When a Birthmother Closes an Open Adoption

Why the pain of open adoption is too much for some birthmothers

I hear this a lot so I imagine you might to.

Usually, this story is coming from adoptive parents who have an open adoption and are telling me this story as an example. Sometimes, I get these stories in emails. Often, the adoptive parents who are writing these stories are genuinely upset and confused. They actually believe in the benefits of open adoption for their children. They want the mothers of their children to have contact with the children they relinquished and to know that the kids are doing well. They don’t understand why the mothers, and sometimes fathers, of their adopted children just disappear.

  • “We send pictures every month. We keep hoping that she is at least getting some measure of comfort from seeing him grow up, but she has never picked up any packages for over two years”
  • “We had a visit planned for months. We drove over 400 miles. I’m really NOT complaining, but both she and the birthfather backed out at the last minute. It was just disappointing”
  • “I don’t know what I did wrong, but she just won’t answer any of my calls or texts. I feel like I am bothering her, so I just send the packages now.”
  • “She just disappeared. Her phone was out of order and we have no idea where she is now. It’s been five years. I don’t know what to tell our son”

These are not direct quotes, but are conglomerates of things that I have heard many times over the years.

How Could a Birthmother in an Open Adoption Stop Contact?

To be perfectly honest; I don’t know.

I did not have an open adoption with Max, I did not have the opportunity to have an open adoption with Max. I don’t even think I had heard about open adoptions until I got online. Sometimes I wish I did, but sometimes, I am glad I did not.   Sometimes I am jealous of birthmothers who do have open adoptions. Of course, it would have been much better to be able to see and know Max for all those years. What I wouldn’t give now to have seen him at age 3 or 6 or 10?! To this day, I have never seen even a picture at that age.

I know that IF I had been offered an open adoption and especially if I had been told by my adoption agency how much better it would have been for him, I would have done it. Yet, sometimes I am thankful for the 10 or so years that  the Adoption Kool Aid worked its magic. While I never forgot, and adoption was a constant chain of thought in my head, the wounds scarred over. There was a big tough scab protecting me from the reality of adoption for that time. I had a break. I lived a life that was not, for all intents and purposes, about adoption.

I do base my thoughts on a birthmother closing an open adoption on those personal thoughts. I imagine how it would have been living though an open adoption and what it would have been like. I have heard the quiet thoughts of many moms who do live with the various issues that openness brings. Of course, any individual situation will have its own reasoning and merits, but this is my answer to WHY.

Currently, open adoption is supported by two thoughts:

1) Open adoption allows a birthmother and family to have “peace of mind” by knowing that their child is doing well.  It is not only seen as a bonus for relinquishing mothers, but often, still, as a privilege.
2) Open adoption is good for the child since secrets and lies are bad for everyone. Open adoptions allow a child to know their history and foster the necessary connections.

I have other thoughts about open adoptions in general, the marketing of adoption in this form, the ramifications to the adoptee, but that’s not for this post. What is key here is that many agencies DO use the idea of an open adoption as a selling point to recruit expectant moms to adoption. It is sold as benefit to both the original families and the adoptee.

Again, it’s something that relinquishing mothers are supposed to do because it falls under the “best for the child” header and is supposed to make being separated from the baby easier.

Maybe Open Adoptions Are Not Easier?

I got pictures at 6 months and one year though my agency. I was a neurotic wreck waiting for them 24 years ago. I was a complete wreck waiting for my update of Max at age 16. Like a daily mood swing that got hopeful and anxious before the mail delivery and completely foul and depressed after… every day… for 3 months. Those were just two small time periods in the timeframe of this adoption, yet they greatly altered my mental wellbeing during those times. I cannot image living that way for 15, 18, 20 years.

I see mothers living this now on Birthmother Support lists. The dance they sometimes must perform to be determined healthy enough to garnish an update, the debate on when to request an update, how to ask, the fear of being denied and the affects of being ignored. I would go so far to say that even when an adoptive family follows the set schedules and provides consistent updates on the welfare of the child, the anxiety and fear is still constantly present.

