Open Adoption -Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Eight years ago, faced with secondary infertility, we decided to adopt a child. After hours of research, we chose open adoption.

We learned a lot through the over year-long rollercoaster ride of adoption. And holding our newborn daughter in my arms I felt the euphoria of a dream realized and knew there was another woman beginning to deal with a tremendous loss.

As I read Amy Seek’s piece Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math in the New York Times this week I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my cheeks.

In rapid succession I relived eight years of experiences in the ten minutes it took to read the article. I lingered over some sentences, letting their meaning sink in and thinking about how those key lines related to our experience of open adoption.

Seek’s description of herself, a near Xerox copy of the birthmother I had dreamed up while we waited to be chosen, is very different from the woman who gave birth to our daughter.

Seek writes about the ‘exceptional commitment’ it takes the adoptive family to keep the adoption open. I don’t know if it was her intent, the bias I bring based on our experience or a little bit of both, but I cringed as I read and reread that sentence.

In my experience, it takes ‘exceptional commitment’ from the adoptive family as well as the birthparents to make an open adoption work. And in our case, no matter how hard any of us tried, parts of the relationship between our daughter and her birthparents had to be closed.

We still talk to our daughter about her birthparents. We openly and honestly answer her questions. We send pictures a few times a year to her birthparents so they can see how she’s growing and glimpse the person she’s becoming.

When we decided on open adoption, we thought we would have the opportunity to build a relationship with our child’s birthmother very similar to the one Seek describes. After reading the article, I find myself once again grieving for the experiences we will never have. And I grieve for my daughter, that she can’t go for walks in the woods with her birthmother and enjoy time alone with her.

I often wonder about our daughter’s experience of life and family. I wish I could crawl inside her head to see and feel the world as she does. I want to understand. I want to anticipate her questions so I can be ready with answers. And I want to know when the time is right to re-open what we had to close, so she has the opportunity to build a relationship with her birthmother.

Seek is right, there is no simple math in open adoption. There are simply too many variables. There is no way of knowing what the relationships between the birth and adoptive family members will be like. But there’s one thing for certain, there are many people who love the child at the center of the relationships that open adoption creates.

8 thoughts on “Open Adoption -Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

  1. You followed me on Twitter and I’m so glad you did because now I have another awesome adoption blog to follow! 🙂

    My daughters are adopted through foster care and because their bio parents couldn’t stay sober, out of jail/prison, etc. we weren’t able to have an open adoption. However, about a year ago I reached out to bio mom. She has been sober over two years now – yay!! – and we are very slowly working towards open adoption. My daughters (9 and 8, respectively) have been asking a lot of questions over the last six months so I hope things work out and we can move forward. (I’m posting the story on my blog.)

    You are right, adoption often takes a turn in a direction we never expected, sometimes good and other times a challenge. No matter what, though, we all need to support each other. Thank you for your honest blog post. 🙂

    1. Thank you Lynn and I’m so glad we’re now connected. I look forward to following your journey.
      It can be very difficult, and hear-wrenching, but worth every minute. I can’t imagine life without our daughter.
      Reach out anytime!

      1. Wow, I’m really behind on my blogs. The kids just went back to school today and I’m getting caught up! Happy mama here!

      2. Oooh, my sympathies. (I’m an introvert, I need my quiet.) Do they have different days off school?

  2. Hi Kimberly,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “Open Adoption -Relationship Status: It’s Complicated.” It’s well written and compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because I would imagine other people around the world have had similar experiences and would be able to relate to your story.

    I’m wondering if you might be open to expanding your piece a bit and submitting it to youshare. If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to share your story with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


  3. Thank you for having the courage and insight to share your story. You’re not alone in your experience, but few people speak out when their open adoption story isn’t the romantic picture they’d envision.

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