' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Advice from an adoptive mother to one hoping to adopt

Monday, June 3, 2013

Advice from an adoptive mother to one hoping to adopt

Photo by Lisa Roberts
We periodically hear from adoptive parents--some in anger, some in appreciation--and one who comments now and then under the moniker of 2nd Mom who"gets" adoption as well as we hope all adoptive parents would. She wrote a particularly empathetic and informative response to the previous blog post (Hoping to adopt: How to talk to the mother of his child....) responding to a letter from a prospective adoptive father who wants to do the right thing by an expectant woman who has chosen him and his wife to be the adoptive parents of her baby. Today we are continuing the discussion and giving 2nd Mom's comment greater readership by making it a blog post, plus adding some ideas that other commentators left.
Dear Hoping to Adopt from an Adoptive Mother: It is great that you have come to this forum seeking answers and I think you will find it a great source of information. As an Adoptive Mom in a very open adoption I wanted to share a few things about my experience that came as a surprise to me. Hopefully they will help you as you move forward.

1) One thing I didn't realize going into the adoption process is that I wasn't only adopting a baby, I was essentially marrying the baby's parents and the extended families as well. This connection is a life long commitment, not a one-time-only event. Right now you want so badly to become this child's parents. Really take the time to consider that his/her parents/families will always be in your life. In your heart you need to be completely committed to making that relationship work. Like any family members, you won't always agree or get along. And like any other family members, you are tied together for the remainder of your lives.

2) Take the time to really get to know the parents, their stories, their personalities, their family heritage and background, what brought them to the decision not to parent their child. These are ALL things that you will want to share with the child as he/she grows up. This information is who your child is! It's crucial that they grow up knowing where they came from and who they were born to be. Adoption doesn't change DNA. Write down all the information about the child's family background, as he or she will want it one day, and she will be happy to know growing up that you cared enough for her to do this, recognizing that she had a life before she became your daughter.

3) As much as you would love for the hospital experience or the placement to be a beautiful thing, prepare yourself for the most painful and heartbreaking experience you will ever be a part of. Watching someone struggle with their choice to raise their own child or give him to someone else is excruciating. However good your intentions, this moment isn't about you and your wife becoming parents. This moment is about someone else handing you their own heart and soul wrapped in a baby blanket. This moment will haunt you for the rest of your life.

4)  One thing I wasn't prepared for was the guilt I felt after placement. As much as I wanted to be that baby's mother, it was very clear to me that she HAD a mother! And who was I to be taking this baby home? This wasn't a fleeting emotion. I was haunted by it for years.

5) Going into the adoption process I thought that we would adopt the baby, take her home like normal parents, and just live happily ever after. At first I was surprised that I thought about adoption every day. I believed it was because it was so new and eventually we would just be "normal" parents and not think every day how she became our daughter. Almost 12 years later I still think of it every day! Now it's just part of who I am (as well as who our daughter is).

6)  Little things! This may sound ridiculous but you might not have considered the nature-versus-nurture aspect in raising an adopted child. It won't be a 50/50 split. You will see your child's parents every day through your child. Of course he or she will look like them...but DNA does a funny thing. This child will also share their mannerisms, their voices, much of their personalities, etc. It's fascinating that you are raising this child...but they will remain very much who they were born to be.

7) Last but not least: This child's parents need to obtain his/her Original Birth Certificate immediately! It will be sealed once the adoption is finalized and you may NEVER be able to get it. Get a complete family tree and learn about the family's interests, talents, etc. Pictures of his or her parents and extended family members are also so precious to many of us. Also, get a complete family medical history now and update it periodically throughout your child's life. Do all of this soon. Don't wait. You especially cannot wait on the OBC. Once the adoption becomes finalized, it's sealed away. But, you never know what will happen in the future with the relationship between you and your child's biological family. So, get as much information upfront as you can, and then update periodically.

This is a situation that requires an extreme amount of grace. As much as you have be-friended, bonded and empathize with this couple now, you owe it to them to be the same people AFTER the adoption. Otherwise your pre-adoption relationship COULD be considered coercive. If they can't bring themselves to go through with the adoption, you have to have the same grace in understanding and accepting that decision as they have extended to you by sharing this experience and considering you as their child's potential adoptive parents. Your pain in losing this placement will never equal the pain they will feel by following through with it. These emotions are extremely difficult to reconcile.