Even though I lived it, even now I can’t image how I had the physical ability to walk away from my newborn baby  in the hospital. I don’t know how I did it once. I cannot imagine having to  repeat the same action over and over again. I cannot imagine having to do this every six months, every year.

That big tough scab that covered the raw wound of my son’s relinquishment would never have healed. Rather, I see that open adoption could be that action that causes this wound to be reopened again and again. How do you walk away from this child that you love so incredibly much and still have the will to live?  I know I would have done it, but yes, sometimes I am glad that I did not have the opportunity. Plus, for so many years, my son was only an image that I could imagine. The three years I missed was based on a fantasy built on a handful of pictures, not a real flesh and blood child whose arms I could feel around my neck. It was years later that I realized the true depth of everything I lost. In an open adoption the evidence of the lost baby turns into the truth of a missed childhood. A mother does not miss the ideal, but a real walking talking child.

I do not believe that even the best open adoption mitigates the feeling of loss. I believe that it does tend to keep a mother in reality and make her face that loss, which can be healthier, but also, just so much harder. The adoption never has a chance to become something of the past, but is a constant force in her life. I can’t say which is better because I don’t think that adoption ever leaves us, but if one is expecting that an open adoption should feel good, I can image that it can be rather surprising to find that it hurts over and over again with each after visit, each new good bye. I can imagine that the reoccurring grief gets rather exhausting.

Open Adoption Better for the Child

Yet, our mother must put her own feelings aside, again, for the betterment of her child. I see so many mothers put aside their own desires, hold their tongues, jump though any hoop just to have that promised visit or get that next batch of pictures. They want to be there for their kids because somehow it’s supposed to be good for our children to know us.

Yet, what happens when that evidence is not obvious?

What happens when the child IS doing well and doesn’t seem to give a damn about this “visit”? What happens when the child shows little interest in “Their Birthmother”?

Not that I am blaming the adoptee at all in this scenario, as I know how kids are, adopted or not! But what I imagine is a mother living with this constant open wound, and then getting very little back in return. I see her questioning her own worth to the child. I see her wondering why she should even bother if the purpose of her visits and contact seem to have no positive effect on her child.  Does she end up feeling like some unwanted visitor and goes home to find her own new batch of pain and rejection? What if the adoptive family is not a strong supporter of open adoption, but does what they feel they must, as well? What if the adoption agency has little post adoption services to walk the parties through the long term benefits of continual contact? I have yet to see an adoption agency website that accurately talks about open adoption with both the positive and negative aspects clearly defined.

Like many things in adoption, it seems that the reality of a situation is not clearly discussed beforehand, but rather, the participants are left to navigate the waters after the facts.

When  a Birthmother Disappears from an Open Adoption

Obviously, I can’t say the specifics to every situation, because I do not know, but I will say this;

I am sure it will feel like a secondary rejection to the adoptee and as a rejection of the adoptive family, but I don’t think it is always about you at all. For the adoptive parents who believe in open adoption and have tried to do everything that they can to facilitate a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship, I don’t think you should beat yourselves up and wonder what you did “wrong”. For the adoptee, I can only say how sorry I am that you have lost your parent again, but to reiterate: it’s not about you. It’s really not.

Generalizing, I think some birthmothers walk away because it is just so hard. For them, it becomes a matter of survival. It’s a question of their sanity. The constant loss and pain of becomes just too much to bear and shows no signs of value. It’s natural for people to avoid pain.

What to Do when A Birthmother in Open Adoption is Gone?

Try to Understand: Maybe she just needs a break, maybe other stuff is happening in her life that complicates the whole issue. Maybe she just needs to process some of the feelings and have a chance to heal. She hasn’t forgotten, but she might need to get off the adoption treadmill for a bit. Try not to write her off.

Keep the Door Open:  The passing of time sometimes seems to make revisiting the past impossible. The periodic reminders that the door is still open invites her to come back when she can.  If her phone is out of order or her email address un-functioning, revert back to the source if needed- send your updates to the agency and hope that she will go back to them for restored contact. Keep your contact information public so she can find you later on.

