The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. We’re up to Open Adoption Roundtable #40.
What were your reasons for choosing open adoption? (Or, for adoptees, what are your reasons for continuing to invest in your relationships with your first family?)
I don’t remember consciously choosing open adoption.
I remember researching adoption. I read a lot of books. Many of them defined closed adoption, semi-open adoption, and open adoption.* Open adoption just seemed, well, easier. Easier in that our child would always know his birth parents. Easier in that we would have access to medical information. Easier in that we wouldn’t have to have contact through another entity. Easier in that we wouldn’t have to go find our child’s birth parents later.
When we matched with S, I remember her asking if it would be OK if she sent him birthday cards. I believe I used that question to springboard into the continuing contact after adoption conversation.** Similarly, Laine asked me if we had to cut off contact after the baby was one-year old. (Apparently, this happened on Teen Mom or some other “reality” show.) I told her no, and talked about the contact we have with S’s family as an example of what I would like to have with her.
I was never afraid of my children’s birth parents. Thus far, I have never thought that it would be better if they weren’t in our lives, even when I realized that open adoption is not easy. Yes, I still believe that, in the ways I mentioned above, open adoption is easier than closed adoption. But open adoption is a lot messier than closed adoption. At least for us, it involves caring for people and not being able to do all that much to help them. It involves some inconvenient truths that are hard to explain to children. It occasionally involves wanting to strangle someone for the decisions he or she has made.
I still believe, however, that open adoption is usually (almost always) better than closed adoption. Better for whom? Definitely better for the children. I believe I’ve written before that one major attribute that adoptees from closed adoptions share is the “who do I look like?” question. My son knows what his birthmother’s family looks like.*** Another common question is “where do I come from?” This isn’t just a pat answer, like Kansas City, but a more soul-searching type question. He’s going to have access to the people who can help him answer that.
Research indicates that open adoption is also better for birthmothers. I personally can’t imagine losing a family member, never to see or hear from them again. It makes sense to me that open adoption would benefit birthmothers.
Apparently, the same research indicates that adoptive parents derive more satisfaction from the open adoption experience than from the closed adoption experience. I hypothesize that this is because they see the benefits for their children. I never really thought about open adoption benefitting adoptive parents, or, say me.
As long as open adoption is what’s best for my kids, that’s what we’re going to do. I don’t see that changing. Ever.
* I have since learned that, with the exception of closed adoption, the definitions for semi-open adoption and open adoption change with every person who uses those terms.
** Ironically, I don’t think she’s ever sent Jackson a birthday card. Christmas cards, yes, birthday cards, no. But she calls Jackson every year on his birthday.
*** I have been told that Jackson resembles his birthfather. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of him, despite S’s best efforts to obtain one. Fortunately, he also looks a lot like his older (half) brother, so that’s nice.