How I Made An Open Adoption Plan For My Baby

meIf Kadie Ballentine has learned anything in life, it’s this: don’t make plans.

A few years back her own plans were turned upsidedown when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant. After going back and forth between raising her baby herself or placing him for adoption, she eventually decided on adoption and ended up creating a brand new life plan for herself.

I first learned about Kadie’s story about a month ago when she sent me a link to her blog, Letters For Brody. As someone who had recently placed, she was looking to connect with others who had traveled down the same path and her agency recommended she get in touch with us. Since then, I’ve gone back a few times to visit her blog — which Kadie describes as “very personal…with a Christian perspective”– and strongly encourage you to do the same.

Whether you’re hoping to adopt, have adopted, are placing a baby for adoption or have placed one, Kadie’s posts about the joys of open adoption and the heartbreak of dealing with all of the “what-ifs” and “what-could-have-beens” are raw and often riveting.

Recently Kadie told me about how she created her adoption plan, what she was looking for in adoptive parents for Brody, and how her heart “melts” every time she gets a photo of him.

1. How did you eventually decide that open adoption was the right option for you?

The idea of adoption is already hard enough. Knowing I was not the best thing for my child was the most devastating emotion I have ever experienced.  Love wasn’t the issue though. I know it was because I was single and didn’t have the financial security he needed. I had to be able to love him from a distance.  I had to be a part of his life.  I had to know he would understand I did want him, but I had to give him what was best for him.  I don’t think my heart could have survived a closed adoption.

2. What did you know about the open adoption before you started the process?

Not a thing.  This was a completely new experience for me.  I didn’t know anything about how it worked.  I didn’t know how open an open adoption could get.  I didn’t even know I could legally have him in the hospital. I was just hoping whatever family I chose would allow that.

3. How did your pre-placement counseling help you to work through your questions and doubts?

Well, my situation was a little unusual. I went back and forth on whether to do adoption or try to take care of him myself.  I tried to run from the idea of adoption, and so therefore I didn’t allow myself to learn as much as I could have about it.  I did talk to friends and family, though, and a wonderful counselor from Life Line.  I found out that in Alabama adoptive families are not legally bound to any type of open adoption agreement.  I literally had to meet the family and know I could trust them to be comfortable with the situation.  Talking through all of the pros and cons with friends and family helped a lot.  It’s hard.  It was truly a God thing; without Him, I wouldn’t have ever had peace about the decision.

4. At what point were you ready to move on and choose adoptive parents for Brody?

me and samAbout two months before I was due.  That was scary. It’s not a lot of time.

5. You mentioned that you “hand-picked” Brody’s family and that you chose them because you wanted to give him “all the things I couldn’t.” What was it about them or their story that clicked with you?

There are so many amazing things about this family.  The most important is that they were Godly people, and I knew he would be raised in a Christian home with biblical values and morals.  The family was fun!  I want Brody to grow up laughing… a lot!  Their personalities meshed so well with ours.  I know he will never be bored with them.  I know they will be approachable and loving.  Another thing is that money isn’t everything to them.  They have the money to provide well for him, but they also have the balance of teaching him what is really important in life.  The list could go on and on.  I am so blessed. I couldn’t name a single thing about them that bothers me!

6. Adoption can be very confusing. At one point you write that “I had no idea what to expect. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be as hard as it was.” What’s the hardest part?

I think for me that’s a two-part answer.  The hardest thing is knowing I’m not the best thing for my child.  As a parent you want the best for your child.  You want to teach them everything you think they should know.  You want to laugh with them, cry with them, and love them hands on every day.  You also want to provide for them and meet their basic needs.  Knowing I couldn’t meet his basic needs was very hard.  It’s also difficult being without Brody; he’s a part of me and the love of my life.  That void is impossible to fill, and it very difficult getting to a place where you can function again in life.  It’s just difficult living every day without your own child.  I was not prepared for the overwhelming love I had for him.  I don’t think anyone can prepare themselves for that experience.