I'm saying this very gently. You have to search your own heart and soul to uncover your own personal grace, ethics, and compassion. It can't be compared to how someone else may or may not have handled a similar situation. It isn't about pride. You have to be able to look into this child's face every day for the rest of their life knowing that YOU did the best you could for him/her as well as his first parents. And even if your answer is "YES! I did EVERYTHING the best I could!", it will still weigh on your heart wondering, at times, if you could have handled it better. You don't get a blue ribbon for being a good and decent human being.

Hopefully some of this will help you on your journey. I wish you the best of luck. Please continue to read, research, educate yourself and reach out to others who have experienced this same journey...from
ALL perspectives.
Contrary to what prospective adoptive parents hear from adoption agencies, successful open adoption is really co-parenting; the child has three (could be four) parents, but it is true that the adoptive parents will have all legal custody of the child. This was the massage on a segment Women's struggle over adoption leads to modern family of Rock Central last Friday night, May 31.

Also we came across this story that mentions the first mother's family being involved in the daughter's life as she grew up: Two dads and a grad: Soda grad meets her birth father for first time


Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff
The book--about an open adoption of a mixed-race child--is dedicated to the author's mother and the child's first mother, so that give you an idea that this is done with an open heart. Second, the author is sharing an open adoption, largely of her choice and entirely of her effort. The adoptive couple hope to provide the child, as he matures, an opportunity to know his biological family. Third, the author admits that she doesn't understand how the original mother can separate herself from her child...I bought it myself and found it difficult to read in parts but realize it is brutally open and honest. I would recommend this to adoptive parents, and anyone who wants to understand the complex feelings of adoptive parents.--Lorraine
Quote from Secret Thoughts: "Adoption is a bittersweet solution to a two-way problem. Sweet, because a baby in a need of a home finds a home in need of a baby. But bitter because it is nobody's first choice and the baby will grow up one day to understand that." Page 111

MORE FROM FMF (warning: other perspectives ahead)
Hoping to adopt: How to talk to the mother of his child....
Giving Up Your Baby?
Are Open Adoptions a Boon for Birth Mothers or a Scam?


  1. Thanks, 2nd Mom, and Lorraine and Jane for publishing this. My husband and I are looking into infant adoption, and because of the things we've read on adoptee blogs and first mother blogs, have dramatically changed our approach. We had to turn down a placement with an infant who was just a couple of days old in which the baby's mother wanted a fully sealed and secretive adoption (she didn't want to know who we were or us to know who she was). We think closed adoptions are wrong and we did not feel we could participate in that. Furthermore, we were afraid she was making a completely impulsive decision that she would regret later (and she wasn't willing to take a trial period or slow down or talk to an independent social worker). I'm looking at foster adoption now, with the idea that we would still want to maintain ties with our child's family members as much as possible. At every step I keep trying to think about how we will be explaining all of this honestly and openly to our young child, our adolescent child, and our adult child. I want to be able to look my adult son or daughter in the eye and tell them what we did and why. Reading stuff like this now is hard and complicates matters, but it's making us so much clearer on how to do this the very best way we can.

  2. Why couldn't this be the type of woman I met 23 years ago, instead of the angry woman who only wanted to transfer the pain of her infertility onto me, for the rest of my life. She hated me for being the natural mother of my son. Nothing was more evident to me as the years passed and especially after I had to track my child down after I was banished.

    If more adoptive mothers were like this, there would be a lot let pain in open adoption. Of this I am certain. A little empathy, compassion and understanding go a long way.