Revisit the No: My best advice is to continue on with the arrangements the best you can.   Keep going, keep sending pictures, send an email here and there. There might come a day when suddenly her desire to know her child will be more than the fear of the pain.  Remind her why she is valued and why her pain is necessary and worth going through.

In the end, I still see open adoption as a social experiment. I don’t think we will really be able to understand and give a real value to open adoptions until we have a population of adoptees who have lived it through to adulthood and can speak honestly about the pros and cons of it. Until then, we have no roadmaps and no real answers.

Like you, I’m only guessing, but hope I can provide some insights from my limited view.

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

29 Comments on "When a Birthmother Closes an Open Adoption"

  1. Me, I get pissy when I see this question because so often it is used as an excuse to oppose open adoptions or for the adopters to close the adoption pre-emptively.

    The other piece of it is, speaking as someone who was in an open adoption arrangement at first, you get criticized for how often you contact the family. It’s verbally and emotionally abusive. If you don’t contact them enough, you’re being cruel and depriving the child. But (and I have to take this from other mothers’ experiences because I didn’t do it) if you contact them too much you are seen as invasive and unstable and the adopters often pull back for *that* reason.

    I have no idea why, but adopters don’t seem to understand how permanent adoption is and how many rights it actually takes away from the parents. And when you’ve done that, completely take away someone’s parental rights, they wind up completely at your mercy. And when they’re completely at your mercy and do not dare set one foot out of line for fear of losing their child AGAIN, OVER AND OVER, some parents get fed up with that and choose to back out first. At least then they can feel like they have some power in the situation. Because otherwise, they have none. And no mentally healthy person can long stand being kept that completely powerless under *any* circumstances. They’re going to act out about it sooner or later–and how they act out will differ widely by individual.

    Not that I was the one who backed out in my situation, I’m just saying. Nothing I did was ever good enough. The really insulting thing was that they expected me to be Perfect Parent Of The Year, but THE ENTIRE BASIS for my son being taken from me and adopted was that I was supposedly NOT a good parent. If I can’t get my son back for being a good parent, why are you ragging on me about NOT being one?

    Again… It is a very abusive situation. At this point I have no sympathy for adopters at all, because every single one of them benefits from this act of abuse.

    • I am in complete agreement with what Dana said and I too get defensive when I hear this. It is yet another way for adopters to turn it around on natural mothers and make them look like it is all her fault.

      ‘How Could a Birthmother in an Open Adoption Stop Contact?’

      Perhaps it is too hard to be thrown a few crumbs and be at the mercy of people who could care less if you are dead or alive; AND watch from afar as our children call these people their parents. As Dana stated, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

    • I SO AGREE DANA! people who didn’t get abused have no idea how their words seep with down talk. They want to know if you are working etc.. making something of yourelf… all the reasons giving for insisting on the adoption “option”. I for one say anything the adoptive family wants to hear, it hurts like hell but I too lost my baby to theft (searched when she was 18 to the minute). And I prayed constantly for her care, the wound did not heal. She is amazing and yet it really hurts when she doesn’t need me. I know that some people didn’t know about the trauma of adoption, but please keep telling them until the good will (money) supporters hear. adoption is RARELY a solution.

  2. What an amazing post. As an adoptive parent living this reality, it’s refreshing to see this perspective. I might even include a link to the post in the next email that I send to Liam’s mom, letting her know that the door will always be open and that she is not alone.

  3. Dear Claudia,
    I really appreciate this post! I was forced to give my child up (after having him for 2.5 years – that’s another story for another time) and was told that when his “new family” adopted him, I would receive letters and photos of my son every 6 months through the agency. Two months later, I was told that the family decided not to adopt him, and that I needed to have my court case reopened to prove that I was supposed to be receiving photos and letters. I couldn’t afford to have the case opened and the adoption agency lost contact with the family since they were no longer adopting my son. I have agonized over this for the last 15 years, wishing that I knew how he was doing or if he was even still alive (he had microcephaly and failure-to-thrive)! The family never knew how to contact me, and I moved to a different state 10 years ago. Every year, I cry on his birthday and wish I could see him again. He was an amazing child, and I never wanted to give him up – first, because I was adopted by an abusive mother (my dad is great), and I wanted to make sure that my son had someone who loved him. Now, I don’t know anything! I realize that open adoptions are hard on the birthmother, but I still would have liked to know…
    Thanks for the opportunity to vent! It’s nice to be able to talk about it.

