Have you ever been curious about open adoption? Do you wonder if it would be right for you? I'll share my experience with open adoption.

The Open Adoption Experience

Birth Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day were recently celebrated—personally, this was my 11th Mother’s Day as a mother. Because of another woman who gave birth and placed her son with my husband and me, I am a mother. I feel so much gratitude, admiration, and love for my son’s birth mother. We have had a close relationship for these last eleven years and it has been a blessing for me, her, and for our son. 

On Birth Mother’s Day, I asked my son, Lucas, what we should tell her. He wanted me to send her a picture of him playing baseball and tell her that he wishes to see her soon. In response, she told him that she wishes to come to his baseball game and hopefully she can visit him soon. Our open adoption experience has changed over the years and it has given us more than we could have ever expected when we first started the adoption process.

Open Adoption Relationships

The open adoption experience is about relationships. These include the relationships between the child and the birth parents, the child and the adoptive parents, and the adoptive parents and the birth parents. The relationships will evolve and change throughout the years. For us, these bonds have only gotten better with time. Just like any other relationship, open adoption relationships take time and attention. They are a priority to us, and because of one boy, our family has grown so much. Our family now includes all of his birth family, and it has been wonderful. 

Child and Birth Parents

When my son was a baby, he was not able to talk to his birth parents, but I was able to send them pictures, update them on his milestones, and take him to visit them. When I was a new parent, I printed a book of my son’s adoption story. This included pictures of his birth parents as babies and pictures of them with Lucas in the hospital. I wrote our adoption story from the beginning, starting with how my husband and I could not have children and decided to adopt. We waited and prayed for the right baby. The book describes how Lucas’ birth mother heard about us from a mutual friend and family member. His birth mother had been considering adoption and after hearing about us and reading our profile and blog, she felt like we were the people that should adopt her baby. 

The book then tells the story of how she called me and told me that the baby was coming. We jumped on an airplane and while we were flying to her city, a perfect baby was born. After we landed, we drove straight to the hospital to see the baby. There are many pictures in the book of him with both of his birth parents and their families. I wanted him to always know the great people that love and care about him. 

We read this book frequently when Lucas was younger so that he would know and love his adoption story. Throughout the years he has grown to know his birth parents well. He is able to have his own relationships with both of them. When his birth father was getting married, my son was asked to be the ring bearer. During our visits over the years, we have tried to give them one-on-one time without my husband and me right there. We want them to build their relationships. Our son feels so much support and love. His birth parents both have children and Lucas loves to go visit and play with his sisters. 

Throughout the years, I have seen the special bond that Lucas has with his birth parents. We find that a good relationship between our child and his birth parents enables him to feel secure when he asks questions about and to his birth parents. They are able to provide truthful answers and help him feel loved, not abandoned. It also helps that we talk about adoption frequently, so he is comfortable talking and expressing his emotions about adoption. 

Visits are the best way for him to improve these relationships. COVID put a pause on our ability to visit them. This has been hard because he is growing up so fast. His birth parents love seeing pictures of him and calling him. His birth grandma sent him an Easter basket and he FaceTimed with her to say “Thank you.” 

We see that our son’s relationships are important for him and we help promote these relationships. His birth mother recently wrote, “It’s extremely hard being a birth mother sometimes. I have cried so much more than I ever thought. I always want him to know I always love him. I always think of him. I always will. He is my boy, my birth son, my first baby, and he will always hold a special place in my heart.” 

Child and Adoptive Parents

Lucas was our first child. We had prepared for years to become parents, but I don’t think parents are truly ready until they are holding the baby for the first time. As adoptive parents, we had to take parenting classes, fill out paperwork about how we would discipline, and perform interviews about every aspect of our lives. We knew that we were not going to just be parents—we were going to be adoptive parents. Because of this, we wanted to learn everything that we could from other adoptive families. By attending adoption conferences and listening to other families’ stories, we felt better prepared for the special challenges that we might face when we became adoptive parents. We continue to learn and find ways to educate ourselves about adoption. 

Before Lucas was placed in our arms, we knew that we wanted to be open about adoption. One of the first outfits that he wore was a shirt that said, “I love my birth mother.” We wanted to always speak highly of adoption and the birth parents who placed him with us. 

