Things have changed a lot in the world of adoption over the past 20 years. Once shrouded in secrecy and shame, the majority of adoptions are now open and involve some degree of contact with the birthmother, both before and after the adoption is finalized. Having knowledge about things like genetic medical conditions is obviously good for adopted children. And because the biggest source of pain for adopted children in the past was the unknown–not knowing who their birth family was or why they were put up for adoption–having an open adoption helps ease that pain.
But, if you ask people about open adoption, the first reaction of many is something along the lines of, “I don’t think I would want that. Won’t you be worried the birthmother will want her baby back?”
That was actually my first reaction, too. I was intimidated and fearful of open adoption when we first started thinking about it and even as we went through the home study. There was even a point when I had serious second thoughts about whether or not I could handle an open adoption. I felt threatened. With the birthmother still somewhat in the picture, would I ever feel like the “real” mother to my child? Would I just be a substitute mom or a glorified nanny? Could I handle “sharing” my baby with the woman who had actually given birth to him? Would I be jealous of their innate connection and constantly reminded that our child was, in fact, someone else’s? Was I setting myself up for heartache and pain?
These feelings, I think, are probably pretty common among prospective adoptive parents, at least at the beginning of the process. My feelings on open adoption evolved quickly, though, as soon as I realized I was thinking about it in entirely the wrong way.