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Opening Adoption – Loving Equally, Yet Differently

We’re taking Ava to meet her birth mother!

There, I bet that got your attention.

This has been something we’ve thought long and hard about over the past year, which is about how long it’s been since Ava has started asking consistently if she can meet her first mother. So after lots of discussions, research, reading and consulting with people from all 3 corners of the triad, as well as with those who work in the adoption community, we’ve decided to go ahead. 

Opinions varied

All the research we’ve done into the topic ourselves points to openness being the best option for the emotional well-being of the adoptee. And aside from one adult adoptee we spoke with, all the others agreed. It was also interesting to note how the opinion on openness varied, depending on the age of the people we spoke with. 

Secondary Rejection 

The number one concern is that of secondary rejection, something I’m not at all concerned about, given the level of openness we already have with Ava’s first mother. We’ve been friends on Facebook for about 5 years now. We have exchanged telephone numbers and have fairly regular contact with each other. Ava enjoys trading voice notes with her occasionally and so because of this, secondary rejection is not a concern. 

Adoptee Guilt

This is one of the areas we have been so focused on in all of this. I think people need to understand that this is about Ava and what she needs to emotionally develop without guilt and being secure in her identity. It’s not about her first mother, although I do strongly believe this meeting will bring a level of healing to her too. It’s also not about my husband and me, or more specifically about me as her mother. It is most important for us that both our girls grow up NEVER feeling guilty or disloyal to us because they have questions about their identity, where they come from etc. And we strongly believe that being open to her questions and open to openness in adoption will help her alleviate any guilt she may have. I know from conversations with adult adoptees, of so many who have not made contact with their birth parents, despite having a desire to, out of a fear that they will hurt or seem disloyal to their adoptive parents.

There is room to love everyone in the triad without anyone feeling threatened. 

The number one question my family and friends have asked is how I, as her mother, specifically feel about all this. And let me state categorically that first off, assisting my children in their search for identity has NOTHING to do with my feelings and secondly, I believe there is room for all of us to love each other. I was chatting to a friend recently, a very wise, dynamo of a woman, who is also a kangaroo mom and she summed up for me perfectly what this means:

I always say to people ‘we understand fully that a child can love a mother and father equally yet differently and we get that the love a child has for parents is absolute yet completely non-threatening to the other parent. It should thus be easy to see that a child could love two moms and two dads equally, yet completely different, without any threat to the other’.

TRUTH!

When I think about how many modern families are blended families and this logic works perfectly for them, why shouldn’t it be the same for adoptive families?

You’re not my real mom….

Some with slightly more old-fashioned views on adoption & specifically open adoption,  have expressed a concern that heading into the teenage years, allowing this openness could result in a lot of “you’re not my real mom” comments. But the truth is guys, teenagers are selfish little shits at the best of times, so I’m pretty sure my children will say this to me anyway, along with the I-Hate-You’s that bound to go hand in hand with teenage angst and tantrums.  I don’t see having a more open adoption would change that at all. 

What does she want?

We have had a frank and age-appropriate conversation with Ava about what it is she wants out of this meeting and really it’s quite simple. She wants/needs to see her first mother in the flesh to feel anchored to her identity, to know she is a real, tangible person. She has expressed her desire to tell her birth mother that she has been searching and longing for her, in fact, her exact words, in her 8-year-old vocabulary, that scream of loss and questions about identity were this:

I just want to tell her I’ve been walking in a forest, searching through the trees to find you!

So we’re doing it.

I am so incredibly excited for her. She has been beside herself with excitement since we made the decision and told her. Of course, Ava’s first mother is super excited too and I think she’s going to love and treasure the hundreds of paintings and letters Ava has been creating for her in the build-up to the meeting. 

So no, I’m not threatened by Ava’s love for her first mother. I only wish we could have the same arrangement with Hannah’s birth mother. But we’ll have to deal with that when the time comes. 

If you’re an adoptive parent in a closed adoption, have you thought about moving towards more openness? 

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20 Comments

  • Reply Momma Jo

    Sending Ava all the love and heart healing vibes. You are truly an inspiration to all adoption parents. Thank you for sharing your journey so openly with us.

    October 17, 2018 at 11:49 am
  • Reply An Ordinary Gal

    Phew Sharon….. I could barely breathe reading this….it made me so emotional. Trying to put myself in Ava’s shoes…yours and her birth mom’s….and I think I may implode from the emotions I feel…plus some of me still in there as well. lol.