Adoption is a part of our daily lives, but it also does not define us. We are an adoptive family, and also Christians, baseball lovers and players, college football fans, movie watchers, hikers, woodworkers, and readers. Lucas knows that he was adopted and shares it freely with friends, classmates, and teachers. He shares that he has sisters, even though he has two brothers at home. 

After Lucas was a few years old, we wanted to adopt again. We ended up fostering our next two sons from the time they were a one-year-old and a newborn, respectively. After a few years of being their foster parents, we were able to adopt them. We have a semi-open adoption with their birth mother and send her pictures and letters. Because of the circumstances around their placement, this is the best option for their safety and protection. They also have questions about their adoptions, and we hold to the same standard of speaking highly of adoption and their birth parents. They have a different adoption story and we share with them what is age-appropriate.  We want them to see that they are loved by us and by their birth family, even though there is not as much contact with them. 

As our children grow up, there will be more questions, and we welcome those questions. We understand that they are curious and drawn to know where they came from. We never take offense or think that their curiosity  holds anything against us as their parents. By fostering communication about adoption, they feel confident that they can ask questions and receive honest answers. 

Our family likes to read books, and we check out a lot of books from the library. We have recently read a few books about adoption. These stories give our children opportunities to think about their own adoptions and ask questions. We have also role-played what they would do if someone makes fun of them for being adopted or how they would answer a classmate’s question about adoption. Giving them words and information helps them feel prepared and not embarrassed by the circumstances in which they came to our family.

Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents

Prior to adopting and learning about the open adoption experience, I saw the benefits of birth parents seeing their child and the child having a relationship with his or her birth parents. I never knew how much I would benefit from having a relationship with my son’s birth parents. From the first contact that came in from his birth mother, I knew that there was something special there. She sent me a song that she had been listening to when she decided to place Lucas for adoption, and the song touched my heart so much. She showed so much strength and resiliency in her choice. I know that it was not easy for her, but she knew that she could not give all she wanted for her son. She recently said, “My mothering journey began 11 years ago in a way I never expected. Being a birth mother first was something I am truly grateful for. I have an amazing relationship with my son and his family. I am ever so grateful with how all of the stars aligned for this in our lives and I wouldn’t trade one day for it, even on days it gets hard.” 

The relationship that we have with her is sometimes similar to that of a little sister. We cheered her on as she got a new job. We were ecstatic for her when she got married. Lucas and I were lucky enough to be in her city when she gave birth to her second daughter. We were able to go to the hospital and visit her and Lucas got to hold his sister. She is one of the first people that I text about things that Lucas is doing, and also personal things. We have an eternal bond and I love and admire her so much. 

We also have a relationship with Lucas’ birth father and his family. This is not always the most common thing, but we are grateful to have this open relationship with them. We spent Lucas’ second birthday at Chuck E. Cheese with them. We have gone to family weddings, family picnics, and other activities with them. We are family. We love them. Lucas’ birth grandma loves to send Christmas gifts to not only Lucas but also my other sons because she has basically adopted them as her grandchildren. This touches my heart so much because she knows that they don’t have an open adoption relationship with their birth family and wants them to know she cares about them too. To me, this is the definition of family. We are blessed to have so many people that love and support our children. 

Open Adoption Experience

Our experience with open adoption has improved our relationship with our son and his birth family. We are committed to the relationships that form in our open adoption. And we believe that by working hard at these relationships, the benefits of open adoption are more likely to outweigh any risks. The relationships change as our son grows up and as our life circumstances change, but because it is a priority, we adjust and communicate. Open adoption may seem strange to someone who’s not participating in it, but for my family, we couldn’t imagine it any other way. These relationships bring us peace, joy, gratitude, and love. Not everyone’s open adoption experience is the same, but I will forever advocate for open adoption because of the beauty of the relationships I have experienced. 

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.

Alicia Nelson

Alicia Nelson is a wife and a mother to three rambunctious boys. She is an online teacher and teaches English to Chinese children. Adoption has become her passion. She loves connecting with others on infertility, adoption, and foster care. She enjoys woodworking, being outdoors, listening to podcasts, and reading good books. She lives in Washington state with her family.