What People Don’t Understand About Open Adoption

This guest post is by Tennille, an adoptive mother. 

It was nearly five years ago when we were blessed to welcome our son into our family—he is the most amazing little boy! We built our family through adoption and have an open relationship with his birth family.

Many people have asked us how do we do it. They say they couldn’t. They ask if it is hard to have communication with our son’s birth family or if it is hard to share him.

I think it might be easy to wonder about those things if you haven’t experienced the life-changing events that we have. We always wanted a family and our bodies just couldn’t make that happen.

Our desire to love and raise a child grew more intense as our efforts failed. When we began to look at building our family through adoption it was different from battling infertility—it was the first time I felt at peace during our whole journey.

Growing up, I had dreamed about adopting children. I always wanted a house full of kids. When my husband and I began to discuss adoption, I shared my concerns about having a closed adoption.

But eventually we decided that we wanted an open adoption. When we got a call that a family member’s friend knew of a young lady who was looking for a home to place her baby with, we were full of hope and gratitude.

A few weeks later, we met her. She said she got chills and knew we were meant to be her son’s parents the moment she saw us.

This young lady, Kelli, was overwhelmed, worried and scared. She chose us. Kelli nervously looked at us and said I would really love for you to be my baby’s parents.

How could anyone want to not include someone who was placing such an amazing, life-changing, answer-to-our-prayers, miraculous treasure into our arms forever? Her decision made me a mom, my husband a dad.

Sometimes people are surprised to learn that I was the one who told Kelli that she didn’t have to sign off on a closed adoption before our son arrived, which was what she initially wanted.

In the hospital after meeting our son, Mateus, she looked up at me with hope in her eyes and said, “He is so amazing. I would love to be a part of his life if that is still okay.” We answered with a “Thank you” and “Yes”!

Having an open adoption is not just for our son. Yes, he deserves to know who he is and where he comes from. He should be able to ask the tough questions and get answers.

But Mateus’s birth family also deserves to know how he is, see him grow, get to know him and share in his life. It is fun for us to share news and milestones with his birth parents.

When Mateus was a few months old we received the message that his birth father, Chris, wanted to meet him. As soon as that door was opened we make it a point to include him in visits and updates. He brings with him Mateus’ half siblings.

We are building memories with Mateus’s birth family throughout his life. We live in a different state and when we visit his birth state we let Kelli and Chris know we are coming.

If anyone from our son’s birth family comes to visit our state, we make a point to meet up with them. We created a private Facebook page so that we can keep his birth family updated with photos and share updates with them.

We send pictures, texts, videos and have video chats, phone calls and as Mateus asks he sends letters too. We share artwork, send cards and reach out to them.

Last summer we were in his birth state and able to spend time with Kelli, Chris and (his half) siblings.

With time visits transform from nervous energy to bonding. No one really knows what to expect at first, but with time it’s just like visiting with family and friends, you are catching up with them.

As I sat and watched each of them interacting with Mateus this summer, I realized something: Everyone is looking for a connection with him.

As Mateus grows they will all find their own bond with him. We celebrate that he can bond with them and we choose not to see it in a jealous way, we celebrate it!

It is awesome that Mateus will have memories with them throughout his life and with time he will have a different bond with each of them. Growing up knowing he is loved from all of us.

I get excited when Mateus lets us know that he understands adoption. I truly believe the more it is just known and talked about the healthier it is for him.

He has started to ask some big questions. He saw a pregnant lady at the park and told me she has a baby in her tummy and asked me if the baby will go to a new mommy and daddy. I told him I wasn’t sure but most likely the baby would stay with that mommy.

A few days went by and then he got very emotional and asked, “Mommy, why didn’t I stay with Momma Kelli?”

I wrapped my arms around him and said, “Sometimes mommies have babies and they aren’t ready to be a mommy yet or they can’t take care of their baby and then, sometimes there are mommies who have broken tummies and they can’t have a baby”.

Then he finished with, “So the mommies who can’t take care of them give them to a mommy like you!”

“Yes!” I told him “I am the luckiest mommy in the world! You are the best, most wonderful person ever! Daddy and I are overjoyed to be your family! We love you so, so much! I love being your mommy!”

Mateus hugged me and said “I love you, mommy! You are my best friend! And daddy is my bestest friend!”

He just recently started to ask questions and connect that since he has a Tummy Mom, if he has a Tummy Dad too. Again he became very emotional, and I asked him, “What are thinking about?”

He asked for a hug and said, “I have 2 moms but I don’t have two dads.”

I told him, “Honey you are such a special boy that God gave you two moms and two dads!”

Mateus cried, “But I don’t know who he is”.

I hugged him and assured him, “Oh but you do! It’s Chris.”

Then we talked about some memories with him and the kids at the park and video chats. I pointed out the framed pictures of Chris in our house.

He took a deep breath and said, “oh good, I was scared I didn’t have a Tummy Dad. So Chris, is my Tummy Dad like Kelli is my Tummy Mom. You are my mommy and daddy is my dad forever right?”

I hugged him and assured him, “Yep! How cool is that?”

We don’t shy away from talking about his birth story or answering questions. His birth story is celebrated, he is loved, and we are over the moon for our son!

Understanding he has a birth father is very new; we explain things as he is ready. He may not understand it all, like that he has siblings, but he knows them and he knows that they are all family.

He asks often if he has a brother or sister growing in another mom’s tummy and he wants to know when they will be coming to our home. He has been praying for a little brother or sister for a few years now.

There are no handbooks for an open adoption. There are a lot of unknowns and it takes time to figure things out. I encourage parents to talk with their birth parents and ask them what they are comfortable with.

Don’t turn away from communication if they ever seem distant or not interested. Placing a child for adoption is not easy and sometimes it is hard for them.

Don’t stop reaching out. A birth parent shouldn’t be shamed for their decision to place their child. Placing a child does not mean that they do not love a child.

Birth parents often love their child fiercely and they are determined for their child to have the best. And choosing parents for their child is huge!

An adoptive parent shouldn’t be shamed either. Choosing to parent, to love, nurture and care for a child should be celebrated.

Parents come in all forms; Birth, Adoptive, Foster, Step, Surrogate, etc.. In the end, we are all moms or dads and doing the best we can for our child.

Tennille 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 and mom’s group, 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 birthmom and family. 

Do you have an adoption story to share? Email us any time or find out more about how to share it with our community.

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