"Losing Touch with Birth Parents"

When my son was six years old, we suddenly lost all contact with his birth mother. Was open adoption the right choice for us?

Losing touch with birth parents can be confusing for adoptive parents

“Picture perfect…”

Those are the words I would use to describe the first five years of my son’s open adoption.

We clicked immediately with his birth mother, and soon after, her family. She is warm, funny, open, intelligent, and caring. Five years into his adoption, we were all happy with the arrangement: pictures and letters occasionally throughout the year, one or two phone calls, occasional gifts on birthdays, and so on, and a yearly meeting at a neutral location with our family and hers.

At five years post-adoption our son’s birth mom was happy — happily married to a man who had known about and met our son, and expecting their first child. Our last meeting involved a “girls’ night out,” just the two of us over dinner, getting to know each other better, sharing pictures and family stories. At this time we mutually agreed that the level of contact was perfect and should stay the same.

And then it all changed.

A New Baby

She called us, delighted over the birth of her son. At this point the tone and frequency of the contact drastically changed and within six months there was no response to any of our usual attempts to make contact. My one phone call to her was met with a cool voice, clipped sentences, and uncomfortable pauses, a tension we had never experienced in our six years of knowing each other.

We find ourselves now, as my son approaches his seventh birthday, with no contact and no explanation. We, particularly my son, are sad, hurt, angry, but most of all, bewildered. It has been a difficult year for him — one in which the losses inherent to adoption have hit him like a freight train. And his father and I have no explanation to give him.

I feel strongly that we must keep the doors of communication open; without an explanation from her, I feel we cannot be the first to stop. I have written her letter after letter telling her that if she wants us to stop, we will respect that. We have heard nothing. I have called and left messages requesting that she contact us and let us know what she wants us to do. We have heard nothing. We have sent gifts at holidays and birthdays. We have heard nothing.

My son is what I like to call an “old soul,”one with wisdom beyond his years. Despite his pain, his desire to know about his new half brother, and his need to know more about his genetic background, he is able to manage an almost adult-like understanding of his birth mom’s pain. He loves her completely and without question. But it hurts.

Would I trade this in for a traditional, confidential adoption? Not in a million years.

A Secure Relationship

About six months ago, when we were grappling with this changing situation and I was watching my son struggle alone with a pain I could not take away, I began to give serious thought to this thing called open adoption and our experience with it. We had gone into open adoption somewhat tentatively, but we’d quickly embraced it as everything went so smoothly for us.

All of our personalities “clicked.” And I soon felt secure in our relationship with our son’s birth mother. I could relax and truly enjoy being his mother, knowing that his birth mother was handling her grief. I had spoken with her through letters and phone calls. His birth grandmother and uncle came to our yearly meetings, and it was obvious he was loved by all parts of his family. It felt good and it felt right. I have held on desperately to that feeling during the uncertainty of the last year.

During this period of reevaluation, I’ve been asked whether it was a mistake to have such an open situation, making my son vulnerable to hurt and loss. I have thought long and hard about this. I have prayed about this. And ever so slowly the dust is settling and it is becoming increasingly clear that despite all that has occurred, contact with our son’s birth family was the only way for us.

Two years after we adopted our son, we started the adoption process for our second child. Miraculously, I found myself pregnant and our beautiful daughter was born. Our happiness at having two beautiful, healthy children was beyond belief.

With the arrival of our daughter, it became even more important to have and maintain an open adoption with my son’s birth family. It was vital to have pictures of my son’s biological family out on the living-room table right next to pictures of his sister’s. My daughter could walk into her living room and see her genetic history, and I was determined my son would be able to do the same. So I contacted his birth mom and asked for more family pictures. She was delighted about my pregnancy and was happy to send photos for me.

Did We Do the Right Thing?

In recent months I have made peace with the open adoption decision. It was a conversation with my son that began this change. My son, at this stage of his life, really likes to discuss his adoption.

One day, we sat down and I explained confidential adoption to him. I asked him if he would have preferred it, and been spared some of the pain he was now experiencing. He looked me right in the eye and answered without hesitation, “No way!” It was that simple. I hugged him and told him I was glad.

The second event leading to my growing acceptance of our current situation is that I started to think hard about my son, about the person he was at the ripe old age of six and a half years. It dawned on me that his identity comfortably included elements of his biological heritage, adoptive environment, and a beautiful combination of both.

An awareness of his biological traits — physical, emotional, and intellectual — was present from the minute his idea of himself began to form. Why? Because we had this information and we shared it with him from the earliest age. Open adoption has contributed significantly to making our son the caring, wise, and happy young man he is today.

And so we have come to terms with our current situation. We pray that it will change. But we know that, based on the loving contact we shared early in this relationship and our openness to its resumption, we are in the best possible place we can be. A good parent doesn’t protect a child from his or her losses, but helps him grow from them.


—By an Adoptive Families Reader


Copyright © 1999-2024 Adoptive Families Magazine®. All rights reserved. For personal use only. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

More articles like this