As Mother's Day approaches, those touched by adoption may encounter a mix of emotions: grief, joy, longing. While we recognize that each adoption is unique, the mixed emotions seems to hold true to all. What should have been? What could have been? The tension that many adoptees feel about loving both their birth and adoptive mothers can illicit confusion and guilt.
While in the past, closed adoption were standard, studies show that between 60-70% US adoptions are now open, allowing adoptees to know both of their mothers. Open adoptions offer many possible benefits to all parts of the adoption triad: the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. Adoption is inherently complex and open adoptions are sometimes misunderstood.
Adoptive father, Mike Douglas shares today about how knowing his daughter's birth mother and the openness of that adoption has shaped and benefitted his family.
As a prospective adoptive family, we did all we could to educate ourselves about what to expect as we went through the adoption process. We began by connecting with Adoption Support Alliance by attending their Adoption 101 class. We were fascinated throughout the entire class, but one area especially lingered in our minds: the openness of adoptions.
It seemed really ambiguous, and an overly broad concept because of the phrase, “remember, every adoption is different.” It wasn’t until our daughter’s adoption, and later our son’s adoption, that this truly hit home. It was only then that we truly accepted that you have to expect the unexpected.
The law center we were working with for our daughter’s adoption initially advised us that the adoption would be a closed. We would have one phone call with the expectant mother, meet at the hospital after the delivery, and then there would be no further contact. This initially caught us off guard because we figured everyone wanted some level of openness, but we accepted this decision because that was what the desire of the expecting parents.
Our first phone call with the expectant parents was awesome. The mood on the phone was light and friendly, and while we were answering the expectant parent’s questions, it was like we were talking to old friends. The hour we spent on the phone seemed to fly by! After the call our case manager called us back and asked us our impression of the phone call. We told her we thought it went great! She agreed. Here is where the first unexpected change occurred: she told us the expectant parents asked if we would be willing to exchange phone numbers to text. We absolutely agreed, and we began texting the expectant parents about once a week.
Expect the unexpected.
When our daughter Piper was born, her birth parents wanted some privacy and requested some time alone with her at the hospital. As we waited, the attorney representing Piper’s birth parents asked if she could meet us at the hotel to get all of the paperwork signed. Of course we agreed. As we signed, the attorney came to one last form sharing with us that Piper’s birth parents thought the little girl was so beautiful that they would like at least milestone pictures of her. We immediately agreed! We understood that the adoption was still a predominantly closed adoption, but we were excited for this small level of openness.
Expect the unexpected.
Once both Piper and her birth mother were discharged from the hospital, we experienced our third unexpected change. The very next day Piper’s birth mother texted to wish my wife Jenn, "Happy Mother’s Day." Prior to leaving the city where Piper was born, we had breakfast with her birth parents. Expect the unexpected.
It’s been three years since our daughter’s birth, and we continue to expect the unexpected. Sometimes we text or call Piper’s birth parents monthly, and sometimes several months pass. Her birth parents have come and visited us in Charlotte and plan on visiting again. This totally unexpected but very welcome change has been that we consider her birth parents more like friends or family. Expect the unexpected.
Please check back soon for the second post of the Douglas Family Adoption series.