The Joy of Openness
By Pam Banks
When I discuss open adoption with other people that haven’t been through the process, the reactions and comments cover a wide range. Comments from family members have included, “why would you want to do that?” or “are you sure that is a wise idea?” Strangers, acquaintances, and friends have asked me “aren’t you afraid that the baby’s mother will want her back?”
I will be the first to admit that at the very beginning of the process I was horrified by the whole open adoption idea. My original, uneducated, gut reaction was “NO, NO…absolutely not!” After talking with Angelia, my counselor from The Cradle, I began to understand that this wasn’t about co-parenting with the birth family. It was about peace of mind for all parties involved including myself. As my terror subsided, I began to realize that I would find peace as well by knowing my child’s birth family. There is nothing more terrifying than the unknown. Not knowing about the birth family would have me constantly wondering if they were lurking outside my house ready to take my child away even if it was only a subconscious thought. My child’s birth family could be more at peace knowing that the child they placed for adoption was happy, healthy, and loved…information they could glean for themselves by having contact with the baby. After giving all of my new information consideration, I was able to move along to “well, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.”
Eventually, I became a firm believer that the only way to proceed with a healthy adoption for all involved was through open adoption. Although becoming more educated about what open adoption really meant helped me see more of the light, my true turning point came when I attended the required Adoption 101 class. I remember listening to an adult adoptee named Carla who had been adopted before open adoption was considered acceptable. I saw and heard the intense pain she felt because she was not able to talk openly about who she was and where she came from. She was made to feel that simply wanting to discuss her adoption and her birth parents was considered a betrayal to her adoptive parents. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I could never look my child or myself in the face if I was ever the cause of such pain for my child, a child that I claim to love unconditionally. When my counselor mentioned presenting me to a birth mother who said she didn’t really want any contact, I had immediate feelings of misgiving about meeting her, let alone adopting her child, a testament to my complete turn around on the subject of open adoption.
My daughter, Kamaya, turned one year old in March. Visits with her birth family have averaged about once a month since I brought her home from the hospital when she was a day old. Her birth family and I originally signed our contract agreeing to meet every three months. We have gone above and beyond our agreement including overnight visits, which were not originally discussed. I’m completely comfortable letting her stay overnight with her birth mother and biological grandmother since it’s like leaving her with my own family members. Not only does Kamaya have a relationship with her birth family, I feel that I have extended the circle of people I consider my family.
To families in the process of adopting or those just beginning life with their new baby and his/her birth family, I urge you to make every effort to achieve and maintain a strong relationship with your baby’s birth family. The rewards are both powerful and filled with love because of the shared joy of a child. As a single mom, I know that I can never have too much support and Kamaya’s birth family has been as supportive as my own family.
The most important issues to keep in mind when thinking about open adoption are the children we are raising. I know that Kamaya is loved by so many people and we are able to work together to ensure that her best interests are served. Open adoption is a wonderful way to raise an emotionally healthy, well-adjusted adopted children when that opportunity exists.