In 2004, birthmother, Tara Nielsen, wrote this wonderful letter for a newsletter for prospective adoptive parents. Her birth son, Thomas is now nine years old. Tara is now married to Chad, Thomas' birth father and they are proud parents of a beautiful little girl.
Being a birthmother myself, I loved this letter, as it does a wonderful job of educating while dispelling a number of adoption myths. Kudos Tara and thanks for allowing us to share it with an even wider audience.
Dear Prospective Adoptive Parents,
I have been asked to share with you what I, as a birthmother, wish adoptive parents knew. It is difficult for me to find the right words to describe the many things I wish adoptive parents knew. I became a birthmother almost five years ago and now have a wonderful relationship with my son, Thomas and his adoptive family. This relationship has taken a lot of hard work, honesty, communication and trust. Some of what I write may be hard to read. It is not my intention to scare or shock you, but to educate you. My hope is that this letter will assist you as you continue in your adoption journey.
Just as each person is different, each birthparent is different. There is not one specific thing or a list of specific qualities that each potential birthparent looks for when finding parents for his or her child. Many birthparents look for families who practice a specific religion or who have similar racial or cultural backgrounds as themselves. I wanted to find parents who were like me – liked to travel, liked to “play”, had similar values and beliefs, as well as many other qualities. I chose parents for my son because they seemed to parent like I thought I might one day.
After I placed my son for adoption I learned some truths about open adoption that I would like to share with you. Firstly, open adoption relationships are hard work and require a lot of commitment. Birthparents love their children and want the best for them. Please know that birthparents do not place their children for adoption to make your family complete. They place them because they want to make their child complete. We consider you, the parents, to be a gift for our child, not the other way around.
You might become fearful and question their intentions when your child’s birthparents want to visit with your child frequently or call frequently in the beginning. Please understand that in the beginning most birthparents are unsure that they have made the right decision. I know my mind wondered frequently, “Have I made the right choice?” Most birthparents call or visit frequently not because they desire to intrude or disrupt, but because they find peace in their decision when they can see how much you love your child.
During visits or phone calls your child’s birthparents may become emotional, especially in the beginning. The harsh reality of open adoption is that the birthparents hurt and grieve. It will not be easy to watch your child’s birthparent as they grieve. You might question the benefits of your open adoption agreement. You might think it is too hard for your child’s birthparents – that maybe you should take a step back. Do not think that it would be easier for your child’s birthparents if you cut off contact with them. When it comes to their child most birthparents did not seek the easy route, but instead they sought what was best for their child. Please do not jump to conclusions about the birthparents’ emotions. They are capable of knowing when they need to step back.
Promises are sacred. Please keep your promises for contact and visitation even when you are “scared”. Open adoption should not be based on the adoptive parents’ or the birthparents’ fluctuating feelings. Open adoption is for your child. Your fear is a reason, not an excuse. Never think your child’s birthparents are not and were not afraid. As they place their child into your waiting arms they are terrified! When you think of all they have asked of you, think for a moment what you have asked of them - their child.
People will question your “realness” as a parent and you may tell them, “I am the one who changes diapers, kisses boo-boos and buys her clothes, therefore I am the real parent”. Please know that most birthparents do not place their children because they could not change a diaper. We can wake up in the middle of the night for feedings, we can kiss boo-boos, and even though money is often tight, we can buy clothing. Both the birth and adoptive parents are “real”, but by placing our children for adoption we have given you permission to be the parents. By recognizing the birthparents’ role in your child’s life, you lose nothing, but we all gain so much.
Birthparents place their children with adoptive families because you can give the child what they could not, at that given time. They can provide them with shelter, but often not direction. They are often still struggling to find their own way in life. Birthparents can give hugs, but often not proper discipline. They are still often trying to find order in their own lives. Birthparents can give their child love, but they often cannot give their child the best.
Claiming to be the “real” parent takes away from one and gives to another. Do not tear down your child’s birthparents and belittle their sacrifices in order to build yourself up. You have sacrificed, and birthparents thank you, but they signed their parental rights away, not the right to love their child and not their right to be their child’s parent by birth.
This letter was written in hopes of giving other birthparents a voice and to help you understand birthparents better. Of course, I do not claim to speak for all birthparents. Each has their own story and they have a right to tell it. All too often birthparents remain silent, although their hearts speak volumes. Questions and doubts battle through their minds as they seek the courage to speak or the grace to not. Good luck to all of you!
Printed with permission of the author.