Fears and Consequence in Choosing Open Adoption
Common Myths & Misconceptions
If the birthmother is in our lives, my child will be confused as to who their "real" parents are.
The adoptive parent takes on the role of mom or dad from the very beginning. Because the birthmother has had specific role in the child’s life, they see her as something like an extended relative, not as a parent. They aren’t forced to fill in the gaps with their imagination, and since they never experienced their birthmother as a parenting figure, there isn’t any confusion as to who the “real” parents are. Moreover, through interactions with their birthmother, they see her deferring to their mom or dad as the parent. Longitudinal studies continue to confirm that children of open adoption are actually less likely to be confused as to who their real parents are than children raised in closed adoptions. (Siegel, D., & Smith, S. L. 2012)
It will feel like shared-parenting.
The birthmother sees herself as an extended relative of your family. The child calls her by her first name, it is not shared parenting. On average, birthmothers visit with the adoptive family about once or twice a year, depending on distance. They also might talk, videochat or email updates and pictures a few times a year.
Some have compared it to how people often conceive of their in-laws. A spouse maintains relationships with his or her in-laws because they realize that they are an important part of who their spouse is. In open adoption, the adoptive family and birthfamily make a commitment to stay in contact because they also realize that the birthfamily is an important part of who the child is. As with in-laws, relationships vary. Some open adoption relationships develop into friendships while others are more distantly involved. All, however, recognize that they are family to one another, and important in the life of the child.
Are visits with the Birthmother supervised?
No, the time the birthmother spends with the adoptive family is just like visiting with any other extended relatives.
The birthmother also sees the adoptive parents as relatives, so she doesn’t pick the child up and take them away for the day, the visit allows the birthmother and the adoptive parents to all spend time together.
What if they run away to be with her?
When children are placed as infants, they do not have a parental attachment to their birthmother. They also don’t have to fantasize about what her life is like. If a child is going to try and run away, they are equally likely to run away to an aunt, their birthmother, or their friend’s house. Any adult in your life would notify you that your child has shown up at their door. Birthparents see themselves as an ally of yours, and for the open adoption relationship to work, the child needs to see the birthmother and parents on the same “team”.
Birthmothers choose to place, so the grief isn’t that bad.
Even though the choice is made voluntarily, it doesn’t mean that birthmothers do not want their children. They created this child inside of them and already love their child tremendously before they are even born. The truth is that birthparents have such a strong love for their child, the choice of adoption is selfless. One of my favorite adoption quotes is “A birthmother puts the needs of her child above the wants of her heart.” Skye Hardwick
Placing a baby for adoption is a legitimate loss. Even though they chose this path, it doesn’t make the grief less real, and they deserve the space and support to heal in a healthy way.
While openness does not eliminate the grief process, it has allowed birthparents to heal in a much healthier way. They no longer have to spend the rest of their lives scanning faces in crowds, wondering if the child they said goodbye to years before could be among them. Being a "birthparent" can be integrated as part of their identity in a way that instills pride in their decision. Moreover, their relationship with the adoptive family puts their minds at ease. Because they have a presence in the adoptive family's life, they are at peace with the fact that their birthchild will not struggle with abandonment issues as they grow up.
If the birthmother has a relationship with my child, won't she want him back later on when she’s ready to be a parent?
Women who choose to become birthmothers are inherently selfless. They make a voluntary decision to go through immense pain for the benefit of their child. This is not congruent with the type of person who would devastate a child by taking them away from the only parents they have ever known. Accordingly, although the birthmother may look back one day and regret her life circumstances at the time she gave birth, given the place she was in, she can have the confidence that she made the decision in the best interest of her child. Furthermore, the opportunity to see how happy her child is reinforces to birthmothers that their child is having the life they wanted for him or her.
Ultimately, both adoptive parents and birthparents choose openness to ensure that their child has the best chance to grow up with a strong sense of self and confident in who they are.
Birthparents make the choice to place under difficult circumstances and put their child’s wellbeing above all else. Adoptive parents choose openness so their child knows firsthand how much love went into that decision. Keeping the child’s best interest at the forefront of everyone’s minds throughout the adoption will help preserve the love and gratitude that brought everyone together that very first day.