Why Did We Choose An Open Adoption? By Lindsey Redfern
When my husband and I were diagnosed with infertility six years ago, we enthusiastically turned to adoption as a way to build our family. We were nervous, but we dove in with our whole hearts. We were not yet educated about adoption (although we soon would be through our own study and required certification during the process), so our knowledge was at the mercy of the media and our own limited experience. I say “limited experience” because until about a decade ago, most adoptions were closed; there was little to no information about birth families for individuals who were adopted. Myths about open adoptions rang loudly in our ears: The birth mom will try to take the baby back if I let her see it. The birth mother will never be happy if I keep reopening wounds by sending her photos. The child will be confused about who his mother is if I let the birth mom into his life. We listened to it all and discussed at length what we wanted for our future children. And what did we want for them? Above all, we want them to be happy. We want them to grow up with a rock-solid knowledge of who they are. We want them to know their own story. The adoption agency we worked with at the time required us to attend monthly education classes in order to complete our certification and be approved to adopt. One of the classes was a panel of birth mothers in open adoptions. Open adoption is when birth families and adoptive families have information about each other and interact with one another. The level of interaction varies from situation to situation. On the flip side, closed adoptions are where there is very limited information exchanged (i.e. agencies used to require families to use a fake name when communicating via letters moderated through the agency) and no interaction. My husband and I listened to these women tell their stories of falling in love with the family they had chosen for their child. They were invited into their homes, attended family events together, had nicknames for each other, came to birthday parties, had regular visits without the involvement of the adoption agency and enjoyed a happy relationship together. We got to know one of the families from the panel and found their daughter to be bright, happy and clear on the roles of all the people who loved her—including her parents and birth parents. Where was the confusion and threats of "stealing the child"? We just didn't see it. This is what we wanted for our family. Several weeks later we were contacted by an expectant mom who wanted to get to know our family better. We flew across the country to meet her for the first time in her own home with her family around her. Her whole family welcomed us in. We shed tears of heartache and joy together. In the six years since that first meeting, they have become family.
About a year later, we were chosen to be parents again by a dear family friend who was expecting and wanted an adoption plan for her child. She and her family adopted us as we adopted a beautiful baby boy.
We have wonderful relationships with both of these women, their families and the birth fathers who want to be involved. It takes effort, it takes sensitivity, it takes time, but it is worth it. Our open adoptions have evolved from just email and phone conversations. Although we live on opposite sides of the country, we visit as often as we can. We enjoy Skype dates together, especially on birthdays, and my children love to call their birth mothers just to chat. We love to have them and their extended families in our home. We have even been on trips together while attending weddings for family members. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the first six months after placement, I sent a weekly package to the birth mother’s home full of photos. As a new mom who was thrilled beyond measure at the opportunity for motherhood, I was extremely camera happy. It was so nice to have someone else to share all those photos with someone who, like me, never tired of looking at them. This was someone who loved this baby every bit as much as I did. After the first six months and for the last five years (the age of my oldest), I have sent a monthly package to each of our children’s birth mothers. Every month the packages are a little bit different, but they always include lots of photos, a letter and some art work from their child. I plan on sending these packages until they ask me to stop. And what about the children? How are they doing with all this openness? My children are four and five, and they can tell you who their birth parents are and which characteristics they inherited from each one. They can tell you where they were born and why they were placed for adoption. They can tell you the differences and similarities between their birth mother and their mother. They already know their story and have unlimited access to it. They know their roots. And guess what? They are happy. Lindsey Redfern writes about infertility, adoption and celebrating family at The R House. An open adoption advocate, she and two best friends created The R House Couture—a boutique of handmade sterling silver keepsakes. She and her husband own an adoption consulting firm called The R House Adoption Consultants. Although she's lived in her beloved state of Utah since 1997, she still considers herself a Virginian, where she was raised. She and her house of boys love anything to do with trains, Star Wars and BYU football. Photography by Kim Orlandini.