  4. Plainly said: open adoption is not (and cannot ever be) a magic bullet. Openness does not eliminate (nor sanitize) adoption of loss for any party, nor should it. (Truth be told: in some ways, perhaps, openness brings those losses into sharper focus by removing the shroud of denial.) Nothing makes adoption “easier” and to market open adoption as such is wrong.

    Openness in adoption is necessarily a lifestyle to which placing parents and adopting parents make a lifetime commitment, in order to ensure that the adoptee need not bear the burdens of secrecy that traditionally plagued adoptees across generations.

    That said, it can be a lofty goal imposed upon often-wounded people who sometimes have better intentions than follow-through. All human relationships of substance take work. Grieving parents do not always have the resources needed to weather the challenges of open adoption relationships. At those times in which a birthparent feels unable to actively participate, it is incumbent upon the adoptive parents to assure their child that the need to take “time out” temporarily is an indication of where the birthparent is at emotionally, and not a reflection of the adoptee’s worth.

    Ironically, the healthiest of open adoptions may be those in which the person-once-adopted takes visits with their birthparent/s for granted. Children who grow up in the most open adoption arrangements typically do see the parents who birthed them (like the parents who adopted them) as “no big deal” because they’ve “always been there,” and this familiarity lends them a sense of security in life. It’s just their normal, and this should be seen as an affirmation (not rejection) of all their parents.

    What’s painfully clear, however, is that adoption professionals (myself included) must learn to do a better job of educating all parents (birth and adoptive) of the challenges of living out their open adoption promises and preparing them to do so, across the lifespan.

    • El Natural | April 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

      If you’re an “adoption professional”, then why are you using such archaic language? Birth mother?

      • It’s kind of silly to admonish the use of the word “birthmother” on a comment when clearly, I have already defined here that the language is used openly here. Of course, for the sake of this blog “the use of the word birthmother” is for search engine purposes, but saying that ONLY I can use it is hypocritical really. The language debates, IMO< only serve to further separate those who would fight the important battles togteher.

        • Karen Whitaker | August 4, 2013 at 2:12 am |

          As a mother who relinquished, I don’t mind the term “birth” mother. I am the mother who gave birth to this child during childbirth (hence birth mother). I also except first mother or biological mother.

          I don’t agree with the term “birth family, birth siblings, birth father” as none of these people gave birth to a child, only the mother did.

          It also doesn’t make sense to call a mother a “birth” mother if the child was removed from the home as a toddler or adolescent child. She is no different than a mother of divorced who lost custody to her ex-husband. She is still their mother.

          I am a full-time single “mother” to my son who lives me.

          But there is nothing wrong with calling me a birth mother.

  5. Gosh Claudia, you totally nailed this one. As an “open adoption guinea pig birthmother” from 1985, the thoughts/feelings I had/have were the ones you spoke of above. Now mind you, it wasn’t until I began voicing my desire to try to keep my daughter that the social worker pulled out the “well, we have this new concept called semi-open adoption” blah blah blah. It hadn’t been done by them before, it was completely “cutting edge” but would give me some “control” over the situation…or so it seemed. I STILL wasn’t happy about it, but I could “choose the parents” (after the agency “chose” the 3 profiles of adoptive parents that we could read and pick from) and then we would get an immediate letter and set of pictures after placement, and another one at a year. That was the only obligation the adoptive parents had to us as the birthparents. The adoptive parents of my daughter pushed for more openness and when Anna (bdaughter) was 5, we were allowed to exchange names and addresses and “be done” with the agency. When Anna was 9, we all met. The visits were bittersweet to say the least. I monitored myself VERY CLOSELY because I didn’t want to appear unstable and have the aparents decide I was a bad influence. Plus, by that time, bfather and I had married and there were full blooded brothers/sisters involved. I fell apart after visits when no one could see me. It was hard on Anna too. Amom said she would grieve for a few days after visits. She is 27 now, but by the time she was 18, I had a breakdown from all the lying, faking, and pretending. It devastated the aparents to learn my true feelings, and things have never been the same. I tried to get counseling through the years, but I guess my situation was so uncommon, I never got the help or healthy coping skills I needed to deal with everything.

