This past week our family was blessed to spend time with Flint, the birth father of Sam. BJ and I are often asked what it is like to have involvement with the birth families of our children. And I have to say it is amazing! I feel so blessed to know and love these parents and their families.
During our adoption journey we were asked how open we would like the adoptions to be. Our first agency where we adopted Levi and Ellie, only allowed us letters and pictures for a few years.
However, with our third adoption we adopted privately. A friend of ours had a father-in-law who was an OB-GYN and he had a young woman come into his office for prenatal care who asked if he had patients who might be interested in adopting.
When we met Flint and Lindsay, we exchanged information with them for an open adoption. No agency limited our contact and we were happy to have an open adoption. By this time, BJ and I were more comfortable with the idea of having an open adoption. We had been given information about our first son’s birth mom and had the opportunity to meet her already. We felt blessed to have more people in our lives that loved our children and wanted the best for them.
For a few years, we communicated with Flint only through letters because we moved to Arizona shortly after adopting Sam. However, one year on our yearly trip home to Utah, we decided to get together with each birth parent we had contact with. We wanted our children to know their birth families for the following reasons:
- Adopted children often fantasize about their birth parents. Who are they? What are they like? Would I be happier with them? Why did they place me for adoption? Do I look like them? Are they famous and rich? What is my real mom like? BJ and I had been to many seminars where adopted children who did NOT know their families talked about all the questions they had while growing up. We decided to help our children understand their heritage from an early age. That way these questions about identity and belonging would not be so prevalent.
- A wider circle of the definition of family means more love. Birth families care deeply for the children they place for adoption. Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, aunts and cousins are also involved in the bittersweet heartache that is adoption. We had more than just birth mom’s and dad’s involved in the adoption story, and we realized that EACH of these people cared very deeply for our adopted children. Why would we deny them the opportunity for more love? We decided that having more people to love our children is never a bad thing.
- Open adoption helps eliminate the secrecy and negative feelings that sometimes surround adoption. Adoption should never be a secret. No one should wear the scarlet letter of shame because they were adopted, or placed a child for adoption, or because they couldn’t conceive on their own. Adoption is amazing and a blessing and a gift. It can bring healing to all involved: infertile couples who long for a family and frightened birth moms who are not ready to parent. I believe part of eliminating the negative stereotypes about adoption comes through openness and honesty and sharing.
- Open adoptions promote an abundance mindset. Love is not limited or something to horde. There is no limit to the amount of love we feel or give. When we open our minds and our hearts to realize that our children can love BOTH sets of parents (adoptive and birth) then we only increase our ability to love. Our children have the ability to love us AND their birth parents. Loving them does not mean they want to leave us. Loving them does not take away the love they feel for us. Loving them does not limit our relationship in any way. In fact, for our family it has increased our love. I love my children’s birth parents. I am blessed by knowing them. My experiences are richer and deeper because I love them, too. They are brothers and sisters to me that I gained after adoption. And I am so glad that my children have more cousins, more aunts and uncles, more grandparents, more love!
Not every child in our family has the same involvement from birth families. Some write, some we see every once in a while and we have one that is closed because of the preference of the birth mom. We are okay with that, too. We respect her wishes and understand that for her, this was what she could give. And we honor her by respecting that decision.
And for some, closed adoption may come because the birth parents are not in a place to have contact with the children. Addiction or other life choices could be a harmful experience for the children. However, secrecy is harmful. Being as open as we can be for the child’s age and understanding is important. We don’t share all the sad details about a birth parent’s life, but we can say that they loved them. We can tell them the talents or interests their birth parent had: that their birth father loved horses, loved to sing, or was tall and handsome. Whatever positives we can find that we can share, we should.
Sam is blessed to have a birth father and his extended family that care so deeply for him. Thank you, Flint! We love you.