This guest post is by Tennille, an adoptive mother.
Over this past year I have been given a different perspective on open adoption through the eyes of the our son, Mateus, who joined our family through open adoption five years ago.
First and foremost, I am so thankful for our open adoption. This is something I felt so strongly about with every ounce of my being.
I wanted Mateus to grow up knowing his birth story, where he comes from, who he looks like, what traits he gets from whom and so on.
I also wanted him to grow up knowing the love that his birth family has for him and I never want him to feel like he was not wanted or to feel as though he were a mistake.
Growing our family was full of heartbreak, isolation and, quite honestly, hellish at times, but it was ALL completely worth it!
Welcoming Mateus to our family has been completely miraculous! I love the family we are today!
I have never regretted our open adoption. I look at Mateus’s birth parents as friends, sort of like younger siblings. I am thankful and grateful that they are a part of his life.
But this year was hard. Mateus began to experience feelings that I didn’t expect for many years to come. He began to develop a lot of sadness about being adopted. This was so hard on my mama heart.
In the weeks and months to come after our last visit with his birth family he became extremely emotional and started sobbing at bedtime asking, “Why can’t I just be born from you mommy?” and “Why do I have to be shared?”
I was not expecting this at all. As I held him, I told him about how amazing he is and how many people love him (adoptive & birth family and friends).
I told him I was so sorry that he felt so sad and none of us wanted him to feel sad; there are so many people who love him and want to celebrate his life.
I assured him that we were so glad he is here in our family and I held him as he cried. Shortly after this bout of sadness began, Mateus befriended a kiddo who was adopted from foster care and that kiddo told him that when he misbehaved, he was sent to new homes.
Mateus then became fearful that he wouldn’t be our son forever. Again, broken mama heart.
Our family talks a lot about how many people have a unique journey and that we are thankful for his journey to our family. Assuring Mateus that we love him, that he is our son forever, and making sure that HE feels completely secure in our love for him is our primary focus.
My husband and I began investing more of our time doing quality things to help Mateus feel even more confident with our love. We made it a point to spend a great deal of our time laughing every morning, after school and before bed.
While we have always done a lot of things with him, we set uninterrupted time aside and we are fully present with Mateus building/playing Legos, going for bike rides, reading books, drawing, etc.
When Mateus asks one of us or both of us to sleep in his room we do, (we found a bunk bed with a queen on the bottom so we’re no longer on the floor, yay!). If he needs someone near him, we are there. Listening to him and participating in things he loves to do is so important
I opened up about this with a friend, and she told me a little about her journey. She is a birthmom who placed a baby for adoption 20+ years ago. She shared that for a while her family kept in close contact with her daughter’s adoptive family.
Once she saw things differently, she began to recognize the importance of a secure family unit. She could see the strain on her daughter and as she thought about it, it seemed like her daughter’s parents felt indebted to her.
She contacted her daughter’s mom and let her know she was stepping back, telling them she wanted their family to feel secure in their home, their family unit.
As she put it, even though her daughter’s mom did not need it she felt that emotionally she needed to hear that it was ok to focus on your family unit and do what is best for your family.
We further discussed the relationship we have worked to build with our son’s birth family and how different our journey with adoption has been in comparison to hers. I shared what our hopes are from having a healthy open relationship with Mateus’s birth parents.
When we talked summer had just begun and I was overwhelmed and stressed as I was trying to plan a visit to solely give our son’s birth family a chance to see him.
I had placed a lot of pressure on myself to make a visit happen. I was worried about how Mateus would handle this trip—if he would struggle with feeling like he was being shared.
This trip was not coming together easily, and my friend gave me permission to switch our focus from trying to please his birth family to focusing on our family unit.
I want to point out that this was pressure I placed on myself. I know they wanted to missed him and wanted to see him. In trying to show gratitude I placed unrealistic expectations on myself. This was not their doing; it was mine.
Yes, an open relationship can be an amazing upbringing for an adoptee. However, it does not have to fall within timelines which would cause stress on our family unit.
It is completely OK to make sure our son feels completely protected in our family. His needs come first.
I have changed how we present visits with Mateus’s birth-family and even though he is only 5, we give him a say.
We ask him if he wants to share things with them like if he wants to make a video, send a letter/message to them, if he feels up for a visit, if he would like to see them when they’re passing through our area, where we visit and even for how long we will visit.
Ultimately our decisions are based on what is best for our son. We love that we have a friendship with his birth parents, and access to his birth family. However, we will not force anything on him.
He didn’t choose to be adopted and while we will forever celebrate his adoption, we are respectful that this is a big and confusing reality to him.
While we have always told our son that he is a treasure, we love him, we are so thankful for our family and that we know God has big plans for him, we also started to share more of our journey with Mateus. We talk about our first dreams for him and how mommy and daddy would day dream about what our child would be like.
We shared with him how long we tried to find him, but it wasn’t God’s time for him to be born and how thankful we are that he is here.
We stress what a miracle it is that he was able to grow in his birth mom’s tummy and come to our arms.
We tell him about the day we met his birthmom and how many rainbows we saw, how we knew that God was answering our prayers which was why we named him, Mateus (meaning: A Gift from God).
By shifting our focus to quality time, loving big, laughing hard and playing more, his tears gradually stopped.
Our family bond is strengthened and Mateus continues to amaze us daily with his compassion for others, inquisitive nature, creativity and endless energy.
Mateus is loved by so many. We are so, so blessed and thankful to have built our family through adoption and we are grateful that he is growing up knowing his birth family.
Tennille lives with her husband, son and two whippets in Las Vegas. They love the desert and enjoy many outdoor adventures. She is passionate about involvement with their church, working with students who struggle with learning, their story of building their family through adoption and sharing about the open relationship they have with their son’s birth family.
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