A few of my blog readers asked me to talk a little more about what open adoption specifically means in our situation. LisaAnne at Living Through Today asked me to talk about the level of openness in our adoption. Erin said she likes learning how our open adoption works because they all seem so different. ArmyWife at My Story wrote how she is “open to the idea of adoption” and “wanted to know more about your experience as I have always felt I wouldn’t consider an open adoption.”
When we first started looking into adoption, we had a basic knowledge of it based on the experiences of our friends. I remember how my 7th grade teacher adopted a little girl through international adoption. One of my childhood friends was adopted from Korea. A sister of one of my friends was adopted through domestic adoption. One of our very close friends was also adopted through domestic adoption. So over the years we have both had some experiences with adoption, although not in our families.
Before we met with our agency and while we were a waiting couple, we did some research. Our agency required us to read two books. We chose Dear Birthmother and Adopting After Infertility from the list we were given. I couldn’t get enough information – I read adoption memoirs, how-to-adopt books, adoptive parent and birth parent blogs, adoption-related websites, and anything else I could get my hands on! I also joined adoption chat boards and read a lot about what other waiting parents were going through. It made me feel a connection – like we weren’t alone in what we were going through.
Through all of the research and reading, we learned about different types of domestic adoption – closed, semi-open, and open. As we attended meetings at our agency, we learned more. Our caseworker ran one of the meetings where we learned about what each type of adoption means and how it can look in different situations. We learned that semi-open adoptions are the most common within our agency, but that open adoptions are encouraged as well. Closed adoptions happen but are more rare. They do have adoptions where babies who were dropped off at a hospital can be placed with an adoptive couple; I think these are called “safe haven” placements if I remember right. My guess is that these adoptions tend to be closed unless a birthparent leaves contact information at the hospital.
The birthparents decide what type of adoption they would prefer. Once they make that decision, they can look through profiles of adoptive couples to decide who they would like to choose to be their child’s adoptive parents. Our agency basically defines the types of adoption as this:
Closed: No contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents, and child.
Semi-open: Adoptive parents send letters and pictures to the birth parents at designated times throughout the year, such as at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, etc. up to age 18.
Open: Adoptive parents send birth parents letters and pictures (the same as semi-open adoption) but also agree to a yearly visit or two with the birth parents. Open adoption can include the sharing of personal/private information such as last names and addresses. It can include communication by phone and email as well.
So back to our particular situation. Zoe’s birth mom wanted an open adoption. When we met with her (during the summer before Zoe was born)we talked about what she wanted that to look like. It included letters and pictures and up to 2 visits with Zoe and us per year.
What we have at this point is so much better than that.
We got to know Zoe’s birth mom over the summer prior to Zoe’s birth. We emailed each other and talked on the phone. In fact, during our first meeting, I think we even felt comfortable enough to exchange cell phone numbers and emails (maybe even addresses?) I can’t quite remember. But we had contact over those months, and I was able to even see her birth mom a few times. She had invited me to a doctor appointment and to a labor/delivery class. I won’t ever forget that she let me into her life like that and wanted me to be a part of it with her. We met some of her family members over the summer, too, and that was great to start to get to know them, too.
When Zoe was 6 months old, we had our first visit with her birth mom, her birth grandparents, and one of her birth uncles. We invited them to our home for lunch. It was really nice (even though as I mentioned in the last blog post, I was so nervous!) But we had a great time, took pictures, and talked. LisaAnne also wrote, “I would also like to know how you came to that level of openess. Was it 'agreed upon' or did it happen organically?” We originally agreed to the pictures, letters, and 2 visits like her birth mom had asked. We do not have any contact with her birth father at this point, but we are open to it if it happens. We just took it one visit at a time, I guess, so I would say it happened more organically. We all get along and like to spend time with each other. We also feel that it is really important for Zoe to have contact with her birth mom and birth family. We also had visits when Zoe was 9 months old, one year, 15 months old, 19 months old, and 22 months old. Four out of the six visits have been here at our home. One of the visits was at my parents’ house for Zoe’s 1st birthday, and one of the visits was at the zoo. Two of the visits were during the holidays – once at Christmas and once at Easter. Some of the visits were at her birth mom’s request and some were at ours. We’re hoping to see her birth family next weekend for Zoe’s 2nd birthday, too.
So in her 2 years, we’ll have met up 7 times. We talk on the phone and online. We text. We mail and email photos and letters. We send her birth family cards, and we send her birth mom little things now and then. Her birth mom and her birth family have given Zoe gifts when they’ve visited, and they are very special keepsakes. We feel really fortunate to be able to spend time with her birth family. We love that they have seen how Zoe had been growing and learning so much. It means so much to us that she has a relationship with them. We know that every adoption is not like this. We certainly don’t take it for granted. We’re so fortunate to be in a situation where we all want the same thing – we all want Zoe to know how much she is loved. We’re so appreciative that they want to be a part of our lives and that they let us be a part of theirs.
PS. Just want to congratulate Kelly E. at The Big Long Wait who, when she commented, was waiting to take their 1 week old daughter home. Hope you are doing well!