Adoptive Families Blog

Cookie Cutter Adoption?

Posted by Mardie Caldwell on May 19, 2016

Open Adoption With One Birth Mother,
Semi-Open With Another?

cookie_cutter_adoption.jpgDear Mardie,

We are ready to adopt again, but this time, we do not want to be as open to birth mother contact.  Specifically, we do not want to be open to visits. Our daughter’s birth mother had specified that she only wanted pictures and letters. We wouldn’t want one child to have visits with a birth mother and not the other – it would just seem unfair and maybe confusing.  Is that okay?

I have heard this from many parents over the years.  They want a situation very similar to their first adoption, so the children have more things in common and there are less differences to explain.

Let me let you in on a little secret… there are always differences you have to explain, even when you plan for there not to be.

Consider Joseph and Megan, they have two adopted children from Lifetime and both birth parents agreed to exchange pictures and letters.  Dawn, their son’s birth mother, kept in touch two or three times a year for the first five years.  Mostly, she just received the updates that Megan sent to Dawn’s mother’s home.  Dawn would respond with a note now and then, but her life wasn’t particularly stable.  The last update they got from Dawn said that her mother had passed away and she would write with a new address for the updates when she had one.  Four years have gone by and they haven’t heard a word from her. 

Sarah and Jake, their daughter’s birth parents, also receive pictures and letters from Joseph and Megan, but eagerly respond with updates from their own life, including photos of them and their younger children.  They send birthday and Christmas gifts to their daughter and to Joseph and Megan.  A few years after the adoption, Sarah and Jake got married and shared in their wedding program how going through adoption for their daughter was difficult, but it brought them together in a way nothing else could.  They shared a copy of this with Joseph and Megan for their daughter’s baby book so she could one day see more of their story. 

In light of those differences in the results of what ‘letters and pictures’ are in the real world, see what Joseph and Megan have to explain to their children? Why one gets gifts from birth parents that the other does not? Why one has more of a ‘story’ to her adoption than the other? Why one child’s birth parents chose to stay in touch and another didn’t?  Even when you try to make all things equal, they rarely are.

As a follow up, Megan mentioned once in an update to Sarah that she sure wished their son’s birth mother was in touch still, but they just don’t hear from her.  From then on, Sarah would always include a little note and gift for their son too, reminding him he is special and a part of their family too, just like his sister.

Everyone has their own story, and it is our job as parents to be sensitive to our child’s needs and share information at an age appropriate level.  Children’s first thoughts are usually about themselves, so have limited cares or concerns about birth parents. It isn’t until a child is older that they become more aware and may become more inquisitive. 

Just because Dawn no longer keeps in touch with Joseph and Megan, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care about her son. Similarly, just because Sarah and Jake do stay in touch, doesn’t mean they love their daughter more.  They are just different people, with different needs and in different circumstances. 

Think of your own circle of friends…  Maybe you have one who is a planner and always inviting you somewhere, another who tends to cancel last minute, and still another one who is so busy with her job and family that she can rarely do anything.  Look at your Facebook feed…  Some of your friends there post their morning coffee, others detail every stop on the carpool, and others maybe post something once a week that is simply shared content.  

We are all different.  All adoptions are different.  And when I speak with a family who wants to limit their preferences to try to make things the same, I strongly encourage them against it.  Like Megan and Joseph, you can have two similar scenarios with completely different outcomes.  In adoption, flexibility will always serve you well.

There are many, many more differences that can arise in similar adoptions, such as differences in appearance, in talents, in medical needs, and so much more! 

Find your level of comfort with contact, and go with that.  Please don’t restrict your preferences simply in hopes that you will have cookie cutter adoptions. As much as they may seem alike, there will always be differences!

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Topics: birth mother, Open Adoption, open adoption visits, relationship with birth mother, semi-open adoption