I used to be so afraid of the idea of ‘Open Adoption’. I thought that open adoption meant bringing home a child that would be ours part time – kind of like joint custody. Or that somehow the child could be taken away from us unjustly. So, I conjured up all kinds of ideas in my head about how it could negatively influence us as a family and then decided it wasn’t a good idea.
Thankfully God used the kindness and experience of our non-profit foster/adoption agency to calm my fears and gently reassure me that the Lord would use my vulnerability for His glory… and they were right. Once I had a chance to experience the truth about Open Adoption for myself, it didn’t take long for me to wholeheartedly embrace the idea. Now I can’t imagine an adoption placement without some form of it!
But what exactly does ‘Open’ Adoption mean?
I’m hoping the best way to help explain what open adoption is and looks like, is to give you a few examples of what it has looked like in our family.
*Just to be clear, the openness I am referring to throughout this post pertains to infant adoption and the adoption of a child of any age from Foster Care when there are relationships that are safe and healthy to maintain.
We were green at this adoption thing and like so many ‘firsts’ in life, we were uncertain what to expect. But, we were absolutely elated when a birthmother had picked our family to raise her child! She had decided on a ‘closed’ adoption plan (meaning no contact at all), but at the last minute she changed her mind and wanted to meet us in person before going home. I was so nervous! But, after a brief introduction, she placed a precious baby boy with a headful of black hair into my arms and said ‘Congratulations, you have a son!’ My soul opened up and I wept with a bittersweet joy… Then in an amazing, miraculous way our hearts became intertwined and I fell in love with both of them. It was as if she gave us her blessing and approval & it was a wonderful feeling. We agreed to keep in touch and send photos, but after the first two years, the birth mother quietly slipped out of lives (but never our hearts), and eventually stopped responding to our attempts to connect with her. But, because of that initial experience, I knew I should never fear the idea of open adoption again.
Adoption # 2:
Going into our second adoption, things were a lot different. After a crazy turn of events, this sweet birth mother courageously made an adoption plan for her small, fragile baby boy and picked our family. Because she was an especially private person, she chose not to meet us in person. However, she did write us the most beautiful & heartfelt letter to us & what she wanted us to share with our son as he grew up. Since she kept in touch with the social worker, we gladly passed on photos and updates for the first year, but we stopped when she wanted things to remain discrete and private. I think of her with so much love every time our son smiles.
Our third experience led us to an open relationship with not only the birth mother, but the birth father & much of the extended family as well!
Initially, our contact was only with the birthmom and her side of the family. Oh how I loved meeting her for the first time while she was still pregnant! Her vulnerability and honest emotions gave me a deep love for her and her baby instantly. Our initial embrace was so powerful and once again our hearts were connected in a way words could never describe. We continued openly communicating with each other for several months after our son was born. But, circumstances once again led to her choosing to close the door on regular contact. However, we still maintain regular contact with her extended family.
But just as the door was closing with the birth mother, another door was swinging wide open for a relationship with the birth father & his family! How grateful I am for that! He has turned out to be a wonderful connection and we all love him dearly. Because of his genuine good character, we’ve been able to trust him with a wider open relationship with our family. He goes out of his way to keep in touch and we’ve even had him over to our house. His family has also reached out with open arms and has expressed many times how we are all ‘Ohana’ (family in Hawaiian). We look forward to many years of relationship with both sides of the family!
The last experience we had was also amazing. By this point we were really looking forward to meeting the young birth parents who made an adoption plan for their soon to be born little boy – yes it was another boy! :) So you can imaging my heart sank a little when after choosing our family, they decided they wanted a totally closed adoption. We of course respected this, but I prayed that I’d be able to wrap my arms around them both if it was meant to be.
In perfect timing we arrived at the hospital the second he was born and heard his first cry as we walked down the hospital hallway to the nursery. It turned out that he was the only baby born that night and we were the only other people there (gotta love small towns) – Because of this, we got to meet both of the birth parents! My heart was filled immediately with such a love for them the minute we walked into that room. From that point on, hearts were opened and we were able to stay in touch by texting photos and updates every now and then. Like the others, the birth parents both quietly slipped out of communication with us & stopped responding to our attempts to stay in touch. But, we love both of them so much and couldn’t be more grateful for the way it all turned out.
We dearly love each of our children’s birth parents. We talk openly and respectfully about them with our children and pray for each one of them every night. When our children ask questions, we may not have all of the answers, but we can pull out pictures, talk about their special stories, and tell them how excited we are to see what plans God has for them. By having an open heart, God has filled it fuller than I could have ever imagined.
Just like our family, every adoption situation will be unique and each experience different from one child to the next… and it’s also true that not every situation in this life will turn out exactly the way we hope. But, I believe that God has a perfect plan and that His Love always remains the same. His specialty has always been about building relationships – He will move mountains when we offer Him our willing, teachable hearts that are ‘open’ to whatever lies ahead.
Closed doors are just that… closed. And there are times when closed is the best option… But open doors can lead to a thousand possibilities and take us on many great adventures! If you’re a birthmother who is considering an adoption plan, or if you are an adoptive family deciding what you’re comfortable with, I hope you’ll both consider opening your hearts and take a chance on each other… it just might be beautiful.