact as early in the relationship as possible. As time goes on, though, it is natural for the amount and type of contact to change. The best results come from allowing your relationship to develop and grow naturally.
Open adoption can be a loving and valuable experience for all parties of the adoption triad!