    My belief is that adoption, no matter if it’s semi open, open, or closed, if the choice isn’t made willingly by the expectant mother, she will never be at peace with it, or be able to fully accept it. I didn’t want to give my baby up for adoption PERIOD. NOTHING would have made it better for me…NOTHING. It was a forced, coerced “decision” and I thought “something is better than nothing.” The repeated “good byes” became unbearable, and knowing Anna was also hurting made it almost impossible to live with. The wound gets ripped open over and over and over. I thought many times of walking away, but I couldn’t deprive my children of each other. I hung in there from them, but finally had to take a “break” for a couple of years recently to heal and grieve all over again. I recently began communicating with my daughter, and I think it will be OK this time because I am in a different place. We ALL needed that time away…Anna, my husband, and other kids included. No one came out of this unscathed, and I’m sure residual issues will surface from time to time, but I feel I can effectively deal with them at this point.

    I do believe it’s a social experiment that was invented to get more expectant moms to place, and the “benefits” were after-thoughts. I don’t think the agencies or social workers were looking out for anyone but themselves.

    • Who said your situation was not the same? I met lots of people on dailystrength.com who went through the same thing as us. some say adoption will take several generations before there is recovery in the family that suffered. hang in there.

  6. Great post Claud. As a closed adoption BSE adoptee, I’ve also wondered how an open adoption experience might have been different. Often, we like to think that the grass is always greener. But open adoption is still adoption. The grass is not greener, it is just a difference variety of the same substance. While yes, the adoptee would not be kept completely in the dark, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to constantly relive the separation. Much as you suggest a mother might go through as well. Open adoption is definitely still in the social experiment phase. I’m sure that my open adoption counterparts will eventually start speaking out much as us BSE adoptees are doing. Should be interesting to get their take on things.

  7. “For the adoptee, I can only say how sorry I am that you have lost your parent again, but to reiterate, it’s not about you. It’s really not.”

    Do you really think a child will understand this? Children take things personally and think that everything is about them and caused by them. All the child will understand is that he was rejected initially (by being given up) and that his first mother knows who he is and where he is and yet chooses not to have contact. How painful to be repeatedly rejected like this. The quote above makes it sound like the adopted CHILD has the understanding of a 25 year old. You assume that the first mother keeps her distance because she just can’t deal with her pain. But the adoption was supposed to be about the child and his/her well-being.

    This is just one of the reasons why I’m not enamored with this latest social experiment called open adoption. I think open adoption was just another lure by the adoption industry to get more vulnerable mothers to relinquish and that it was based on a bunch of myths, half-truths and quesses about how it would all work out. The only advantage I see to OA (and it is huge and necessary) is that the child will always know who his first parents and extended family are.

    • I completely agree.. the child CANNOT understand the feelings, nor eve have the ability to put those words together. But this wasn’t a post about the child in an open adoption.. it’s why a mom might close the adoption and refuse contact. I have a bunch of ideas on how i think open adoptions will make a whole new slew of issues for the adoptees that have lived it, but that’s going to be their stories to tell, really. It won’t be long now, they are coming of age.

  8. The problem comes when there are “sides,” when an adoption is seen as a win/lose situation (one side wins and the other loses) and when one side is turned into a supplicant, while the other side has all the control. This happened a lot during the BSE and, as a result, shame and secrecy had to provide cover. I know it still happens today, but I do hope that with openness — the true spirit of openness — that we can find a way to do adoptions better, for all involved.

