The Positive and Negative Aspects of an Open Adoption

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This post was originally published on Team Cartwright

What is Open Adoption?

When it comes to domestic infant adoption there really is very rarely any such thing as a “closed adoption” situation.

I cannot speak for International adoption situations or foster care adoption experiences as I personally have only walked the path of domestic adoption.

The old ideas of children being raised by adoptive families and not have any knowledge what-so-ever about their birth families are a thing of the past. 

The benefits of an open adoption have been widely shared.

It benefits the adopted child to know their birth family.

It helps the birth family to know their child and see how well they are doing in their adoptive family.

There are countless benefits to these bonds being formed and the knowledge being shared. 

Open adoption also looks differently for every adoption situation.

The term “open adoption” simply means: ” any adoption relationship between the adoptive family and birth parents in which identifiable information as well as contact are shared between both parties.” (American Adoptions)

This may be just information shared, no contact or time together.

Or it could mean communication through letters or photos with birth mothers but not in person.

Or it could mean visits.

Or even regular contact.

Or even a fully open adoption where there are not really any clear boundaries at all.

It is a broad term and it’s up to both the adoptive family and birth family to navigate what open adoption means for them and how it looks to their relationship. 

It is something that should be discussed with your adoption agency or adoption consultant early on in the process and when you form your adoption plan.

newborn baby with adoption paperwork - what an open adoption really looks like

What Does Open Adoption Look Like?

Again, every situation is unique and all I can discuss is what our personal adoption story has looked like so far and how our open adoption experience has been. 

As adoptive parents walk the path of adopting and learn more about adoption, you will better be able to form your own thoughts and feelings on what is the best path for your family.

Open adoption can be a touchy subject and it’s a great one for prospective adoptive parents to discuss with anyone you know who was adopted themselves – learn from their experiences and their feelings and perspectives.

Especially if you can meet with people who have experienced fully open adoptions or completely closed adoption and can compare the two.

We went through the adoption process starting in early 2016 and our adoption was finalized in May of 2018.

Our son is a little over a year old now, so we are still a bit new in the open adoption relationship with his birth mother. 

During her pregnancy we received all notes from the doctor from each of her appointments.

We had a face to face meeting with her early on in our match.

We went together with her for an ultrasound to see the baby. 

As far as an official agreement both our son’s birth mother and my husband and I agreed to a more semi-open adoption relationship.

We agreed to send photos and letters to the lawyer’s office at certain intervals of time until our son is 18.

She has the option to pick up those photos and letters at any time from their office.

That is the only in writing agreement we have regarding a relationship with our son’s birth family. 

However, she and I bonded pretty easily and quickly and we lived close enough where I was able to travel to her doctor pregnancy visits with her.

We were so close that she even opted to have my husband and I in the delivery room when our son was born. 

During the hospital stay we spent time together.

She had some alone time with her baby before signing over her parental rights to us.

We ate meals together.

We gave her gifts and a letter to let her know how special she is and always will be in our lives. 

Following the rights being signed and leaving the hospital we continued to stay in contact.

She has my personal phone number and we text.

She follows me on some social media channels and will sometimes comment on things there.

We have had one meet up since he was born where we traveled to her town with our son as well as our three biological children and spent a few hours with her and our son’s biological siblings. 

We do not have any sort of set plan into the future.

I send the letters.

Sometimes I hear from her. Sometimes I reach out and may or may not hear back. It’s delicate.

Emotionally difficult from both sides in many ways. But also beautiful in so many ways at the same time. 

baby being comforted - open adoption the pros and cons

The Positives of an Open Adoption

I am so thankful for the relationship and bond I share with my son’s birth mother.

I truly love her.

And I love her other children.

I love that I know her and that I can share all the things I know about her with my son someday.

I love that we have so much of his history, his story.

I love that the door is open for a potential relationship with his biological siblings and other family if that’s something he ever wants to pursue. 

