People can get pretty freaked out about the concept of open adoption. Ask around and you may be surprised at what you hear. Some are concerned that a child can’t understand who their “real” parents are if they have any contact with their birth parents. Others believe that birth parents are just waiting in the wings to swoop in and take a child back. And then there are those who still believe that all adopted kids are destined to become troubled adults. I’m not going to spend time here debunking these common myths, because others already have. Additionally, as an adoptee, I know these concerns are unfounded. Although I was born at a time when closed adoption was common, I know from having been raised aware that I’m adopted ensured that I was never confused about who my family is. It’s not a stretch to understand that adoptees who have contact with their birth families aren’t confused about who Mom and Dad are.
My own concerns about open adoption have dealt more with the possible problems of knowing a would-be birth mother or birth parents before a baby is born and before their final decisions are made. As I’ve said previously, it seems like things could get mighty problematic when a couple with the resources to adopt an infant and whom an official agency has deemed to be “fit parents” is brought into a situation where an often young woman with less access to resources is trying to make a life-altering decision about an unplanned pregnancy. Years of advocating for women’s reproductive rights have taught me: a woman’s personal choices about her pregnancy are up to her and her medical provider. As soon as you start factoring other people into that equation, you could be asking for trouble in the form of coercion. I was worried that open adoption could go against my personal beliefs, as well as put Cory and I in a difficult position if the birth mother should change her mind after giving birth. I remember hearing a colleague years ago talk about an adoption that didn’t work out for her and her husband, and she spoke so negatively about the mother for changing her mind. I understood the woman’s pain (that situation would be amazingly difficult for anyone to go through), but her anger at a woman for making the completely valid choice to parent the child she birthed… It was stomach-turning. Just as I was afraid of coercing a woman into an adoption she didn’t 100% want, I was afraid of becoming that woman.
All of this is why it pays to choose a good adoption agency that shares your values! Through working with ours, I’ve found that they do comprehensive options counseling with every potential birth mother who calls them. Birth mothers and families typically aren’t matched until her sixth month of pregnancy–beyond a time when she would be considering abortion. The birth mother chooses the adoptive family for her child and the adoption plan is a joint effort between the two parties. If a birth mother (or adoptive parent) feels like the relationship isn’t working out, she can “unmatch” from them at any time.
Learning more about the process has shown me that it actually dovetails perfectly with my belief system. If a birth mother chooses us, we’ll be helping her fulfill her own plan for her pregnancy and her child’s adoption. And that’s pretty much what being pro-choice is all about!