The changing face of adoption
There's no doubt adoption has had somewhat of a stigma. So many people still think of it as something that parents would want to brush under the rug, or keep a secret from their adopted children. How many movies or shows have you seen where adoptive parents made some big revelation to their child, who never in their life knew they had been adopted?
Adoption was that way, I guess you could say, for a long time. Records used to be sealed, and adopted children knew little to nothing of their birth parents (which yes, is the preferred term, as opposed to "natural parents" or "real parents." Whitney and I are both quite natural, and we are not an illusion, so those terms have erroneous implications).
But that scenario is so much less common these days My wife did some research, and her thoughts and mine are merged in this post.
According to the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP), 67 percent of private adoptions have pre-adoption agreements of at least a semi-open adoption. There are varying degrees as to just how open a relationship is desired. Sometimes open means that pictures/letters are exchanged through agency mediation. Sometimes open includes phone calls and visits. But even though they aren’t widely understood, the fact of the matter is that open adoptions are becoming the norm.
Mason's adoption is open. We text his birth mother every day. We talk to her on the phone probably once or twice a week. We have visited her (with Mason) multiple times since placement, and she's even planning on coming to visit our family sometime this summer. We have a picture of her holding our little guy; it's hanging on the wall of the nursery in our house. She will be a part of his life (and ours) forever.
When people find out that Mason was adopted and that we have an open adoption with his birth mother there are usually lots of questions that follow. My wife and I don’t usually mind because we love talking about adoption and sharing our experience.
Here are just some of them:
“Aren’t you afraid she’ll change her mind or try to steal him back?”
No. That would be kidnapping. He is in our custody, and all the paperwork has been properly filed and signed. She can't just "change her mind" on a whim and walk away with Mason. But more importantly, we know she would never do that. She has felt 100% confident about her decision all along because she knows she wants her son to have a good life with both a mother and a father. Since we've known her, she never once waivered in her decision to place her baby.
“Won’t that be confusing for Mason when he gets older? How will he know who his mom is?”
No. If anything, it will be more helpful for Mason when he's older. He'll never have to wonder why his birth mother placed him for adoption, because he'll know how much she loves him and how important it was for him to have a family. His birth mother will tell him that herself (she already has several times, but obviously he's too young to remember :). He'll know she made her decision in absolute selflessness and that he was treasured long before his was born.
He'll also appreciate the fact that he has a complete medical history from his birth mom. Imagine how frustrating and scary it could be if medical issues came up in Mason's life and none of us knew the tendencies of any of his genes. If anything hereditary shows up in his birth mom's health history, we'll know about it.
And no, he won't be confused as to who his mom his. His birth mom does not try to parent Mason, just as my sisters don’t try to parent him when they visit. They come and love him and cuddle with him and soak up every second with him. My wife and Mason's birth mom have different roles in Mason’s life. Both special, and both unique. No confusion there.
"How and when are you planning on telling Mason he was adopted?"
It's not going to be a "Have a seat, Mason. We need to talk" moment. He'll already know he was adopted, just like he'll know he's a boy. He'll have known it as long as he can remember because we won't keep it a secret and we'll all be in touch with his birth mom.
We've also heard this about our open adoption:
“I don’t know how I feel about that.”
Rude. Fortunately, we don't require the approval of anyone who asks that question to keep an open communication with Mason's birth mom.
We also feel absolutely great about our open adoption because we know it is pyschologically and emotionally helpful for Mason's birth mom. She has told us so. After Mason's first night with us, she loved getting that first text in the morning letting her know how everything went. If she were to place Mason in our arms and then never hear from us again, you can see how she would constantly wonder how he's doing and whether or not she did the right thing. But this way, she gets constant confirmation that she did indeed do the right thing.