Why open adoption? Why ongoing contact? Why invite strangers into your life and make an agreement stating you will have contact with them for the next 18 years? Won’t they come back and take the child? What if your child wants to go live with them? Won’t your child be confused about who their parent is? Why, why why…?
I’m sure some of you have had these, and many other, questions from those around you as you pursue your open adoption journey. As well-meaning as your loved ones are, sometimes their questions can become tiresome. When you embark on an adoption journey, and specifically an open adoption journey, you often need to field these questions and (when you feel it’s appropriate) take the time to educate others about the benefits of openness and ongoing contact. It is important to dispel rumors and falsehoods so that our families, our children’s birthparents, and our children will not face scrutiny, discrimination and prejudice because of adoption.
While openness can be scary at first, the benefits of ongoing contact are numerous. I think the true benefits come when our children are adults and when we can all look back – the parents, birthparents, and the child – and see the magnitude of what having an open adoption really meant for everyone involved. The true benefits can only be felt by those involved. And those are the people that matter the most.
Ongoing contact means answers. Answers to your child’s many questions of, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Who do I look like? Why didn’t my birthparents raise me? What’s my medical history? Do my birthparents ever think about me? Do my birthparents love me? Do I have birth siblings? Do my birthparents want me back?”
Ongoing contact means comfort. Comfort for the adoptive parents when they ask, “Do my child’s birthparents regret their decision? Am I doing as good a job as I promised? Do my child’s birthparents hate me for raising their child? Are my child’s birthparents planning to come take my child back? What is my child’s medical history? How do I answer my child’s questions? Do I know my child’s birthparents loved them so I can explain that love to my child? How do I help my child through their grief?”
Ongoing contact means healing. Healing for the birthparents who selflessly and courageously placed their precious child into a family better suited to care for him or her. Healing for when they ask, “Did I make the right decision? Does my child hate me? Is the family happy? Is my child healthy? Does my child know I love them? Does my child know why I couldn’t parent? Does my child know how much care went into choosing the perfect parent/s for them? I have new information to share, where can I find my child? Does my child know I think about them all the time?”
I can only imagine the questions are endless. However, when you have openness and ongoing contact, you actually have answers, comfort and healing. You can have ongoing discussions and share new information as it develops rather than filling out one history form before the child is even born. You can get to know each other and develop a loving, natural relationship. You can affirm, validate and embrace relationships and feelings rather than hide them away in secrecy. You can focus on moving forward and what the future holds instead of worrying and wondering about the past.