Honoring Your Adopted Child’s Birth Parents
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Acknowledging the greatest gift
Adopting a child can be an all-consuming quest, whether you’re in a relationship or doing it alone. For some, it’s a personal preference to adopt a child, and for others, it’s the inability to conceive. But regardless of your reasons, adoption is a monumental choice—the fulfillment of your desire to be a parent, to have a child of your own to love and nurture.
The adoption process deals both in giving and loss: for the adoptive parents, the dream of parenthood is realized; for the birth parent, the loss of a child, even though adoption might be voluntary, can be psychologically challenging.
Birth parents who choose adoption for their children often don’t realize they’re giving one of the greatest, most significant gifts that anyone can, and in recent years, the increase in open and semi-open adoptions has been a direct result of the realization that all parties involved need support. For birth parents, this can mean receiving regular updates on their birth children, including letters and pictures, telephone calls, updates on the child’s health, or even having some face-to-face visitation with the child. Acknowledging both the gift and sacrifice of the birth parents is an important way to honor them. So how do you make sure your adopted child is able to remain connected to his or her birth parents?
Consider the story of Amber, who, after struggling with infertility, decided to adopt her daughter, Aubrey. Amber was already familiar with the adoption process because her brother was adopted as a baby, and her family was always very open about their situation (even though his adoption was legally closed).
“As a child, building a family through adoption was how we were connected with my brother, Levi. Growing up with him and knowing how his addition as my sibling completed our family gave me an in-depth understanding of adoption. Because of this, I have always known that adoption was a beautiful process that connected many hearts in special ways,” Amber explains.
Amber connected with an adoption organization focused on the well-being of everyone involved in the process. Among other services, this agency provides counseling services to the birth parents until the child is 18 years old and encourages adoptive parents to send pictures and updates so that birth parents can keep up with the growth and development of their children, reassuring them that they are well taken care of. Birth parents are also encouraged to take an active role in choosing the adoptive parents for their child, giving them a personal connection that honors the importance and magnitude of their decision to place their child through adoption.
“We met Aubrey’s mom and maternal grandmother through the agency,” Amber shares. “We had an immediate connection and knew that building a family together was something we all wanted to do. Aubrey’s mom and family have a very special place in my heart and are held in high regard for the choice that they made in placing Aubrey with us. We all know how brave their decision was and love them for taking such great care with our hearts through the process.”
Every three months, Amber puts together album pages for Aubrey’s birth mother, providing her with complete albums documenting her daughter’s life. Amber says that she understands the “process can be daunting, that there are huge decisions to be made by the birth parents.” She is required to submit these pictures, but her choice to create an album for her daughter’s birth mother is one way in which she honors the birth mother. “Without her, I wouldn’t have Aubrey.”
Open adoptions provide many ways for adoptive and birth parents to keep the lines of communication open. But because each adoption is very personal and unique, creating a plan that not only considers the needs of everyone involved in the adoption but also acknowledges that circumstances will change over time is very important.
When thinking about ways to help your adopted child honor his or her birth parents, being flexible and respecting everyone’s wishes is part of the process.
Here are some methods to try:
1. Talk. Speak openly with your children about adoption, remembering to take cues from your child regarding any questions he may have and how much information he is able to digest. Keep the conversations casual and positive. Allowing your child to see how often you think about his birth parents will let him know it’s OK to think about them, too.
2. Write. Put your child’s birth story on paper right away, even before she comes home with you. Keep a journal or create a scrapbook that will record the important details of your child’s life. Include pictures and other information that your child will want to know in the years to come.
3. Create. Put together a treasure box, and encourage your child to fill the box with letters, drawings, and other items that remind him of his birth parents. Having a special place for your child to keep these memories will not only give his birth parents a place of honor but also help your child remember special times and feelings as he grows.
4. Communicate. When possible, keep the birth parents in your lives. Whether this is through letters or visits, keeping in contact with your child’s birth parents can be a rewarding experience for your whole family. As in Amber’s situation, even communications relayed through the adoption agency can be approached creatively and with a compassion that is sure to shine through in your relationship with your child.
Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
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