  3. I am the adoptive mom of a 2 year old. In our first attempt to adopt, we were matched with a young pregnant woman and met with her twice several weeks prior to the birth. She asked for me to be in the delivery room although this was not something necessarily encouraged by our agency. On the day she went into labor, she called us for a ride to the hospital. I was was present during all of her labor and the birth of her baby girl whom we named together. I cut the cord and held her for the first time (all at her mom's request). I fell in love with her immediately. We spent the next 2 days spending time with her and the baby and then spent time with the baby alone after she was discharged. As we were about to leave the hospital with the baby, we learned that she changed her mind and was going to raise her daughter. To say this was devastating would be an understatement. I struggled to understand what my purpose was during that time. I was so sad but in my sadness understood why she couldn't let her go. I knew that with the support she found that night from her friends and family (after she left her baby), she could and would be an amazing mom. Oddly, we remain friends to this day and I am so thankful she had the courage to speak up even though I know how bad she felt for us.It could have gone so tragically different. In retrospect, I think she really needed someone there to be with her and love her baby while she decided what to do and I am grateful to have watched that baby take her first breath and feel what it was like to be a mother.We adopted a month later and it was a very different situation/experience and we are now parents to a child who needs us as much as we needed her. (we have a fully open adoption as well). As lovely as it all turned out, I think it is very risky for PAPs to be in the delivery room. Women can be so sure of their decision and so sure about the adoptive parents they choose but when that baby is born it all changes and they need the space to re-think their plan. For this same reason, I think early matching is a really bad idea. Matching in general should only take place for the purpose of allowing the expectant mom to meet the potential parents she chooses for her baby and not so the PAPs can experience the pregnancy/birth with her. I will never be pregnant or give birth and I am okay with that. Being a mom to a wonderful little girl in an open/ethical adoption is more than I could ask for.

  4. This is wonderful! All of these things went through my mind in reading the prospective father's letter, too. So glad someone took the time and effort to write it all out so eloquently.

  5. Jeanne, thank you for sharing your story and being so gracious about the girl who changed her mind. I am also one of those girls so it warms my heart to read this.

  6. Thank you, Adoptive Mom, for writing this. I wish more potential a-parents were interested in reading about the realities of adoption.

  7. It is wonderful to know that there are adoptive parents who are trying really really hard to understand adoption as deeply as 2nd Mom. It is equally saddening to know that so many prospective adopters still approach adoption with entitlement and dismissal of their future child's family, genetic history, ethnicity and culture.

    Thank for posting this, Lorraine and Jane.

  8. Beautifully said and I thank you. You eloquently & thoughtfully have shared what many of us feel and are living day to day with our shared children.


  9. Probably one of the most helpful things I read since starting the process of adoption. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  10. First let me say to "2nd Mom" that I'm sorry I hijacked/plagiarized your screenname! Months ago when I first saw you use it I thought "darn I wish I'd thought of that" and then when I didn't see you around, I thought maybe you weren't a frequent visitor so when I decided I wanted to comment on something I came up with "A Second Mom". Long story short I hope it's okay! :)

    Loved what you wrote and only hope that the prospective adoptive father or other prospective adoptive parents really stop to consider your words.

    I agree with all the points you made - well said. Thought I would just add some of my feelings about open adoption.

    Open adoption IS a marrying of two families - ideally. Just as you don't go into a marriage with the mindset of it's "us versus them" with your in-laws, the same should be said for your child's natural parents, grandparents etc.

    And as your child gets older the more important this becomes. Divorced parents who can't be nice to each other or speak well of each other are doing untold harm to their child. It is absolutely no different for a child in an open adoption. I've seen firsthand how happy my son is when we are all together enjoying each other's company. It can only help him to know that not only do we all love him, we also care about each other too.

    The fact that "adoption doesn't change DNA" is so so true. Yet another reason that having an ongoing and open relationship between both sets of parents is vitally important for the child. If I did not know them I would be unable to point out to my son such things as his love of speed coming from his father "S" who races cars, or that his smile looks exactly like his mother "E".

    I have to wonder how many adoptive parents really pay attention to how their child benefits from an open adoption. And what I mean by that is this: Most young children are not going to turn to you one day and say "Thanks Mom - seeing my family makes me happy, boosts my self esteem, gives me confidence and makes me feel loved."

    But if you're paying attention, you will notice how happy they are that day, that they are more peaceful or contented, that your son said "I love you" for no reason at all.