    This is such a wonderful and I’m sure maybe a bit of a scary time as well…. Wishing you and your family all the best!

    And yes, you’re so right about teenagers…I’m preparing myself for: I wish I was adopted and you weren’t my mother! lol

    October 17, 2018 at 12:05 pm
  • Reply Amelia

    I was the most horrible teenager, and I never said things like that to my mom (“I hate you”, etc…) I don’t think we should worry ourselves over one moment of potential hurt and conflict that may never even come.

    I think that this is an amazing thing to do, and Ava will never forget your support and love.

    My daughter knew her birth mother for the first 5 years of her life (until her BM died). Although she knows and loves me as her mom now, there’s been massive value to her in knowing her BM and sharing some experiences / memories with her. It doesn’t compromise our relationship at all. In a way, it enriches it.

    October 17, 2018 at 12:48 pm
  • Reply karabo lenkoe-magagula

    yes oh yes i want an open adoption for both my girls.. i have looked every single day on FB to find them. i have emailed the social workers who handled the case, but so far nothing..it pains me that my girls might not experience this. my older one, 6 year old has asked if when we go to cape town, will we go visit her 1st mother..i could not respond to that as i have no contact with her. i am even thinking of hiring a pvt investigator to assist as i do not want them to wait until they are 18 years, thats too long..

    October 17, 2018 at 1:02 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I contacted our social worker who handled Hannah’s adoption to ask if we could discuss possibly a more open arrangement and was told it was too late, we should have asked for that before placement. It’s so hard. xxx

      October 17, 2018 at 1:04 pm
  • Reply Tanya

    I’m so glad for all of you. And I love that it’s about Ava.
    It’s going to be emotional for all of you but it’s an amazing experience for all of you.

    Openness is the way to go if everyone is on board like you all are.

    Sending love

    October 17, 2018 at 1:04 pm
  • Reply Megan Keith

    I love the quote from your friend – wow! So profound. I love that you are so open with Ava. I would love to have an open relationship with my sons birth mother…alas, I’m not so sure how possible it will be one day. Wishing you all the best for your special meeting in December xxx

    October 17, 2018 at 3:51 pm
  • Reply Carolyn

    This is so wonderful Sharon!!!!! I am so for openness in adoption and wish I could have this for both my boys!

    October 17, 2018 at 4:09 pm
  • Reply Shelly

    Surely it is never too late?

    October 17, 2018 at 4:23 pm
  • Reply Cat

    Good luck Sharon! I’m sure even with all above in mind it’s not easy!

    October 17, 2018 at 4:53 pm
  • Reply Judy Duncan

    Just love this such a difficult decision but wishing you all a great meeting and a positive outcome. I gather in replying to a previous comment you don’t have the same communication with Hannah’s birth Mom so I’m interested in how you are going to handle it if/when Hannah wants the same thing with her birth Mom ie. to meet/visit her?

    October 17, 2018 at 5:24 pm
  • Reply Khadija Fakir

    Wow! Sending you love. Would love to know what happens.

    October 17, 2018 at 9:03 pm
  • Reply Dionne

    At least you dont have to worry about the rejection. Does the birth mother have other kids?

    October 18, 2018 at 7:01 am
    • Reply Sharon

      That is not open for discussion on my blog. Not my story to tell.

      October 18, 2018 at 8:47 am
  • Reply Heather

    All the best for this new brave step. I know it will be good for all of you.

    October 19, 2018 at 10:14 pm
  • Reply Bridgette Moodley

    Sharon, I wish you and your family much peace during this transiton. You are such a strong mamma, to work through all the emotions that us adoptive moms face, and still be bold to embrace Ava’s longing for her history. Parenting is never perfect, so be kind to yourself during this road. Wishing you and Walter much strength and courage as you help navigate with Ava the next chapter of her beautiful story.

    October 20, 2018 at 6:23 pm
  • Reply luchae

    Bless your beautiful, unselfish heart! I love what you said…. It’s about the child, not about us, as parents. This is my mantra!

    October 21, 2018 at 8:59 am
  • Reply Melissa Javan (@melissa_nel)

    This sounds so scary. I’m happy that you’ve done research and I like your views on this. All the best.

    October 21, 2018 at 9:31 pm
  • Reply Ilse

    I found my daughters mom on Facebook and sent her a message and she instantly blocked me. I always wonder if I could of said things differently or said more.

    November 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Adoption is so complex and every story is different so we can never quite predict how things will turn out.
      Sending you love.

      November 9, 2018 at 3:53 pm

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