Defining what an “open adoption” is can be tricky.
It’s that little word “open” that seems to cause all the confusion. Does open mean both adoptive and birth parents share the care taking responsibilities of the child? Does it mean the birth family comes to all the child’s events—soccer games, birthday parties, and dance recitals? Does it mean the birth family is able to drop in on the adoptive family anytime they would like? Does it mean only that the child knows their adoption story and the names of their birth parents? Or is it somewhere in the midst of all these things?
The problem with definitions is that all too often definitions come with rules. For example, if open adoption for one family means the adoptive parents promise to send monthly updates and photos, as long as they are doing this, they believe they are upholding their end of the bargain. If the birth mother asks for a visit, the adoptive family may believe they are justified in denying this request because it is not what they agreed to do.
Maybe it would be more helpful to look at open adoption less as a definition and more as a relationship. And it’s not one relationship, it’s many relationships! There is the relationship you have with your child and the relationship your child has with you. There are the relationships you and your child have with extended family members. And also of great importance, there is the relationship between you and your child’s birth family.
All relationships that work well take time and effort to nurture.
The initial stages of a relationship are fueled by excitement and possibility. It’s as time goes on that prove if the relationship will survive the differences and troubles that are certain to come. That’s why traditional marriage vows include these familiar words, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” What would happen if you gave the same consideration to your child’s birth parents? Could make similar promises?
As your relationship with your child’s birth family grows, you will want to celebrate the joys—the “betters”. And the worse will come along—maybe you will lose contact with your child’s birth family. Maybe you will remain in contact, but your child’s birth parents find themselves incarcerated or moving across the country.
Remember, your child’s birth parents chose adoption because at that moment in time, they did not believe they could give the care your child deserved to your child. Time will change. Your child’s birth family may encounter great successes and great setbacks. You may encounter great successes and great setbacks. As will your child!
Are you ready for an open adoption?
Are you ready to love a child for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health? And are you ready to love your child’s birth family in the same way…because they are also a part of your child?
What happens if you have a secret? A secret that is so terrifying you know you can’t possibly share it with anyone? What if your secret literally has life or death consequences to any decision you make about that secret, and you just can’t imagine how to make any choice? If you put yourself in that place, it’s likely that all you can feel is fear. That fear is so deep it is paralyzing you.
For some women and girls, this fear and this secret are the realities of an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy. Whether the pregnancy is the result of what some would call carelessness and irresponsibility or the result of something tragic like rape, the emotional fall out can be devastating. To reveal the pregnancy may result in further trauma. What kind of trauma? Maybe the fear and likelihood of being kicked out of her home is a reason to keep the secret. Maybe the trauma is the fear and likelihood of being physically abused for “getting knocked up”. Pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness.
If pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness, especially if the pregnancy is kept a secret, the arrival of the baby just heightens the fear. Now instead of protecting only herself, the scared new mother must protect that baby. She must find a resolution to her dilemma.
Sadly, the “solution” she sometimes finds happens to tragically make the evening news. There are stories of babies found in dumpsters, in creeks, and in snowbanks. These babies do not survive. There is no ‘happily ever after’ for these children. And yet, can you imagine the guilt and shame the mother carries? While we all might want to point fingers and demonize her, not many of us have been in her place.
Thankfully, dumpsters and snowbanks do not have to be the solution. The Indiana Legislature and Governor Holcomb have authorized the use of “Baby Boxes” which expands the Indiana Safe Haven laws. Under Safe Haven laws, women are able to leave their babies in fire stations, police stations, and hospitals without fear of being prosecuted for neglect. If the fire station is equipped with a “Baby Box”, the baby can be placed completely anonymously and remain warm and safe until rescue personnel arrive.
Currently there are only two official “Baby Boxes” in Indiana. Hopefully the new 2018 legislation will encourage the placement of more boxes throughout the state. In the meantime—here’s to courage and compassion. Courage to find a fire station or police station to take care of the baby and protect the secret. Courage to allow a child to live. And compassion to allow the baby’s mother to heal and be loved for the courage she has shown.
If you find yourself in a unplanned pregnancy, we understand! You can always call or text someone from the Adoption Support Center to discuss your options. We are available 24 hours a day! Call: 317-255-5916 Text: 317-560-4523 If you or someone you know needs immediate emergency help, fire stations, police stations and hospitals are trained to be a Safe Haven for your newborn when you just don’t know what else to do. To reach the 24-hour Safe Haven Emergency Hotline, please call 866-99-BABY1
To read more about the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, click here.
Monica Kelsey and the town of Woodburn, Indiana, dedicated the first Safe Haven Baby Box of its kind on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, at the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department. The box, which is temperature controlled and has a padded inside, is electronically monitored and sounds an alarm to the fire station whenever the door is opened.
Ever since I started talking about adoption, people have been giving me all kinds of grief.
The most common thing I hear is “how can you give up your baby?” Just because I’m considering an adoption plan, doesn’t mean I’m giving her up. It’s not like I’m throwing her up into the air and just waiting for her to be caught by some nameless, faceless, and soulless stranger out there!
The thing is, right now my life looks overwhelming. I have two toddlers—and I love them—but when one gets sick and can’t go to daycare, I can’t go to work. My boss says she understands, but she’s written me up twice for being late when my car died. I’m literally one write up away from being fired. My ex is no help and right now he’s living with his new girlfriend. I’m not a priority, and he says he doesn’t care about the baby I’m carrying. He’s not even sure she’s his.
So I’m planning. I’m thinking.
I’m working things through in my head. I love this baby—like I love all my babies. The two at home need me to be strong and to get them fed and get them to bed at night. They need me to be able to read their bedtime stories. They need me to get them ready to go to the sitter’s and play in the park on the way home. I can’t give them a father. But I know they deserve the best of me that they can get!
So I’m making a plan. I’ve been talking to Alli, an adoption coordinator at the Adoption Support Center. She’s introduced me to this family and we had lunch together. I can’t put it into words, exactly, but it’s like I’ve known them forever. My baby is not going to be put up for random people to become parents! I’m not going to just “adopt her out”.
I’m making a plan. Right now, that plan includes adoption. I may follow through on that plan. I may not follow through on that plan. Whatever I decide, it will be what is best for this baby, my kids at home, and me. I’m not going to quit being a parent, even if I do place my baby with the family I met. I’ll be her parent in a different way, but I’ll always be connected to her.
I am not a quitter.
If you're an expectant mother looking for support, we are here to help. Call or text(317)-255-5916.