Finally, the day you've been waiting for has arrived: it's time to bring home your newly adopted baby!
The days of searching and waiting are over, and it's time to begin a new season of life as a parent. Your entire family wants to meet this little one, and this is such a joyous occasion.
It's a very normal reaction to want to focus solely on bonding with your new child. Many families say they'd like to forget the adoption process: the paperwork, the interviews, the rejection, and the long wait. They desire to move on as a typical family. These are understandable feelings for adoptive parents.
But, amid all your joy, you need to remember and respect the open adoption contact agreement you made with the birth mother. Honoring this agreement benefits the entire adoption triad (you, your child, and the birth family) in these ways:
Medical Information and Help
One of the many benefits of honoring your open adoption contact agreement will be getting your child's medical information from the birth mom. Kids sometimes develop inherited medical conditions such as asthma, psoriasis, hearing, or eye problems. Other, more severe conditions like heart defects, cancer, or illnesses detected through genetic testing occur in all families.
It's helpful to ask the birth mother if anyone in the family had this condition so you can tell your child's physician. Contact with the birth mother allows you to know everything about your child, including medical issues, passed down through family genes. And should a situation ever arise in the future, you can receive more information.
Answering Your Child's Questions
Maintaining a relationship with your child's birth mom allows your child to get their questions answered right away instead of waiting for years for an adoption reunion to have them answered.
Open adoption communication discourages the tendency to fantasize (fill in the unknown parts of their life with imagined persons or personalities, events, or details) about their birth mother or birth family. It also helps fight feelings of abandonment and rejection issues that children in closed adoptions have faced.
Creating More Love for Your Child
Honoring your open adoption contact agreement creates more people who love your child. As you continue the relationship with your child's birth parents, they'll feel your respect. They'll see that you're trustworthy and kept your promises to them and their child. This confirms to them they made the right decision selecting you to adopt their child.
Depending upon your contact agreement with the birth mother, she may receive letters, emails, visits, phone calls, or videos. You may have agreed to these things once a year, or every month; every adoption agreement is different depending upon the birth mother and the adoptive parents. Staying in touch with the birth mother gives her wonderful reassurance of her child's well-being.
What Happens If We Don't Want to Continue Contact?
We have heard of a few unfortunate situations where the adoptive couple agreed to contact just to "get the baby" with no intention of keeping their promised commitment to the birth mother. At Lifetime, we screen these families out as we are committed to open adoption. Of course, this isn't the same as when adoptive parents discover a legitimate reason why ongoing contact isn't a good idea.
When Lifetime encounters families like this, we remind them of their commitment before the adoption. We educate them that this hurts their adopted child as well as the birth mother who entered into this agreement with them. She trusted the adoptive parents would keep their word. Someday, the adoptive parents will have the difficult job of explaining to their child why they didn't keep their word to her.
Ideas for Keeping in Contact
Fortunately, most families honor their contact agreements and even go beyond because a natural relationship develops. Many of these families have shared thoughts on how to make the contact agreement work well. Here are a few ideas:
- Letters or pictures
If you've agreed to send letters or pictures once or twice a year, mark your calendar ahead of time. Set up an alert on your phone several weeks ahead to jog your memory that the due date to send the letters and pictures is coming up.
Set up a shared site with the birth family. Post pictures and updates of your child, and the birth family can visit the website whenever they want.
Correspond with the birth mother via email. This is easier than a phone call, and allows you to share photos and videos as well.
Create a video message to send to the birth mother or birth family. Talk about the child's highlights from the past year. If you're comfortable with it, encourage your child to greet the birth mom.
- Meet up
If your contact agreement included meeting up, choose an easy location for your child, such as a pizza place or a restaurant with a play area. Take a photo album along to show the birth mom events from the year.
Be sure to inquire how the birth mother is doing and how her family is doing. This shows your respect for her. Plus, it helps your child as they get older because you can update them on family situations and events.
What If an Issue Comes Up?
If problems arise, you can deal with them like you would any relationship. Be honest about your feelings and try to maintain a level of communication. If problems still exist, talk to your adoption professional. They are typically happy to work as an intermediary.
Your child's well-being is important. You want nothing to jeopardize this, so it's crucial to find a way to keep open communication with the birth mom. Personal opinions, lifestyle differences, and unclear boundaries can lead to disagreements. Ultimately, you have the last word for contact and interaction with the birth mother or birth family. Move forward in a kind, patient manner, knowing that you will need to explain these circumstances to your child when he or she is old enough to understand your decision.
Every adoption experience is different. There's no textbook about how to maintain contact with the birth parents. It's a unique relationship that depends on mutual trust, respect, and a desire to keep open communication. Sometimes it's hard work, but it's worth the effort.
Open adoption isn't co-parenting; you're in charge of raising your child into adulthood. Ultimately, your child, the birth family, and you will all benefit from having some amount of openness. Honoring the contact agreement shows your child's birth mother, your gratitude for her entrusting her child into your care.