Roundtable #43: Talking With Family Members About Open Adoption

OAB RT buttonThe Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. 

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

One of the ways blogs have been useful to me in living out our family’s adoptions has been by providing me example after example of how different people approach similar conversations. This prompt, based on a suggestion from Traathy of Happily Ever After, is in that vein.

How did you talk to your extended family about open adoption prior to adopting/placing? How did they respond? For those with non-receptive family members, were you able to have more successful discussions with them post-adoption?

Excerpts from the responses:

Jenna (first mother) @ The Chronicles of Munchkin Land: “I left the door open that day, not committing to visits but not saying no. I hadn’t known it was a possibility prior to that point. And that was the extent of the conversation I had with my then-boyfriend, now-husband prior to Munchkin’s birth regarding visits and truly welcoming them into our extended family circle. Obviously, we had more discussions afterward, both coming to the conclusion that, yes, of course, they were family. But prior? No. No discussions. No one gave us any inkling of what open adoption could be for us, so we didn’t know to discuss it.”
Cindy G (first mother) @ Another Crazy Christian: “I have to say, even though the question was about family, the response from coworkers was even worse than plain disinterest. Many of the older people I worked with were actually opposed to the idea of open adoption and thought it damaging to both me and my sons adoptive family. They were quite narrow minded in that respect. So I guess I should be grateful that my family isn’t opposed to open adoption, they don’t care what I do, as long as they don’t have to do anything but maybe put out a few pictures and listen to me for a while.”

Dawn Friedman (adoptive mother) @ Building Family Counseling: “There have been times when we had to sit down and be more direct in our explanations and other times that our loved ones just went along with the reality of our lives. Not everyone in our families understands or is totally on-board with openness as we live it but they do appreciate that ultimately we’re the ones who make the call about what’s best for our kids and we believe absolutely without question that our brand of openness is what’s working.”

Danielle (first mother) @ Another Version of Mother: “Easy answer: I didn’t. Why didn’t I? Well, namely because open adoption was presented to me as a contract. It was presented to me as an obligation, and a part of the requirement to adopt a child, more specifically, my child. It wasn’t presented as an idea. It was, ‘You will get a package at this time, this time, and so forth’.  It wasn’t ever a brainstorming session for me to contribute what I wanted. When it’s presented to you like that, how else do you talk to people about it? You tell them what you know, which is, ‘You will get a package at this time, this time, and so forth.'”

Mommysquared (adoptive mother) @ What Makes a Real Family?: “We were lucky in that no one was dead against wanting us to adopt and for us to  have continued relationships with our child/children’s birth family in an open adoption.  I think some of their  early skepticism was based on what they may have read or heard or seen on television.  Like us not knowing any other families who were living in open adoptions made it hard to realize at first.”

Racilous (first mother) @ Adoption in the City: “But the truth is, when I really think about it, I’m not certain that their acceptance of me actually is the same thing as their acceptance of openness.  The truth is, I sort of fit into M&P’s family, I can find things to talk about, I have a little bit in common, I can at least pretend to have manners and know how to act, and so after the awkwardness faded I pretty much got along with everyone.  But sometimes I wonder if they understand why I’m there.  I wonder if they think I’m there because I want to see my son and seeing him helps me feel better about the adoption (a myth that seems propagated throughout the adoption community), or if they realize that I show up because I truthfully think it’s better for him to have access to me.  I wonder if I had made it hard for them to accept me in their life and their family – if I didn’t get along with the or had a personality that conflicted with them – if they would be as open to me being in their life. ”

Robyn C (adoptive mother) @ The Chittister Family: “Basically, my approach to open adoption and the rest of my family is this: If they have any questions, they are free to ask. Everyone has access to this blog, and I know a few of my family members read it. I’m open about the fact that we have open adoptions, but it’s not something that we make a point of discussing. I do want them to know that we feel that open adoption is important and in the best interest of our children. In fact, I may put that in our holiday newsletter this year.”

Cat (adoptive mother) @ Cat’s Litterbox: “However, when we returned back to MI/IN for the first time with Gus, we met some resistance when we planned our first meeting (post-adoption) with Gus’s birth family. My parents didn’t understand why we felt like we needed to see them (the birth family) every single time we were back in MI. It was hard to explain, and at times, it STILL is hard to explain. While both sets of parents still support us, I don’t know if they fully understand and support our feelings about open adoption.”

TTABaby (adoptive mother) @ Our Familys Fingerprints: “I have discussed our letters to D and J.  I know I’ve mentioned the birthday gifts we sent baby girls birthsibilings.  I try to keep in casual- its just part of life as an adoptive mom.  My Mother-in-law ironically seems to be the one I have talked most extensively with about the openness of our adoption.  I know she once commented on a blanket baby girl had and I said “Oh yeah thats from Baby Girls birth grandmother Mom-Mom.”  I could tell it was awkward for her to hear that.  I’m not sure because she now knows we have a special name for her birthgrandmother or if its because she liked something her birthgrandmother had given her. ”

hunnagirl (adoptive mother, adult adoptee) @ Then I Laughed…: “Since my own adoption is now open I think it’s easier to discuss adoption in general with all of my family and friends. It’s something we are comfortable discussing now. Overall my family and friends are supportive of open adoption. When I had my baby shower after adopting Sylas my friends and family all wrote K notes and I sent them to her. I did read them before I sent them and I was so touched by how loving and supportive they were of her. Sometimes, it is easy to focus on the baby in the adoption process and forget about the adults involved. It meant so much to me that they all took a moment to show her some support and love.”

Geochick (adoptive mother) @ An Engineer Becomes a Mom: “So, as far as the openness we have with C goes, we mention when we see her, and we’ll talk about the little gifts that she brings to Baby X.  They generally mutter something non-committal, or look surprised that we’re still keeping contact and continue on with whatever they are doing.”

About the author:
A mother by open adoption, Heather Schade is the founder and editor of Open Adoption Bloggers. She writes at Production, Not Reproduction.

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18 thoughts on “Roundtable #43: Talking With Family Members About Open Adoption

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