This is the first post in a series on open adoption.
Recently when my daughter’s birthmother, via email, asked me to call her immediately because she had something important to tell me, my heart dropped into my stomach and I broke out in a cold sweat.
We adopted my daughter almost six years ago, with the help of an adoption agency. A completely legal, binding adoption. And yet I allowed the terror of losing my daughter to overcome me once again.
Open adoption may be a new term, but it is far from a new concept.
Before the 1940s, most adoptions were informal with some contact between birth parents and adoptive parents. Parents or unwed mothers who couldn’t care for their children arranged things within their community. As out-of-wedlock births became socially stigmatizing and the role of social workers grew, orphans were marketed to adoptive parents as blank slates to make them look more appealing. Laws sealing off all information about birthparents were passed all over the country and the word “adoption” was whispered. These babies would be lied to and raised as biological.
The result of this practice resulted in grieving, lost adults who struggled to understand who they were. Adoption received a negative reputation because of the pain that was emerging from private adoptions. A backlash ensued and research began to show just how detrimental this secrecy was to ALL parties involved. Birth parents who always wondered what happened to their child, children who had unanswered questions, and adoptive parents who lived in fear of being revealed.
Open adoption began to be practiced again around the 1980s and is currently the standard for adoption. Research has shown immense, permanent benefits as a result of these changes. Children adopted through open adoption have medical histories, can discover who they are without secrets or surprises at the same developmental rate as biological children, get answers to their questions without massive legal searches and have far less emotional fall out. Adoptive parents know where the birthparents are, how they’re doing, and don’t live in fear of attempts to take their children back. They also get to be open and honest with the adoptive children they love and the relationships are stronger as a result.
The birthparents recover much better with an open adoption as well. Research has shown that a birthmother’s emotional recovery is better with open contact with the adoptive family and her child. The rate of openness directly correlates with their overall happiness. They benefit from the assurance their child is well and happy and that they made the right choice.
As I readied myself to call our birthmother, I prayed. God, I know you put this family together and no one can take us apart. Please help me to trust you, and to say only words that YOU want her to hear. Open my heart to her.
When she picked up, she immediately told me her news; she had come into a large sum of money and wanted to give some to Elizabeth for her college fund.
And there you have it, folks. I panicked over a generous donation to our daughter’s future by the mother who loves her. THIS is why open adoption is worth the hardship. It was hard to receive that email, hard to pick up the phone and call. But the result was awesome and wonderful and all about LOVE.
As you learn more about the benefits of open adoption, I hope your fears will diminish. As I continue this series I will be introducing you to open adoption families and birth mothers so you can see the extraordinary and scary truth about open adoption!