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 #43.
How did you talk to your extended family about open adoption prior to adopting/placing? How did they respond? For those with non-receptive family members, were you able to have more successful discussions with them post-adoption?
I’m not sure we ever talked to our families specifically about open adoption. When we were adopting, we created a web site, and one of the pages included some Q&A. One of the questions was, “Are you going to tell him he’s adopted?”. Our answer was something like, “Because he will be of a different race than we are, it will be obvious that he is adopted. However, yes, we are going to tell him, from day one. We will also have an open adoption, meaning that we will have continuing contact with his birthmother.” That was the extent of our “discussion.”
My mom did not like us talking about Jackson’s birthmother. She didn’t think I should be sending her pictures. Max’s mother is more receptive, though still not totally comfortable, I think. My grandmother doesn’t really seem to fully understand the existence of my children’s birth parents, so I don’t talk about them much around her. My extended family will ask about them, with a sort of fascinated curiosity. At my grandmother’s 90th birthday last year, one of my aunts was asking about Cassie’s birth parents, then she suddenly became very disturbed about the existence of my blog, and told me that I should shut the whole thing down. In her defense, she had had a lot of wine at the time.
We put some pictures of Jackson’s birth family in our adoption profile scrapbook when we were on the road to adopt Cassie. We included that we wanted an open adoption, which to us meant letters and pictures, as well as possible visits. When we talked to Laine, she asked if the adoption would have to close after one year, to which I said, “no!”. I guess that’s how they did it on Teen Mom or something.
Basically, my approach to open adoption and the rest of my family is this: If they have any questions, they are free to ask. Everyone has access to this blog, and I know a few of my family members read it. I’m open about the fact that we have open adoptions, but it’s not something that we make a point of discussing. I do want them to know that we feel that open adoption is important and in the best interest of our children. In fact, I may put that in our holiday newsletter this year.