Dear Adopting Parent Afraid of Open Adoption, as an adoption agency well-known for its all-in approach to open adoption, we thank you for your courage in considering our agency.
More cynical folks may say you’re only contacting Abrazo because you know our agency has a good track record for getting infant adoptions completed in a year or less. And we know that could be part of your reasoning for approaching an open adoption agency when you find the idea of openness, frankly, terrifying. But we’d like to think there’s more to it.
We do understand that open adoption can seem scary. You wouldn’t be the first to tell us this, you know.
Sometimes, prospective birthparents are also afraid that openness will make letting go harder? As we tell them, though, the opposite is actually true. Knowing where your child is going and with whom is often the only thing that gives a loving parent the courage to trust in her own adoption plan. (And think about this, Dear Adopting Parent: would you really want the birthparents of your precious child to be the kind of people who care so little that they’d even send their little one off with strangers?)
Coming off of too many rounds of costly and unsuccessful infertility treatments, though, we know you’re feeling rather vulnerable at this point. You feel outnumbered by friends and relatives who seem to get pregnant without even trying, you’re tired of explaining why you’re still childless, and you’re overwhelmed at the idea of what adoption costs and what openness seems to require. You’re unsure who to trust and where to turn and you don’t want to get hurt again. You see all the adoption nightmare stories online. You’ve watched too many bad Lifetime movies that make all birthmoms seem scary. You want your future child to love only you. And you’re sick of all the paperwork, for starters, and you don’t “get” why you can’t just get the baby you deserve– without any strings attached– and move on with your lives.
Dear Adopting Parent Afraid of Open Adoption: take a minute, and breathe, deeply. Inhale. Exhale. (Now keep doing that! Oxygen is an important component of any healthy adoption experience, after all.)
Let’s start with the basics…
You do believe in the Golden Rule, right? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (That’s Matthew 7:12.) Well, open adoption is basically just about doing adoption by the Golden Rule. If, God forbid, you had to be the adoptee or the birthparent in your upcoming adoption experience, how would you need things to be done so that you could live with the decisions that have to be made? Because becoming a parent means accepting that nothing is all about you, anymore. (Ever.)
As much as any parent wants to be their child’s everything, every parent (whether they birth or adopt) quickly learns that it really does “take a village” to raise a child. You can’t be your child’s only caregiver, you can’t be your child’s only medical provider, you can’t be your child’s only grandparent and if you’re adopting, you can’t be your child’s birthparent.
Good parents make room in their children’s lives for others and the gifts they bring with them, and nearly every adopted child needs to know the good things about their birthparents, and to know that they are loved by their birthparents, too, even if they are unable to be raised by them. Just as children have the capacity to love both a mother and a father, they also have the capacity to love both their adoptive parents and their birthparents. You’re not in competition, with an open adoption… you’re on the same team, and that’s a good thing.
What Openness Is (& Isn’t)
Now repeat after me: “Open adoption isn’t about co-parenting.” Being the parents who adopted a child instead of the parents who birthed that child doesn’t make you any less the “real parents.” In fact, open adoption can make you even more of a “real parent” because you have the golden endorsement of the birthparents who hand chose you to be your child’s parents forever. (What other parents get a vote of confidence like that?)
Are you still breathing, Dear Adopting Parent Afraid of Open Adoption? You’re not gasping for air anymore, so we’re taking that as a good sign. We hope you’re feeling less frightened by now.
Yes, open adoption means you have to take risks. You have to let yourselves be known. You have to learn to share (just as you’ll have to teach your children to do.) And yes, you’ll have to put up with social workers and reams of annoying paperwork and occasional frustrations in the process, and the unknowns of pregnancy by default, and you’re going to have to surrender control, if you ever had it to begin with?
You’ll have to open your hearts not just to a baby but to his or her birthparent/s, also. You’ll need to work together to come up with baby names you all like. You’ll learn to be protective of your child’s people and his or her adoption story, because others who are still uneducated may say hurtful things or ask ignorant questions. You’ll need to find the courage to cry with your child’s birthparent/s, because they will come to mean more to you than you ever imagined possible. You’ll need to plan family vacations that bring you back where it all began. You’ll finally realize why that which belongs to your child belongs to you, too. And you’ll learn, in time, why your friendship with your child’s first family (and your comfort with each other) was the best gift you could ever give your child.
… And if nothing else, remember this.
Dear Adopting Parent Afraid of Open Adoption, we realize this is a lot to take in, and we don’t expect you to understand all of it right away.
Just trust that Abrazo’s director has more than 30 years of experience with open adoption, and we would never ask you to do anything that is not in the best interests of a child. Open adoption isn’t “new,” but it is better, and plenty of trusted research bears this out.
We know what we’re doing, we know why we’re asking you to do it, and our plan is to help you, your child and his/her birthparents to have the healthiest, most beautiful adoption experience possible.
After all, openness is about committing to a way of life that will enable the child you don’t even have yet to grow up with all the tools he or she will need to be happy and whole.
And that, Dear Adopting Parent Afraid of Open Adoption, is just the beginning of what you have to gain by leaving your fears behind, and opening your hearts to all that Abrazo has to offer you.