Placing your baby for adoption is never an easy decision. Birth mothers who make this choice do so with the best interests of their babies in mind. Choosing adoption does not mean a birth mother must completely sever all ties with her baby. There are four different types of adoption. One of those kinds is open adoption.
Open adoptions allow the birth mother and the adoptive family to maintain an ongoing relationship. Contact methods and their frequency – letter writing, phone calls, visitation – between the birth mother and child are established as part of the pre-adoption agreement. Adoption agencies recommend open adoptions, when possible, because they are the best option for the child. Adopted children naturally have questions about their birth parents as they get older. Maintaining a relationship with their birth parents also provides easy access to information about ethnicity and medical history, among other things.
Agreeing to an open relationship with your child and their adoptive family is one thing. Knowing how best to carry it out is another. Here are five tips for birth parents to help form and preserve a healthy relationship for everyone involved.
1 – Acknowledge boundaries
It is important for adoptive children to understand the role of their birth parents in their lives. There are several ways to help them recognize relationships while maintaining respect for the adoptive family. Decide in advance what your child will call you. Mom is likely inappropriate since that role will be filled by the adoptive mother. Some adoptive families may be OK with a scenario where adopted children call their birth mothers’ mom, but that may be confusing for the child. Most birth parents have children call them by their first names. Birth parents should be open about how visitations make them feel, and not be afraid to ask for a break if seeing their child becomes too emotional. Honesty is the best policy with open adoptions for all parties involved.
2 – Respect adoptive parents
Tempting as it may be, it is never appropriate to overstep your boundaries as a birth parent and go against the wishes of the adoptive parents. Once you agree to the adoption, you effectively hand the overall decision-making for your child to their adoptive parents. Never insert your opinions or try to force your parenting preferences. It is OK to ask how they are doing and offer support when needed, but never cross the line between offering help and making demands.
3 – Maintain contact
Open adoptions require two-way communication between birth parents and adoptive parents. Establish appropriate times to call and how often you should make contact. Never take it personally if adoptive parents want to restrict access and communication in the days immediately following the baby’s release into their care. Newborns have many needs, and it can be time-consuming to keep up with them. Not to mention the fact that parents of newborns are just plain exhausted, so they need extra grace during this busy time.
4 – Plan ahead
Popping in to say hi without prior notice to adoptive parents is never appropriate. Plan ahead and schedule the times you will be visiting with your child. In addition to choosing dates and times, let adoptive parents know how long your visit will last and then stick to that plan. Pick a place for the visit that is comfortable for all parties. Parks and other places where you can engage in a structured activity with your child offer the best experience. When the visit is over, take time to schedule the next one or arrange for a time to discuss future plans so that everyone is on the same page.
5 – Seek assistance
It is OK if the birth parents and adoptive parents need help navigating the best way to proceed with maintaining an open relationship. Many adoption agencies will facilitate this kind of planning. If they do not, Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Albuquerque can assist. We offer pre-adoption and post-adoption education services to birth mothers. They are designed to help navigate through the adoption process, provide access to a support advocate, and offer the opportunity to fully explore thoughts and feelings.
Birth mothers struggling with their decision to adopt may need ongoing support. We can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.