    I really like the way Jim Gritter poses Hospitous Adoption, in which there are no “sides” — just hospitality and belongingness within the adoption.
    I think it is only through this model that this experiment will prove that it’s the best shot adopted children have at becoming whole — by not having to be the bridge between their two “sides.”

    Openness is about much more than just contact. It’s really about an entire mindset and way of relating within an adoption. You can have contact and not be very open. And an adoptive mom, like the ones asking you the original question, can cultivate openness even when there is no contact with birth parents. Openness ≠ contact.

    • Oh bullshit! There are most definitely sides, winners and losers, and I would go so far as to say it’s a zero-sum situation.

      A woman is no longer the legal parent of her child. The adoptee’s birth certificate is amended and fabricated. The true parents don’t get to do all the normal, everyday things that create that lifelong child-parent bond; the child is raised by Others, not his tribe. They are the losers.

      The adopters get legal possession and all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities which righfully belong to the true parents. The agency and/or lawyers make scads of cash. They are the winners.

      All this talk of “openness” and “mindsets” sounds like frosting on a turd cupcake.

      Might a venture a guess that you are either an adopter or that you work for the adoption-industrial complex? If not, then you are just plain delusional. Peace, love, and hippie beads, my white American ass.

  9. I can only speak from my own experience.

    I wanted to parent my child but was forced to surrender by pressure from my own parents and the harsh realities of being young, inexperienced and expectant.

    For me and I know many won’t wish to understand this, adoption was the best solution. I say that based on my own situation and only my own situation.

    My adoption was and is Open and I am grateful, such as it is. Yes it is many of the anguishing things you shared but its also more….its knowledge of my child…its hearing her voice excitedly chatting on about her first day of school or sharing with me her happy squeals of pure delight when she opens a package I have sent to her….its knowing she is cherished and loved by emotionally healthy parents….its visits, yes, all too brief, but visits!!!!!…..its photos of her from Day 1 to Today….its the relationship I have found (and yes it can be dam* hard, but worth every bit of effort) with her parents and extended family (something I value).

    And its so much more too. Its intangible and raw and real. So even if my agency’s motives were anything but pure (speculation) I am willing to do this for her…for the child I would have parented had circumstances been otherwise. Because if it eliminates one hurt for her, removes one loss or hurt or lessens one….then its been worth it a thousand times over.

    This post is amazing to me….thank you.


  10. Another open adoption guinea pig here. Amy, your story is not that different. When I expressed opposition to adoption my social worker pulled out the “new option.” She never mentioned that none of it was legal. She never mentioned any difficulty adoptees experience. It was all wonderful. Everyone would be grateful. There was something called a homestudy that put a seal of approval on some people, making them better parents than others. I didn’t know people could lie on a homestudy. I sure didn’t know about amended birth certificates. I didn’t have a clue about the degradation that would be required of me to receive a photograph or a short visit. At minimum I monitored myself like Amy did but that wasn’t enough. I’d be asked to lie and pretend and stand back while terrible things happened to my child under his roof. Counselors didn’t know how to help a birthmother in an open adoption. They still don’t. It was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on any mother or child. If it’s pushed as the only option and lied about from the beginning then it’s not a choice. Over the years I’ve known of other birthmothers who “broke down” from being at the mercy of some adoptive parents who treated them inhumanly and kids who had a hard time with all of it. In order for Jim Gritter’s vision to come true then openness needs to be legal and enforceable.

  11. Claud, I hear these stories too and I understand why some mothers distance themselves, even though I know it is hard on the child. Life is complex, the fall out from relinquishment is a mine field of guilt, and that leads women to feel they must shut down to get on with any kind of life.

    And lord, though my daughter’s adoption was certainly “open” after I found her at 15, her mother eventually made me feel unwelcome in my/our daughter’s life. It was much much easier when Jane, my daughter, was not living at home.

