What Open Adoption Means To Our Adoptive And Birth Family

This guest post is by Jody Cantrell Dyer, an adoptive parent and author.

jodyToday, Valentine’s Day, I turn the “Big 4-0.”

I expect I’ll mark the occasion with chocolate and reflection. Like most women, I’ll question, analyze, and remember big decisions in my life in great detail.

One decision I made early in 2010 was to open my heart and mind to open adoption. That decision created a new dynamic and much bigger story for many.

Our open adoption holds significant meaning— not just to me, but to my entire family and my child’s birth family.

What open adoption means to us:

I have two sons, Scott, who is adopted, and Houston, who is biological.

Scotty is 3 1/2 years old. For Scotty, open adoption means that his parents were able to meet him the day he was born. 

Open means that there is no mystery or shame surrounding his conception or his birth parents’ decision to place him for adoption.

He has access to his genetic medical history. He has access to personal details that make him unique.

Most importantly, he has access to more people who love him, and, because our relationship is open, people who can tell him they love him.

Houston is 12 years old. We started the adoption process when he was six.

To him, open adoption means an education in understanding, acceptance, love, boundaries, and spiritual bonding.

Unless he has basketball practice, he goes with Scotty and me to visit Scotty’s birth family.

jody-cantrell-dyer-childrenIt’s important that Houston share in all aspects of Scotty’s life. I don’t want my sons to feel separated by the circumstances of their births.

I want them to grow up supporting each other through meaningful experiences.

Kerri is my child’s birthmother.

Kerri and I do speaking engagements for our agency.

At a recent event, our social worker asked Kerri, “What does open adoption mean to you?”

Kerri replied, “Open adoption means that I never have to worry or guess about Scotty’s life. He didn’t disappear into a black hole. I get to hear about what he’s learning and doing and Jody tells me all the funny stuff and sends me cute pictures. And I never have to worry about what he thinks of me. I can tell him why I placed him for adoption and I can tell him that I love him.”

Bryant is Scotty’s birthfather. Our relationship is not as close because he lives out of state.

I think open adoption means that Bryant can enjoy Scotty’s life from a distance and have peace of mind that his son is healthy and happy.

When I text him a photo of Scotty, he always replies in a caring, supportive manner.

For me, open adoption means that Kerri was able to reassure me as I anticipated Scotty’s birth, and I am able to comfort her as she grieves and heals. Kerri is also my friend. For life.

Our relationship is based on mutual love and concern for Scotty; the child she birthed, the child I raise.

My husband Jeff was adopted as an infant in 1963.

The records, and any answers to his questions over the last fifty years, are sealed.

Scotty’s birth and our open adoption means that Jeff can listen to Kerri and Bryant explain their decision in loving terms.

Open adoption means full circle awareness and understanding for Jeff–of his birthparents’ sacrifice and unselfishness, and of his adoptive parents’ deep and immediate love.

As we left the hospital in 2010 with our new, two-day-old Scotty, I asked Jeff, “Can you believe this really happened? Can you believe that we actually have this baby boy?”

Jeff answered, “I know.”

I said, “It’s unbelievable. How do you feel?”

Jeff answered, “I may never meet my own birthmother, but at least I got to meet Scotty’s.”

On this Valentine’s Day, I will celebrate turning 40 with my family—a family built on adoption—and I’ll be thankful that I opened my heart and mind and made good decisions.

When we started the adoption paperwork in 2008, I never imagined it would lead to the relationships we now enjoy with Scotty’s birth family. Now, I can’t imagine anything else.

Jody Cantrell Dyer is an adoptive mother and writer in East Tennessee. In her memoir, The Eye of Adoption: The True Story Of My Turbulent Wait For A Baby, Dyer directly addresses the sorrows of infertility and the demands of adoption while consistently word-weaving a life-rope of assurance, optimism, and humor for her readers. The Eye of Adoption is available on Amazon.com and through Jody’s website: www.jodydyer.com.

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