7. What’s been the best part of the placement?

That one is also hard to answer.  Ironically, there are a lot of great things that have come about in this situation.  The best part is that I know I am in God’s will.  I know I don’t have to worry about whether or not Brody will become a Christian.  I know that God has his hand over Him.  When praying about my decision, I just knew that God said if I followed His will He’d take care of him.  When I get pictures of him smiling it melts my heart.  Knowing I will get to be with him in heaven and see that precious smile every day-nothing can shake that peace.

8. It sounds like you and Brody’s mother had a close relationship leading up to the placement. Do you still have a one today?

Yes we do!  It is wonderful!  I have tried to give them space to adapt to having a new little one around, but when we do talk we pick up right where we left off!  She sends me pictures EVERY week without me having to say a word!  She’s so consistent!  I am so thankful for her!  I love knowing Brody is in great hands!

9. How often do you speak to each other and how do you communicate — by phone, email, Facebook, Skype, etc.?

why-i-chose-adoptive-parents-for-babyWe talk at least once a week, sometimes more.  It’s mainly through text messages and emails.  Eventually I will get to see them.  I can only see Brody once or twice a year.  I am so excited to see him, but I am also looking forward to hanging out with his family.  They truly are a joy to be around!

10. What do you think is the secret of having a strong relationship in an open adoption?

I think the secret is for both mothers to realize their role.  I will always be Brody’s mother, but I will never be his mommy.  It is my job to respect the fact that they are his parents.  It is my job to trust that they will do what is best for him, even if I don’t agree with every single decision.  For her, she understands I am changed forever, and I will always have a mother’s heart.  We have a mutual love, respect, and appreciation for each other.  We are able to do for the other what we couldn’t do on our own.  But the biggest secret is to realize it’s not a competition. Instead, realize it just means your child has more people to love him or her.

11. Tell me about how your faith has helped you get through this experience?

My faith is the ONLY way I have survived this situation.  God led me in my decision, brought our families together, gave me peace, and is healing my heart.  Without Him, I would be anxious all the time.  I know when I first left the hospital without Brody I struggled with anxiety for a little while.  But now, there is peace.  Knowing I was obedient to His will means He can bless the situation, bring good out of it, and He has his hand over Brody.  Without Him, I would not be able to deal with this at all.

12. You write that birthmothers need to stick together and share their stories. How has connecting with the birthmother community helped you?

I am new to the birthmother community, and still trying to grow relationships.  It is great having people to talk to about it that can truly understand what you are going through.  People who don’t understand from experiencing it themselves try to be there for you. But they always look at you like they just feel sorry for you. By talking to people who have been there, you have people who have felt your pain, and understand your strength, because they are just as strong.  I have talked to several people who, yes, things were rough, but eventually they got to a point in their journey where things were happy.  They had reconnected with and formed relationships with their children, and it gives me hope.  I constantly fear Brody won’t understand why I did what I did and will resent me, but hearing these stories is comforting.

13. What’s your advice for expectant parents and adopting families who are just starting the open adoption process?

Learn as much as you can.  Pray, pray, pray!  God will lead you.  Adoptive mothers, don’t see your birthmother as a surrogate, or a temporary part of your life.  Always remember her. Even if it is a closed adoption, pray for her, think about her, love her, and appreciate her. Expecting mothers, trust and respect the adoptive mother and father you pick.  Make sure you have peace about the family you pick.  Make lists — pro and con lists, lists about what conditions you would like included in the adoption, list of aspects you would want in the family you pick for your child.  I wouldn’t change the family I picked at all by any means.  But I do wish I would have taken the time to learn more about the process.  There are so many resources out there; USE THEM!!

What do you think of Kadie’s story? Do you believe adoptive mothers see their child’s birthmother as a surrogate? What’s your advice for expectant parents and adopting families? Leave your comments in the section below.

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