  12. I think I recently qualify as a mother who ‘closed’ her supposedly ‘open adoption’. And mostly it was because too much crap had happened between the adopters and myself that it was not doing anything much for anyone, least of all me. One day I woke up and realised I suffered enough when I lost my child and that suffering was affecting my other children so I had to basically cut out the toxicity in my life which was holding me back from life and that was my daughter’s adopters. Sadly that meant no longer being able to have contact with my daughter as they would not allow that and told her I basically didn’t want to see HER anymore despite knowing it was them I no longer wanted contact with.

    Life, however, has been much better since. It might sound callous but it is the truth.. I understand that my daughter is gone and I will never get my baby back now. I also understand that I deserve to be happy and I am no longer sacrificing anymore of myself or other my other children’s lives on the altar of adoption.

    Sometimes there is no better alternative than to close the adoption. I know my daughter is unhappy about it but I didn’t put her in that situation at the end of the day; her adopters did way back when they took me to court to get her back off me. So yes, I have closed contact for now but have told my daughter I have an open door to her. Who knows if she will want to come back; I have learned most reunions don’t work so I am not holding my breath any longer. And very thankful to be out of the tortuous dance that is open adoption and all the revolting crap it manifests.

    Open adoption doesn’t really work unless one adheres to the adoption kool aid. It is in itself a coercive practise used to ensure more mothers meet the demand for babies. If it was all that is was supposed to be, it WOULD be legal and a lot more besides. Basically it is a fraudulent practise which promises everything and delivers nothing. Yes, some are lucky to get grateful adopters who will do anything to stay in contact with the natural family but mostly it would seem many promise the earth and slam the door firmly shut once the order is final.

  13. While I can’t know for sure, I really don’t think I could have survived life with an open adoption. The only way I survived losing my son to adoption was to go into denial. Deeply in denial. It was hell coming to terms with it after we were reunited when I was a 46 year old woman. I have no doubt that my 15 year old self could not have survived it. I would surely have had to close the adoption to save my sanity, or I would have had to lose myself in alcohol, drugs, or perhaps even become one of the moms of adoption loss who take their own life.

  14. I’m an adoptive mom currently struggling with not having had meaningful contact with Roo’s mom in going on a year, and with no known explanation. While I realize there are so many dynamics in this relationship beyond me, I am still so pained at so many losses–my son’s lost contact with his biological family, and my family’s loss of N. within our own grown up relationships. Much like some of the previous posters here who report feeling unsure if they reach out TOO MUCH or NOT ENOUGH, and fear upsetting the other party, etc, I, too wonder if any time I reach out if I’m doing it right or being to pushy or whatever. It is all so hard for us, and I cant imagine how hard it is ont he other side.

  15. Mom of an open adoption loss here and I can say from the experience of a very open adoption (we all saw each other average of 2-3 times a month and talked on the phone often when she was between 6 and 13 until we moved from the area they lived) that Im not at all convinced that open adoption benefits an adoptee. Mu daughter had to watch as I loved on and raised my other two siblings, had a life outside of her daily life and ultimately was better off financially than her adoptive parents were/are. Her adoptive parents encouraged this much contact and at the time I loved it and while I was strongly against adoption the whole time I was also in denial just to deal with my feeling…how can I be in this loving relationship but hate adoption and what my family and church did to me? It was very difficult and there were definitely periods of time where I subconsciously pulled away and “pretended” she wasnt there.

  16. If my mother would have come to visit me in that hellhole and then just walked away and left me with those monsters, my little soul would have died on that day.

  17. Mama Bear | May 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

    I just found this post today. Thanks so much for addressing this issue. I was coerced into surrendering my child 20 years ago to a distant relative who couldn’t have children and wanted one. It was an open adoption, but visits were agonizing. I had to shut off all feelings, esp. the love I felt for my child and the longing to be with him and the family members hovered around me and told me I gave him “bad vibes” which I believed, because I had low self-esteem and no support system. I stayed away for a while so I would not give “bad vibes” (whatever that meant!) and then they moved and changed their phone number, etc. I never saw him again, still haven’t. The whole experience was terribly traumatic.

