Every young girl plays with baby dolls, dressing them, diapering them, and whispering softly in a language that can only be understood by the feminine gender.  And almost always, the baby doll has a girl’s name.  It’s part of who we are. We dream of having a little girl of our own.  I had the same dream as a child, but I never could have imagined that it would be fulfilled through adoption until thirteen years ago.  Now not only do I have a beautiful daughter, but I know and love the young woman who gave birth to her.  Our arrangement is known as an open adoption.

Today, open adoption is a much more common thing.  At the time of my daughter’s birth, I really didn’t know what OPEN meant.  Should children know they are adopted?  Would she be confused by knowing her birth family?  Would we share parenting responsibilities?  I quickly received answers by asking professionals in the adoption field.  No, my daughter would not be confused by knowing her birth family, because she would always know that she was adopted, just like she would know she has aunts, uncles and cousins.  She would come to love her birth family because they are part of who she is.  And no, we would not share parenting responsibilities.  Open adoption is a final and legal commitment that does not allow birth or adoptive parents to change their mind or to co-mingle parenting responsibilities.

My daughter was born in our local hospital, and her birth mother invited me to be there with her.  This isn’t always the case, but my daughter’s birth mother was very generous in her willingness to include me in everything.  She felt comfortable with me because we had known each other for many years.   In an open adoption, the birth family chooses the adoptive family.  What a privilege to be chosen!  After delivery, birth mother and baby shared one day together in the hospital before the case worker came to witness the signing of the adoption papers and we left the hospital to start our new lives.  The memories of that day are bittersweet.  So much joy and so much pain rolled into one.  No one can underestimate what a difficult day this is for any birth mother.  I know that the assurance that she was doing the right thing is the only way birth mom could get through it.

After leaving the hospital, our daughter’s birth mother was always welcome to visit.  Once again, that is not always the arrangement.  Visitation is something that is discussed prior to the baby’s birth and decided by the birth family and adoptive family.  Some birth mothers choose not to have direct contact with the adoptive family.  They would rather communicate through an attorney or possibly an adoption agency.   Our family is probably at the opposite extreme.  Our two families share the bad times (illnesses and death) and the good times (holidays, birthdays and weddings).  There are a variety of options; the families can choose whatever feels right for everyone involved.  Over the years the amount of contact we have varies because life is always changing for all of us.  Sometimes we see a lot of each other and other times, not as much.

As I look to the future, I am optimistic that the careful and creative plan made by my daughter’s birth mother will only be a benefit to all of us.  Of course, my daughter has questioned why she was adopted – any child would.  But because of an open and honest approach to adoption, her questions can be answered truthfully and her future is bright!