My name is Kate. I’m wife to Joel and mom to four fantastic kiddos – a daughter in heaven, two biological sons, and an adopted daughter. We are privileged to have an open adoption with our daughter’s birth mom, Dominique. This post is a two-part series starting with Joel's and my story, and next week you’ll get to hear from Dominique. She and I hope that by sharing our two stories and the amazing way they have been woven together, you will have fresh insight and encouragement for the gift that an open adoption can be.
My encouragement to prospective adoptive parents and the pregnant women considering their options is to communicate. Talk about if you want openness and how it looks to you. Care for the other person and have empathy for them. Mama D and I respect each other and care for each other. Any time I have worried about how she’s feeling or if I said something insensitive, I reach out and learn that she was worried about the same thing and wondering how I was. That open line of communication is something I am so grateful for.
Our adoption journey began many years ago after a miscarriage and a subsequent season of infertility. We began pondering and researching our options as we longed to parent. As we learned more about adoption, we learned how each situation is so unique and there is a wide range between open and closed adoptions. We understood how an open adoption can be helpful and healthy to the adoptee and how ultimately it would depend on the situation and preferences of the birth parent(s). The logistics seemed confusing and gave us hesitations - how would we maintain this relationship in a healthy way for all involved? Wouldn’t it be really awkward? So many questions led to a feeling of reservation about openness.
Fast forward a few years, three biological kids, one in heaven and two with us, and an adopted daughter with whom we have an open adoption with her birth mom, and I can confidently say that our hesitations were unnecessary.
As we educated ourselves and listened to stories from adoptees and birth parents, we realized that our perspective on adoption was a little skewed. So much of what we see and hear about adoption is from the adoptive parents and there is joy and celebration for them in welcoming a child into their family. Just as important are the birth parents, who sacrificially choose adoption for their child, but whose grief and anguish over the choice is not nearly as acknowledged. They are no less a parent than we are.
As we heard birth parent stories and their reasons for making the choice, for the absolute love and selflessness they have toward their child, and the stories of the years that follow their decision, we saw how openness could be healthiest for all involved and the relationship is a really beautiful thing.
We firmly believed during our times of being chosen by an expectant mom that this child was completely hers until after birth, when she would decide whether to parent or choose us to parent. There was no part of us that wanted her to feel pressured by us, or that she didn’t have the authority to choose what was best for her child. While our desire to parent never wavered and we prepared for welcoming a baby into our family, we also wanted the expectant mom to feel our support and love, and the assurance that our support and love was there for her regardless of whether she chose to parent or chose us to parent. This mindset values the birth parents as not just a means to a baby, but as people who deserve to be loved and supported and encouraged to make the choice that is best for them and their baby.
The first expectant mom who chose us did decide after birth to parent her child. The emotional roller coaster of those months and the situation in general was overwhelming. Yet not once have we felt bitterness or anger towards her decision. We loved and encouraged her during those final months of her pregnancy and also understood her choice to parent.
Months later we were chosen by another expectant mom, now lovingly known by our kids as Mama D. We got to know her over the last half of her pregnancy and even got to be included in her doctor’s visits and during L’s birth at the hospital. We were so thankful for that time to get to know her, as we prepared to welcome a baby into our home. We also still firmly believed that this choice was hers and no matter what she chose after birth, we would love and support her for it. I always hoped that when we were with doctors and nurses, that they believed we were there to support Mama D, and not just there for a baby.
She did choose us to parent after birth and that choice was out of absolute love and selflessness for L. Being chosen to parent is a responsibility we are honored to have and we do not take the gift for granted. During that intensely emotional time, it seemed absurd that we would have anything other than an open relationship with her. How could we not include someone in our lives that loved our daughter as much as we did?
Our open adoption with Mama D has been a gift. That L gets to know and see the mom that gave her life and her bright smile, the mom that so lovingly cared for her in the womb and who will always be available to answer questions, is something we are so grateful for.
Having this open relationship also will help us be supportive of L’s heritage. We committed early on in our adoption journey to educating ourselves and doing all we can to honor all races should we adopt a child of a different race than us. That is the case for us now, and we continue to stand by that commitment. Racial discussions are intensely important right now given all that is going on in our country around it. We are educating ourselves on the history, structural racism, and ways we can be an ally to those of other races. Not just for L, but for everyone. Our open adoption with Mama D gives us the ability to have these conversations directly, and gain insight and guidance which will become even more important as L gets older and starts to have her own experiences.
Being part of an open adoption in no way causes me to feel any less of L’s mom. My parenting and love of her feels no different than my parenting and love of my biological kids. Early on in our adoption education, we heard a quote from an adoptive parent about how they had biological and adopted kids and they no longer remembered which was which. I completely understand that comment now and find assurance in it.
We have seen God’s hand on our story since the very beginning, and we are grateful for this relationship we get to have. L has two moms - a birth mom and an adoptive mom - and neither of us is a lesser mom for it.