Today, we address a question from a hopeful adoptive mom who is concerned that she won't have support from her family during the adoption journey:
"My husband and I are so excited to adopt! We've always known that we wanted to adopt a baby. But, our parents and grandparents don't seem to understand why we'd want an open adoption.
Yesterday, my dad asked me why we want the birth family to remain in our lives. And my grandma has made it clear that she looks down on birth mothers; she doesn't think they should be able to choose their baby's parents.
How can we get the support of our families during the adoption process? I'm worried about the impact that their negative views of open adoption will have on our future child!"
It's not surprising that your parents and family members are anxious about the idea of an open adoption. After all, they're from a different generation, when closed adoption and secrecy were the norm. In the past, birth mothers were typically viewed negatively for being pregnant out of wedlock and for giving away or "abandoning" their children. As for the children, it wasn't common for them to be told they were adopted, let alone for them to have birth parents involved in their lives.
Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often anymore, because of open adoption. Adoptees grow up with knowledge of their adoption from the start, and birth mother is able to receive updates on her child.
Your parents might view the birth mother as a threat: someone who could change her mind and take away the baby, leaving you in pain. Some of their worries stem from a desire to “protect" you. They may have seen your struggles with infertility, and they don't want you to experience any more disappointments.
In reality, a birth mother is much less likely to change her mind and reclaim a child if she has the peace of mind inherent in open adoption. In your case, the birth parents select you, and, because you'll have an ongoing relationship, they'll know firsthand that their child will have a good life.
Education is Key
To move past their stereotypes and fears, your parents will have to learn more about open adoption. Before making the decision to adopt, you probably went through an educational process yourself. In our experience, this is an ongoing journey. The more you learn about open adoption--especially about its benefits to your child--the more comfortable you become with it. Your parents have not had this opportunity to evolve in their thinking.
First, think about what convinced you that an open adoption was right for you. Was there a particular book that helped dispel any myths you held? If so, lend it to your families. Did an informational session hosted by an adoption agency or support group help you make up your mind? Many adoptive parents have found that their relatives benefited from hearing webinars featuring birth mothers. Listening to these women talk about the love that went into their adoption decisions, as well as the importance of an open relationship, can open a doubter's eyes.
Moving Past a Fear of the Unknown
As your family members learn more about your open adoption, they will see that the birth mother is not a threat. Much of their current anxiety is rooted in a fear of the unknown. They imagine the birth mother as a mysterious figure, lurking in the shadows, ready to grab your child and run. Assure them that this is much more likely to happen in a soap opera than in real life!
You can do a lot to help your parents move past such fears when you have already been matched with a birth mother. Share photos, letters, and information, so that she becomes a real person to them. Even better would be for your relatives to meet her themselves, if this is something that the birth mother would like as well.
Free Webinar Series on Open Adoption
Through this series of open and honest webinars, you can educate family members about what it means to have an open adoption. They'll hear firsthand how adoptive families and birth parents built and maintained positive relationships with each other through their adoption experience!
This article was originally published on July 11, 2018, and has since been updated.