I’ve decided to start participating in the Thursday Thirteen meme here on the Birth/First Parent blog. I’ve been looking for a way to share general tips with my readers about birth parenting, adoption, reunion, reform and adoption in general but struggling to find a format. Enter the Thursday Thirteen meme! Each Thursday I will share thirteen tips with you on a certain subject that pertains to birth parents. While I may try to take a generally positive spin on things, as is my personality, some negative will slip in as well. Each week will feature a theme within the broader realm of “birth parents” and “adoption.”
So what’s our theme this week? The title says it: Thirteen Positives Brought to Birth Parents via Open Adoption. Of course (and unfortunately), the theme needs a disclaimer as my posts often do when I look at any positive aspect. So, disclaimer: there are a lot of negatives in adoption. For birth and adoptive parents and adoptees alike. I am not trying to paint a rosy, one-sided picture. This blog, as a whole, addresses the good and bad of adoption. This singular post is looking at some positive aspects. Everyone clear on my position? Good. Also, some of these points are assuming that the communication lines between birth and adoptive parents are working and working well. Without that, some of these points don’t work.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. Adoptees have access to important information such as their medical records.
Instead of waiting until they are eighteen to possibly begin searching and possibly not receive said information, thanks to open adoption adoptees can have early access to their information. This can greatly help make proper diagnoses while growing up! And if you think that isn’t a positive aspect for birth parents, of course it is. It is a weight off your shoulders to be able to share changes in medical history so that you know your child will always be able to seek appropriate and punctual medical care.
2. Removal of the “unknown” factor. Knowing where your child is and how your child is fairing can be easier than guessing, wondering and worrying for a possible eternity. The ability to pick up the phone and ask as to your child’s well-being can be reassuring for parents who have placed.
3. Fostering a relationship at an early age. As opposed to the closed adoption era, being able to create that relationship with your child from the beginning can remove that possible awkwardness that some families experience upon reunion with their adult child. As you will become part of your child’s reality, you won’t be a big enigma.
4. Pictures. Who doesn’t love pictures of cute kids? More over, who doesn’t love pictures of cute kids that bear your genetic makeup? Thanks to open adoption, birth parents can watch their kids grow and change from shot to shot over the years instead of receiving them all at once upon reunion or not at all.
5. Visits. Again, we’re assuming that this is an open adoption that is working to its fullest extent and, on top of that, working well. But visits can be amazing. They are hard at times, no doubt, but it’s amazing that they even exist. Twenty to thirty years ago, birth parents weren’t being afforded such an opportunity. Early and consistent interaction with their placed child allows that fostering of a relationship. The memories made can help a birth parent make it from visit to visit.
6. The ability to answer questions regarding placement for yourself. Instead of having your child fed lines about what the adoptive parents may think were your intentions for placement, you can answer your child’s questions for yourself in age appropriate manners. No, it’s not always easy to have the discussion but it is worth it in the end to know that your actions and intent have been appropriately represented (by yourself). Your child will not have to wonder or, even worse, misunderstand the reasons behind the relinquishment.
7. The ability to reassure your child that they were always loved. Many adoptees have spoken about feeling as if or wondering whether or not they were loved by their first families. With open adoption, you do have the ability to say, “Yes, my child, you were always loved.” While reunion offers birth parents from closed adoption eras that ability as well, reinforcing that idea in your child’s head and heart as he/she grows can help remove some (but maybe not all!) doubt before it has a chance to fester.
8. A relationship between your parented children and your placed child(ren). Many reunion stories have spoken about siblings, parented and placed, that didn’t get along because of unspoken (or spoken!) misunderstandings and hostility. However, when your children have a chance to grow up “together,” via visits and contact, there’s hope for a better relationship. It’s no guarantee but there is hope.
9. Making memories. Via visits and other forms of contact, memories can be made as your placed child grows. Pictures together, craft projects sent and laughter will be things to keep forever.
10. Open adoption removes the ability for secrecy. And this is a big one for birth parents. In previous generations, first parents were told to act as if the birth and subsequent relinquishment of their child never happened. Years later upon reunion, after marriage and other children, husbands and kids were often shocked and angered by their wife or mother’s silence and secrecy which was often perceived as an outright lie. With open adoption, the ability to hide and/or lie about your child’s existence is often removed. Not all the time, of course! Exceptions exist everywhere. But being honest with your spouse and parented children from the very beginning can help avoid some yucky situations later in life.
11. Regarding the lack of secrecy, birth parents are also more free to speak about their grief and loss. This is a tricky one as open adoption is a double edged sword in that sometimes first parents don’t want to admit that things are still hard as it may be perceived as ungratefulness. However, many have been able to push past that belief and share what they’re really feeling instead of pushing it down for ages and ages. Since it is not a secret, birth parents may feel more able to speak about their feelings of grief and loss with those that they are closest to.
12. Furthermore, regarding the lack of secrecy, birth parents are becoming more willing to speak out for reform and against unethical practices. This is huge, not just for adoption in general, but for other birth parents who may have been forced to keep quiet over the years and for future parents who will relinquish children. The more voices that speak up, the more hope we have for eventual reforms.
13. And it all comes back to the adoptee, really. The relationship, the information, the love shared is just so vital. And, really, it’s not only the birth parent and adoptee who benefit from this contact and shared love. Adoptive parents can benefit in watching their child be loved by one more person, by having an ally, by having that information for their child. Openness can benefit the entire triad.
Now, before you comment and say, “Oh, Jenna, but what about this and that and omg, you’re overlooking this,” I’m aware of the negatives. I’m sure a not-so-distant future edition of this meme will feature those negatives. (At which point another group of nay-sayers will pop in and say, “Oh, but Jenna, but what about this and that and omg, you’re overlooking this.” At which time I will point them to this post.) Nothing in the world, especially in adoption, is fully positive or fully negative. Today I have addressed some things that are positive in open adoption.
If you’re considering placement while reading this, please understand that this is not the whole story about placement. There are negatives. While open adoption can be amazing and positive, it also takes a lot of work from all parties involved. This list is assuming that you are doing your part while the adoptive parents are also doing their part. Communication is key!
In the future of this meme, I foresee some negatives, some positives, some talk on reform, books, links to blogs and websites and talk about adoption in general. Tune in every Thursday for thirteen things that birth parents can relate to on many levels.