Having such a positive relationship with the expectant mother during the matched phase of the adoption process was a blessing.

Being at those doctors’ appointments with her was something special but also I truly believe our relationship helped her to make positive choices for her unborn child.

I was there for her, a friend, a source of comfort in her life during a difficult time.

That support made an impact in her life and choices and ultimately in the health of our son too. 

It also had a HUGE impact on my life. On me. That bond shared between both of us over our son is so, so special.

If we continue to have visits from time to time I believe it will help the tougher questions down the road that our son will inevitably have about his roots.

I especially love the idea of him having a relationship with his biological siblings.

I love the idea of him knowing where he came from and being able to love his biological family and better understand their love for him too. 

The Negatives of an Open Adoption

Open adoption isn’t just butterflies and roses and sunshine. It’s hard. 

Knowing our son’s birth mother so well during her pregnancy was very emotionally draining for me at times.

Just as there were so many positives about the bond we shared during that time I was also always nervous that I’d say something wrong that would cause her to change her mind about choosing us, or even that my support and loving on her could result in her deciding she wanted to parent. 

Knowing her life choices and seeing some of the choices she made while pregnant was sometimes also hard for me.

I have three biological children so I have experienced pregnancy and naturally not having that same control over the unborn child that I did when I had them in my womb was scary at times.

Not being able to have any sort of control over his care was hard.

It was hard not to worry or to live in fear.

It was such a huge walk of faith and grew my bond with the Lord in a huge way!

I constantly reminded myself that it was HER BABY and her choices and my only job during her pregnancy was to be there to support HER in whatever ways she needed best. 

I had lots of outside people tell me I should handle things differently than I did, but my advice to any hopeful adoptive mom is to simply LOVE your future child’s mother.

Love her FOR HER. Not for the baby, not for what it may gain you, for HER. As she is. Who she is. Love her.

Trust HIM. Love HER.

Being in the delivery room for his birth was beautiful and amazing, but it was also the most heartbreaking moment of my life.

Watching her hold her baby and the tears she cried when the nurses took him off her chest was unbearable to witness.

It was very difficult for me to remind myself that she wanted more for him than she felt she could give.

That this choice was one she was making out of love for him.

It was hard not to feel guilt. Not to feel like I was in someway causing her this unimaginable pain. 

My close bond with our son’s biological mom also made it difficult for me to bond with our son.

Every time I looked at him I saw her.

My heart ached for her.

Broke for her.

I cried tears worrying about how she was feeling.

I saw her in every part of him.

I struggled with feeling like he was MINE when he was so clearly HERS. 

It took me time and some distance from communicating with his birth mother in order for me to fully be able to open my heart to our son and truly bond with him the way I needed to. 

parents with new baby - what to expect with an open adoption

Final Thoughts on Open Adoption

Adoption comes from brokenness.

It will never be a smooth path as it’s not the way God intended for things to be.

If your adoption is open, semi-open, or even closed you will still face a wide range of emotions and many hurdles along the journey. 

It is important to communicate clearly with your spouse on what level of communication you both feel comfortable with regarding the birth family.

It’s important to have these talks with the birth family as well.

It is wise to agree to a less binding agreement (like ours is just the letters and photos) and allow for it to grow and change over time and you all navigate what path is best for each of you. 

I don’t know what the future holds with our adoption relationship.

My focus now is on being my son’s mother and surrounding him with unconditional love in every form.

I will always love and appreciate his birth family and will always raise him to know how much they love him too…regardless of what the relationship may look like moving forward. 

All families are different and I’m so thankful for the way God formed our family together.

I am so thankful for the exact birth mother we were matched with.

I am so thankful for the gift she has given our family and for the strength she has had in choosing adoption for her son.

I’m thankful that my husband and I were open to the idea of knowing her and building that relationship and I’m thankful we will continue to always have our hearts open to her into the future. 

You can read all the details about our adoption journey here!

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

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