    I think if the adoptive family feels secure and the birth mother knows her rights, maybe open adoption can work. Even so, you have to constantly feel / not feel, love / not allow yourself to love fully and relive the trauma over and over again… It can create PTSD.

    It’s still traumatizing for me… Sp thank you for this post– and this blog– for giving all of us a voice.

  18. Karen Whitaker | August 2, 2013 at 11:14 pm |

    Great post, Claud. As a women who relinquished my child 13 years ago in an open adoption, what you said was spot on. You expressed all the variables and emotions and you are exactly correct. I’ve often said to my mother that I understand why some mothers choose closed adoptions (at birth or later on) because it’s like torturing yourself over and over again. I do it for both of my sons. The one I am raising and the one I relinquished so they (brothers) can know each other. For me, I have experienced so much “shit” as a child, it seems natural for me. Hurt and heartache go hand in hand in my life. It’s my normal. But sometimes it does get to be too much to bear to the point you just want to either walk away from the open adoption or just check out completely. The latter is not a good choice so the other would make more sense. Still hanging on….

  19. No one wins in adoption, even open adoption. The pain and hurt are still there, just in different forms. There isn’t secrecy or the unknown, but there is still the pain of loss. This post described it perfectly.

    I’m an adoptive mom, and we have an open adoption. My daughter’s parents don’t see her often, by their choice, and it’s a choice I achingly acknowledge is a protective mechanism for them, and I get it. Saying goodbye over and over is… there really aren’t words for it.

    People are individuals and everyone is going to handle these feelings differently, so it’s very hard to know the “right” thing to do in this situation for any of the three parties involved. I have no idea how my daughter is going to handle being adopted, especially being in an adoption where we are very open to contact, but her parents don’t see her much. But I wouldn’t ever describe it to her in terms of her parents “closing the adoption.” To me, it’s so complicated and tied up with a lot of grief and loss and hurt and a desire to try to manage to get through their lives. I agree with some commenters that I would never want it phrased in a way that there is blame on the parents. When a person is deeply wounded, what real choice do they have when getting through life is the primary necessity? They do what they do to try to endure that pain and heal (as much as it is possible to heal).

    I feel the greatest responsibility is on me, as the adoptive parent, to be open and in contact. I am the only one who wasn’t hurt in this, so I am the only one who can accept the responsibility to absolutely maintain openess, no matter what. APs never (except in very rare, rare cases) have an excuse or a reason to close the adoption. Birth parents have every reason to need to back away, as do adoptees.

  20. I’m an adult, but I was adopted as a baby, though it was a closed adoption. I’m now in contact with my birth mother and we are building a relationship, which has been very successful. All in all it has been a very positive experience and while I never searched for her, nor did I really have any interest, I am very glad she searched for me. I didn’t know I was missing anything until I found it.

    I don’t think there is a right answer in closed vs. open adoption. Is one “better” than the other. It really depends on the people involved. For me, if my adoption had been open, I believe I would have felt abandonment that I never felt growing up. Why? Because it would seem to me that my birth mother wanted to be “in my life”, but not enough to actually take on the responsibility of caring for me. I grew up believing that she gave me up because she simply was not in a position to care for me (which turned out to be true). If she had been in a position to be present in my life as a grew up, I would have had a hard time understanding why she couldn’t have tried a little harder and simply kept me. Other people would obviously have different feelings.

    Since I’ve been in contact with my birth mother, and started looking into the realities of adoption, my opinion on it has changed (I have always been solidly in the “pro” camp before because my only experience with it was my solidly positive own experience). I had no idea how much giving me up effected my birth mother’s life, I simply bought into the idea that she could move on and forget about me. I was fine with that because I was happy with the family I had.

    So, I don’t think under most circumstances, adoption is the right way to go. Under those few cases where it is, I think open vs. closed is entirely dependent on the people involved. For me, whether I was the child, or the adoptive parent, I think I would prefer the closed version. For others, open may well be the better choice. Obviously the best choice under most circumstances is no adoption at all.

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