As I learned more about adoption and dreamt of what our open adoption would be like, I often thought more of the birth mother than the child she would give us. I think I feared most not being able to like or even respect her. Would she be an unrepentant drug user? Would she have abused or neglected our child with no remorse? Would we have ANYTHING in common? I knew that in order to give my child the benefits of an open adoption, I would have to be able to have some positive relationship with his or her birthmother. I wasn’t sure I had the giant heart, or bottomless forgiveness, or overflowing patience to deal with just any situation. In fact, I was known for being tactless, having a “tone” (thanks, Mom) and generally having no filter. Remember the scene in Austin Powers? “I’m having trouble controlling the volume of my voice!” Yeah.
As so often happens in life, God allows us to travel paths to mold us into the person He wants us to be. We don’t start out perfect or able or always willing. But if we allow Him to work with us, to challenge our perceptions of ourselves and what He can do, magic happens.
I am still amazed at how when I focus on what He wants our birth mother to hear from me, it always comes out as love. He loves her so much, and He shows it through me. The honor and awe I have experienced in this truth keeps me returning to this method of communicating with her every time. I can’t trust myself, but I can trust Him. This is an ongoing process, as my daughter is only six! Sometimes her birthmother and I have really sweet moments and sometimes I’m scared to death, not knowing how we’re going to navigate an issue. But I choose to trust Him, to listen, and my heart speaks. It is truly amazing and one of the biggest blessings of this whole adoption thing!
So though it’s only six years of experience, I thought I’d share five ideas for Godly communication between adoptive parents and their child’s birth parents.
- Think of things from her point of view so you can empathize with her.
This can be dangerous, because I found myself daily sobbing with grief over her loss. This lasted well over my daughter’s first year of life. However, if you struggle with empathy, this would be a good place to start when you’re feeling possessive or struggling to understand her choices.
- Share as much as YOU would want to know about your child.
We love our adopted babies and take a gazillion photos and sometimes never think to share them with a woman who is wondering, maybe daily, what her baby looks like or is doing at that moment. Asking the birth mother how often she wants to see pictures or receive information is important. But if you’re feeling stingy, imagine what you would want to see. Is one picture really enough? Remember, she misses every smile, every sleepy face, every new word. You get those because of her sacrifice. Share a little more!
- Focus on the things you have in common so you can form a relationship
Often with open adoptions, the birthmother chooses the family because of similarities she sees in them. You likely already have something in common, not just your child! So focus on those if talk gets awkward. For instance, our birthmother and I love to sing, color in adult coloring books, and have both enjoyed painting our daughter’s toes together!
- Share your heart for her child – she needs to know she did the right thing
In the first year of sharing pictures I never shared a picture that had just my daughter and I in it. I feared she would be saddened by seeing her “replacement” with her daughter. Later I learned she loved seeing pictures of our daughter with her siblings, because she loved that she was being raised in a large family like her own. She needed to know her daughter was loved and accepted. She gets to see this especially with our visits together. She is confident she did the right thing in part because our love for her daughter is so obvious!
- TRUST GOD. He put your family together, and the birth mother is part of that family. Pray before you speak to her, speak Christ’s love to her, and be grateful of the gift she gave you. He will direct your words and actions and you will be amazed at what He can do!