Consider this a heartfelt love letter to all of Abrazo’s sistermoms.
Sistermoms are women who are forever linked because their children share mothers.
Sistermoms can be women who have adopted biologically-related children, or birthmothers whose placed children share the same adoptive parents.
Most of the mothers with whom Abrazo works are between twenty and fifty.
All of the adoptive mothers came to our agency because of infertility.
Most of the birthmothers struggle with hyperfertility, which can often be as big a curse as infertility.
Yet sistermoms are a voluntary blessing that is only ever made possible through open adoption.
Having a sistermom means having someone closer than a friend, a relative-by-adoption who has a special understanding of what you’ve been through and who shares your affinity for your child’s other family.
For Nikki (names have been changed), having Vanessa as a sistermom was a lifesaver during and after her placement decision. “The couple I chose had an open adoption with their child’s first mom. So being able to talk with her about adoption and about how they parent was huge. It helped me know what to expect. And it gave me someone I could turn to who really knew what I was feeling.”
Nikki and Vanessa both have their own relationships with their son’s adoptive parents, of course. But the two birthmothers also have a friendship all their own. “We meet up now and then, just to hang out, and we’ve even made a funny video for our kids, so they could see us together. I’m like an auntie to Vanessa’s son, and she’s like an extra tia to mine.”
Vanessa remembers a time when she had mixed feelings about her child’s parents adopting again. “I was afraid that the new baby would get all their attention. And I think I kinda worried that they might like the new birthmom more than me. Now I know that was just silly, because Nikki and I are both our own people. We both have our own place in their hearts, just like our sons do. It’s a family thing.”
In a perfect world, birthmothers would never face more than one untimely pregnancy, and adoptive parents would always have the time and resources to accept a sibling placement, no matter how quickly it followed the prior one. This is not that world, however.
Barry & Kara hadn’t even finalized their daughter’s adoption when the birthmother Ashlee found herself expecting again. She was no more ready to parent than she’d been before, and much as Barry & Kara would have hoped to adopt again, they know it was far too soon for them and their child. After extensive options counseling, Ashlee made the choice to place the coming baby with another Abrazo family and Barry & Kara and the new adoptive family built a relationship so that the siblings would grow up with a lifelong connection, and with all their parents, too– including Ashlee. They make it a point to all attend Camp Abrazo together, and it’s family time they’ve all come to treasure, even Ashlee’s parents.
“In our day, adoption wasn’t like this,” says Ashlee’s mother. “I was so worried it couldn’t possibly work out this well, when it all started. I was afraid the kids would be confused, or that Ashlee would get her heart broken by seeing them, or the parents wouldn’t live up to their promises. But it’s been so good for everyone, even my husband. We still get to be grandparents, Ashlee’s been able to stay involved, and those two families just couldn’t be more dear to us.”
For Steven & Sophia, the second family with whom Ashlee placed, having Barry & Kara as adoption relatives has been a special blessing. “As first-time parents, I love being able to check in with Kara when things come up. Did your son do this? Is this normal? Knowing there’s a biological connection between our boys is like having a magic mirror or something.”
And it can help with open adoption communication, as well. “There are some things that are easier for me to talk about with Kara, and there are other times I know Sophia is the one to call,” says Ashlee. “I love that they’re friends, and I know they both look out for me. It’s like they’re both my angels.”
In other cases, sistermoms sometimes serve a consolation prize for sharing children whose parents are unable or unwilling to keep in touch.
The birthcouple who placed Joseph, Carlos and Jaime in three different years with three different families specifically asked that the boys not go to the same homes, for reasons of their own. They likewise declined to participate in open adoptions for their own reasons, despite our best efforts to educate them to the benefits.
Yet, the agency has been successful in establishing open adoption relationships between the three sets of adoptive parents, and the adoptive moms are particularly close, maintaining their own connections with each other through social media, calls, emails and visits.
For Tammi & Joellen, being sistermoms sustained them both and gave their placed children an extra layer of support after the adoptive mother unexpectedly succumbed to cancer. The adoptive dad doesn’t always remember to send updates as regularly as his wife did, so the two birthmothers share information with each other and take turns checking in with the adoptive family, to express their love in a way that does not overwhelm them in the wake of their great loss.
Sistermoms can also play an important role in the lives of adoptees. When adoptees are struggling with their questions or feelings about their own birthmoms or adoptive mothers, having another trusted family friend who is also a birthmother or adoptive mother can mean having another valuable resource to turn to for advice. And if for any reason one mother is having a communication breakdown with the birthmother or adoptive mother, often times it’s the other sistermom who is best able step in to help, thus ensuring that all (contact) is not lost.
In two of Abrazo adoptions, the adoptive sistermoms whose children’s birthmother arbitrarily disappeared reached out to a biological relative of their children who adopted another birthsibling, and those three sistermoms eventually extended their sisterhood to embrace a fourth adoptive mother who had adopted another of the adoptee’s birthsiblings through Child Protective Services. Whether the adopted children’s birthmother ever opts back into their lives via open adoption or not (and we hope she will, since that door is always open.) these four adoptees will always have access to each other, thanks to the loving commitment of all their adoptive moms, who share a lifelong bond as sistermoms.
Indeed: sistermoms have an unique opportunity to enrich the open adoption experience for both the adults and the children, which has to be akin to having some kind of super power, when you think about it.
So to all the sistermoms in the Abrazo community: THANK YOU. Thank you for your love for our children and for each other. Thank you for all your extra efforts to maintain these connections.
Thank you for making open adoption even more beautiful, with everything you do. Bless our sistermoms!