There are so many misconceptions about open adoption, adoptive parents, and birth parents. By sharing a little bit of my own open adoption journey, I hope some of these misconceptions will be clarified. I am the proud birth mother of a girl named Isabella. She is 14 years old now. It all started when I was 33, divorced, and the mother of two girls: Gabriela was 8 and Juliana was 7 years old.
When I got pregnant while in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere, I decided to make plans for my unborn child. I wanted the best for her: not just love. I wanted her to have two parents, a stable home, and a better life than what I could provide for her at that time.
First, I looked for a good adoption agency like Adoption Connection, the agency that helped me. After choosing the right one, I went through prospective parent profiles and chose Kathy and Allan. I compare the adoption process with dating online. You check the pics, read the profile, and start your selection based on compatibility, right? After the first date, if you feel that connection, you want to invest in that relationship. Most of us dream of finding the right person, getting married one day, and spending the rest of our lives with that person. If you think about it, a birth mother is the first gift to you, followed by your adopted child. Whether you agree with me or not, open adoption is a deal for life.
My first “date” with Kathy and Allan was okay; it’s kind of weird meeting the people you will trust to be the parents of your child forever. I liked them and decided to go on the second “date.” They met me at the San Francisco Zoo with my two girls, and it was an amazing time spent together. Right there, I knew that they would be the perfect parents for Isabella—and they are! Kathy and I talked our way through the zoo, and Allan played with my girls. He was pretty goofy and fun, and I loved that. He reminded me of my own birth father and my stepdad.
A month later, Isabella was born and her parents-to-be were there with me to welcome her. It was very important to me that they would witness the first moment when she entered the world.
Misconception: “A birth mother should not breastfeed her baby.”
I must confess that it is a hard thing to do—those hormones don’t help at all!—and there is a special bond that you share with your baby during breastfeeding. Despite its challenges, I wanted to give her the first “golden drops” of breast milk. I didn’t know how open our adoption would become, so I wanted to give her what might have been my last gift. I was grateful that Kathy and Allan agreed to my donating breast milk for the first three months. They came over to my house every other day to pick up Isabella’s groceries: frozen breast milk. They were very thankful for it.
Misconception: “Wait a while before the first visit.”
I totally disagree with that. It all depends how comfortable the birth mother is with seeing her birth child. Isabella was 4 weeks old when I first saw her again. I can’t lie. I had mixed feelings. And sometimes I still do. That pretty girl lives in my heart. But the respect that her parents showed me right away was my comfort. I was shown that they would not disappear after the adoption was finalized, and that they are good people. The way they treated me forced me to focus only on what I wanted for her.
Misconception: “Wait for a few years before telling your child that she is adopted.”
Of course not! At first, adoption terminology is only terminology. Then it becomes awareness. When? I don’t know. Some children are very curious and need a lot of details; some couldn’t care less. It varies from child to child. But one thing I have to tell you: Never take away from your adopted child the right to know the truth. Isabella knew that “Rose” was her birth mother from the very beginning. She knew that she had two half-sisters and some blood-related family in Brazil, where I was born. She knows who she is and who her real parents are. They have done an excellent job showing, teaching, raising, educating, and most all, loving her.
Isa—that’s what I call her—is a fine young girl, and we all have a wonderful relationship based on respect and trust. That’s the key to our successful open adoption. Another important fact is that her parents have honored our contact agreement: They always keep in touch, send pictures, bring her over to our home, invite us to their home, and we even have traveled together. They have exceeded my expectations. Instead of losing my child, I have gained another family.
Rosangela Bragança is a Baby Nurse and Postpartum Doula specializing in sleep training newborns. Previously, she worked as a professional nanny for over 10 years. Rosangela has been a board member for On Your Feet Foundation of Northern California (OYFF) for over five years. OYFF is an organization providing support, counseling, educational grants and peer support to birth mothers. She is a frequent speaker and panel presenter on open adoption throughout Northern California.
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Originally published in the Our Family Coalition Newsletter.