A while back, we were talking in birthparent support group about the things birthmoms don’t say.
Abrazo’s birthparent support group is made up of parents who have placed children for adoption anywhere, not just through our agency. Our weekly meetings draw birthmothers from all across the city, from all walks of life.
They’re smart women, of course, and usually articulate. Most are between the ages of 20 and 40, and most are parenting other children. They’re funny. They’re savvy. They’ve seen (and done) it all. In group, there are very rarely things birthmoms don’t say.
But when somebody else is raising your child, you know you have to watch what you say and how you say it. (No matter how much you like them. Whatever you’ve been through together.)
Otherwise, you risk hurting someone’s feelings and being cut off forever. And if contact with your child is at stake, you don’t take any chances.
Especially in a state like Texas, where open adoption agreements are not legally enforceable. (Yet.)
So let’s string a necklace of gemstones with the things birthmoms don’t say, but which may offer hidden wisdom for anyone in an open adoption relationship. (Note: names have been changed to jewels to protect confidentiality.) If any of these thoughts strike a nerve for any reason, take a deep breath. Then step back and see if you can identify the need behind the things birthmoms don’t say– hers and yours.
“I know my child’s APs wish I was in touch more, but I just don’t know what to talk about? I don’t like asking about (the child) because I feel like that’s their kid, not mine now. I don’t want them to think I’m bugging them. And I want them to be proud of me, so I don’t want them to know that my situation isn’t any better than it was. That’s why I disappear from time to time. I don’t want to give them reason to worry about me.”
“My kid has the life I always wanted. Sometimes, though, I feel secretly jealous. I just wish I could have grown up with the parents I picked for my baby. I wish I could’ve had their marriage. I wish I lived in their house and had their income, so I could’ve raised my own baby. When I see how happy (the child) is, I still feel guilty that I couldn’t give (the child) that life.”
“It’s hard to say this, but I wish I hadn’t picked the parents that I did. I’ll never tell (the adoptee) this, but they aren’t the people I thought they were. They didn’t show their true colors until after I signed the papers. Before that, they were always available anytime I called or texted, but now, it takes them longer and longer to get back to me. They act like just sending new pictures is a big inconvenience. I just hope (my child) never regrets my choice as much as I do.”
“Visits are really hard for me. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see them, I do! But they only come down once a year, and I get really nervous right beforehand. I make myself sick worrying about how it’s going to go. Is (my child) is going to remember me? What if (my child) rejects me, or asks me something I can’t answer? What if my child wants to stay with me and not go back with the parents? What if I fall apart after they leave? Will it be like ripping off the bandaid all over again? I always enjoy the visits, once they happen, but I get so worked up beforehand, I almost lose my nerve.”
“Omigosh, I love (my kid)’s parents to death! But I am so embarrassed for them, the way (my child) treats them is so disrespectful. I don’t know if it’s worse when I’m around? But I wish they would discipline (our child) more, because if they don’t, I worry that our kid is going to be in for a rude awakening. The world doesn’t put up with people who act that way. I don’t want to tell them how to parent. I’m afraid they think this misconduct is cute, though, and it’s really not.”
“It hurts my feelings that the adoptive family isn’t as open as they said they’d be. I know they’re busy people. But when they say they’re too busy to come back to Texas to see me, then post pics on FB from their trips everywhere else, I get the feeling maybe it’s just me they’re too busy for?”
“The people that adopted my child didn’t just save one life, they saved two. They don’t know to this day that I’d planned to check out after the baby was born. After everything else I’d been through, I just didn’t think I’d have anything left to live for. But here’s the thing– they showed me love I never knew was possible. It wasn’t just because I gave them my baby. It was because they really cared in a way nobody ever had. I thought that whole “open adoption makes you family” thing was BS. But it’s really worked out that way in my case. They became the family I always needed. Meeting them changed everything for me.”
Open adoption, for all its benefits, still has its limits. Sometimes, being the birthparent in an open adoption can feel like being invited to a party where you’ll never truly fit in, however welcome you are. As a birthparent, you’re a guest in your child’s life… and yet, adoptive parents can relate, as well, since they would never have been invited into their child’s life were it not for you. So why does everyone try so hard to make open adoption work, then?
It’s for the child/ren. Because truly, the adoptee is the jewel that everyone in an open adoption is so invested in protecting and treasuring and polishing.
And for all the things birthmoms don’t say, here’s the one thing most Abrazo birthparents (and their child’s adoptive parents) do say: “however hard as the adoption was, I’d do it all again to give that child of ours all the very best in life.”