Editor’s Note: The following is a post written by IAC’s adoptive mother, Kim Fagan-Wiseman about many fears that come up during the wait to adopt.
There’s no doubt about it. Most of us fantasize during the waiting period. We think about their first birthday party, family holiday gatherings and how much we will give and love our child. After we linger in those blissful moments, there’s a notion that we couldn’t possibly be happy. Then, like a turbine wind tunnel, we are swept into the fears of open adoption. The more we think about our fears, the more we tend to believe them. As I’ve talked about before in previous blog posts, fear is nothing more than a repeated thought. So, with this in mind, let’s have a candid conversation about those fears and how we can learn to trust our guidance to know the truth behind open adoption.
Fear: I’m afraid that the birth parents will change their mind.
Yes, there is always the chance that the birth parents can change their mind. However, I want to encourage you to look at the possibilities rather than fear itself. In fact, the birth parents may be just as concerned that you will change your mind. We are always trepidatious when the future seems uncertain. One way to better understand each other’s intentions is to have an open and honest discussion about how you are feeling. Transparency will provide a clear and honest direction of strengths and opportunities for growth within the relationship. Reach out to your Social Worker to share your concerns and fears. It’s important that you realize that there is a support system available to you. You are never alone during this process.
Fear: My child will love their birthparents more than they will love me.
Just take a moment and think about this. When you remove the “insecurity” from the equation, is this really the truth or fear talking? This “undeserving feeling” of love can be very deceptive. If you peel away these insecurities, you will realize that your child will love you with no hesitation. Through open adoption, your child will also have a healthy understanding of who their birth parents are and their unconditional act of love, in choosing you as their parent. Remember, adoption is something that “happens to your child” and isn’t “who they are.” Children internalize the feelings around them. If you allow fear to dominate your experience, how do you think your child will feel? Therefore, allow acceptance into your life and believe that love has no boundaries, if you permit it. Embrace this amazing gift you have been given and stop questioning your intrinsic value.
Fear: Open adoption will confuse my child and family.
Let me be blunt here. The only thing that will confuse your child is your own confusion of what family is. “Family of choice” are those who love and accept you for who you are. Family is filled with acceptance, understanding, compassion and of course, unconditional love. It is up to you and the birth parents to find common ground and follow through with your commitments and agreed boundaries. By doing so, you allow your child to know that they are loved, wanted and cherished without wanting to possess them. Of course, everyone has a different definition of what family is. Yet, universally, it is the love for your child and acceptance of their birth family, which will help shape the strength and longevity of the relationship. Both the birth parents and adoptive parents have something magnificent to offer one another. Teach your child by the clarity of your own example. Be transparent, caring and most importantly, be consistent in your actions.
Fear: I’m afraid that the birthparents will try to undermine or replace me.
This fear is so very common and understandable. In fact, those who have childcare often think that their child will be emotionally “taken” from them. Here’s the truth – no one will replace you. They can’t. You are their parent – their soul connection. You wake up in the middle of the night for feedings. You wipe the tears away after they have scraped their knee. Additionally, your presence in your child’s life does not and should not negate their feelings for their birth parents. When you have a healthy relationship with the birth parents, there is no need for “replacement.” There certainly is enough love in your child’s heart for everyone. In fact, you might even grow to love the birth parents as well. After all, love has no limitations and fear has no grounds for permanence.
Fear: I’m afraid my child will want to live with his/her birth parents when they grow older.
Prepare yourself. Children will say ANYTHING to get your attention. Yes, they may even say, “I want to live with my birth parents” when they get older. But, they will also say:
- “Can I get my belly button pierced?”
- “You just SO don’t understand me!”
- “Do NOT add me on Facebook.”
- “Are you going through menopause or something?”
- “I won’t gain weight like you.”
- “When I’m 18 years old, I’m an adult!”
Oh, the list goes on. Sure, your child will likely say these things and more. That is what children do. What is important to remember is to choose to “respond” to the situation and not “react” to it. It’s easy to get hurt and let our emotions get the best of us. We do it all of the time. There’s no doubt about it. Raising children can be challenging. But, with challenges comes opportunities to learn, grow, and better understand each other and our selves. Be open to learning more about yourself and not let fear control your actions. After all, a family has been made. Hold on and enjoy the ride. It’s worth every moment, even the teenage years!