Open Adoption: Not as Scary as it Seems

Aren’t you worried about having the birth parents in your son’s life?

Are you scared that they’ll try to take him back?”

“I could never do that.”

No. No. And, maybe you couldn’t…but maybe you could if you wanted to. My husband Tim and I are, and it’s working out beautifully.

I’m talking about domestic open adoption. I’m a mother thanks to  adoption, which brought Elliot into our lives 4-1/2 months ago when he was just five hours old.  Throughout my open adoption journey, I’ve been asked the same questions over and over again.  And, I’ve come to realize that open adoption is a mysterious and scary topic for many people. I’ll admit – it was daunting for Tim and me before we learned about  how it works and how it benefits the adopted child. So, I thought I’d talk a little bit about my situation and try to clear up some of the misconceptions:

Misconception #1: All birth mothers are teenagers. Birth fathers are never in the picture. While this might be a fairly typical situation, it doesn’t describe our reality at all. Elliot’s birth parents are together and in their 20s. They are stable, educated and intelligent. Despite what our agency told us to expect, their decision wasn’t precipitated by chaos — drugs, jail, under-age pregnancy, unknown birth father, etc. Elliot’s biological parents simply don’t want to be parents…and wanted to give Elliot a life with someone who did. How lucky that they chose us!

Misconception #2: The child will be confused. We already read Elliot a book that I wrote called  “How You Came to Be our Son.” So, he’ll always know that Mommy and Daddy adopted him, and he’ll know who his biological parents are. It’s a true open adoption, so his birth parents will be always be part of his life, in roles they’ve described as akin to “aunt and uncle.” We see them about once a month, and it’s always a nice visit…which people find odd. But, it works for us, and Elliot will never have to wonder where he came from, why his birth parents “gave him away” or even about his medical history. We can just ask.

Misconception #3: The birth parents will try to take him away. Once the birth parents terminate their parental rights, this can’t happen, despite what you may have seen on a TV movie. In our case, this monumental milestone came about six weeks after birth…later than we would have liked. I’ll admit: we were somewhat nervous during this time period. However, we’d already gotten to know the birth parents during the pregnancy, and saw them after we had temporary custody of Elliot, so we knew that there were comfortable with their decision.

Misconception #4: You can’t love an adopted child as much as a biological one. Of course, nobody’s come out and said this to me, and maybe nobody even thinks it. But, I’m here to tell you that I absolutely couldn’t love Elliot — or being his mother — any more than I do.

Elliot is not my adopted son. He’s my son who came to us through adoption. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Courtney Lawless

Courtney is the traveling mom! She has 3 girls and is the founder of Detroit Mommies and currently lives in Florida. You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyRVL.

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