    From different things I've seen stated on sites such as these, I suspect that some a-parents think that since there isn't tangible proof that an open adoption is important, that they use that as an excuse to renege on the agreement.

    Until a child is older you may NOT have anything tangible to prove that what you're doing is important, but it IS important. Keep doing it!

    "Be the same after the adoption as before." Yes, yes, yes! Whatever promises you made before the baby's birth...

    Are to be honored.


    No "I feel uncomfortable" or "This isn't how I pictured it".

    Your child's first parents feel uncomfortable too. (There's the understatement of the millenium...)

    And this is not how they pictured it either. No one sets out to have a baby they aren't going to parent.

    As with any other relationship in your life, it takes work and I could NOT AGREE MORE with the fact that you have to be able to look your child in the face and know that you did all you could for him and his parents.

    And yes, you will always, always wonder if you've done your best...

  11. I think the chances of this "we're all one big, happy family" open adoption working for large numbers of families are slim to none.

  12. @Anon 5:45pm
    I don't think most APs are looking for this much of a shared arrangement. It would take very open minded and secure people to handle it. Given how many open adoptions end up closing, I just don't think that most PAPs are really up for this.

    Also, I have never been convinced that OA is so great for the kid. The child still has to deal with being given away. And if the FPs have kept children, the relinquished child will have to deal with the pain of that also. Some adoptees (like myself) are raised in families with the APs bio-kids. The adoptee can then feel less than fully integrated since s/he is the only one not living with his natural parents, and can only hope for visits, pictures, etc.

    Life moves on. A new love, a job transfer, all kinds of thing can happen that could make it difficult, if not impossible, for the adoptee and his first parents to be accessible to one another.

    I can also see adoption agencies dangling the carrot of this kind of close relationship and using it as a ruse to encourage more mothers to relinquish. This could lead to many unnecessary adoptions.

    I don't think there should be any such thing as a completely closed adoption, however. I believe that all natural parents considering adoption should be told that their child will know who they are. That there is no right to anonymity from one's own offspring.

    The bottom line though is that the only people who can really say whether or not OA is a good thing are the children who have lived it, when large enough numbers of them are old enough to speak out.

    I am skeptical though. I feel like everyone believed all the garbage in the BSE. That every child deserved a two-parent, married couple, that children were blank slates, that original birth certificates should be sealed and amended ones issued, etc. So at this point, I don't feel hopeful that OA will be so much better.

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  15. My comment to 2nd mom that said "That level of trust takes time to grow, just like any other relationship." Please keep in mind that this mother trusted you to raise her child. The comment you made is an entitled one and not one of compassion and empathy.

  16. Anonymous said...
    "My comment to 2nd mom that said "That level of trust takes time to grow, just like any other relationship." Please keep in mind that this mother trusted you to raise her child. The comment you made is an entitled one and not one of compassion and empathy."

    I don't think it was entitled...I believe that pap's going into a potential adoption shouldn't make any promises they don't absolutely know they can keep. And believe that anyone considering giving their baby up SHOULD be skeptical of the promises they are hearing. The level of trust I'm referring to is promising to become one big happy family. You can promise to stay in touch by phone/email/facebook/letters/photos, etc., and you can promise how frequently you will get together. But there's no way to predict that the relationship will grow to become something other than that! THAT is what I'm referring to as "complete openness".

    You are correct that my daughter's first mom/dad DID trust me to raise her/their/our child. We went into the adoption promising what we KNEW we could live up to (which we believed to be very open at the time). That relationship immediately grew to include and involve all of our families until we considered ourselves to be ONE family. But how could I have predicted, let alone PROMISED that before we all got to know each other?

    If I didn't feel compassion and empathy towards everyone involved in my situation then the relationship wouldn't have evolved as it did or to what it became. I apologize if I wasn't clear in my initial post.

  17. The letter by 2ndMom brought tears to my eyes, the thoughtfulness and love in it were so clear.

    2ndMom, you chose the road less travelled. What rings out for me about your letter is how much what you have done is fuelled by genuine love and respect for your child.

  18. Great post! Been reading a lot about different aspects of adoption. Thanks for sharing this!



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