What Is Open Adoption With A Birth Family Really Like?

This guest post is by Tennille, an adoptive mother. 

“What is open adoption like?”

It’s a question a lot of people ask, especially if they’re exploring this path as hopeful parents or creating an adoption plan for their baby.

For me, an adoptive mom, open adoption is something I treasure.

I am so thankful that we were able to build our family through this process. The love we have for our son is immeasurable.

He is so unique, such a fantastic, terrific, and fascinating person, and getting to be his family, loving, caring, nurturing, and raising him is such a joy. We couldn’t be more honored, proud, or blessed.

A friend whose family has also been touched by adoption once said to me, “adoption is not all sunshine and rainbows.” While adoption is a beautiful way to build a family, people must realize all adoptions, including open adoption, are not without loss. When there is a loss, there is grief. Grief comes in many different stages and forms.

There isn’t an expiration on grief, and there isn’t an easy way to work through the heartache. I was blessed early in our adoption with a few friends who have provided unique perspectives to help us navigate our journey.

They are adoptive parents, a friend whose daughter had placed a child for adoption, and a friend who is a birth mom. These friendships are such a gift. They have helped me tremendously over the past seven years.


Entering into open adoption after infertility, I felt like I was a pro at understanding heartache and loss. I thought that our suffering could help with connecting with our son’s birthmom. Even before our adoption, I imagined all of the loss we had felt on our journey, the longing for a family, and I thought that placing a child would be hard on our child’s birth parents.

Open adoption is not a comfortable journey: some placements fall through; sometimes there are years of waiting to be chosen as parents,; and maybe the loss of a pregnancy. There are so many different scenarios that lead to open adoption, both for placing and adopting.

My son’s birthmom carried him for nine months, dreamed for him, and then chose us to give him the life she wanted him to have. Placing a child for adoption cannot be a comfortable journey.

To choose a family for your child outside of your own is such an act of love. Heartache is something that birth families and adoptive families experience, and they could use it to find compassion for one another.

Grief will be something that our son will deal with as he grows up and processes the journey that makes us his family. Being open and honest is very important to us. We talk about our open adoption journey the same way other families talk about birth stories.

His birth family longs for him; they miss him; they want to know him. I am not just talking about his birthparents but his grandparents, aunts, siblings, etc. It is different for each of them.

When we welcomed our son, we opened the doors for his birth family to be in his and our lives. While we are still growing those relationships, I am so thankful that we can have them in our lives. It is truly a gift that we can pick up the phone and share milestones, joys and struggles.


Last year our son was having some health issues. There was so much comfort for me to pick up the phone and talk to his birth family about their health history. Asking and answering tough questions helped us navigate our next steps and get our son the care he needs.

I hope that it is comforting to his birth family to know that they too can pick up the phone and call when they have struggles. While some of our relationships are stronger than others, we know this will be a lifelong growth that will happen over time as the time is right.

We have had some birth family reach out and share that they were struggling with different grief stages. Being able to have these conversations truly helps our relationships. Over the past seven years, we have done so much growing.

I look forward to building these relationships and giving our son the security of our family and the gift of knowing his adoptive and birth families. Thanks to the opportunities open adoption has brought us we are all his family.

Tennille is a special education teacher who lives with her husband, son and two whippets in Las Vegas. They love the desert and enjoy many outdoor adventures. Active in their community through their church. They are passionate about sharing their story of building their family through adoption and are proud of the open relationship they have with their son’s birth mom and family. 

Do you have an open adoption story? Email us or learn more about how to share it with our community.