The Ripple Effect of Open Adoption

I had just finished texting Mama-A the news. It looked like Turkey-man was getting a sibling! Her response was honest. “Congratulations! Is it weird that this makes me sad?”

In thinking through the situation, I realized that it was not strange at all that this news would come with a bit of sadness for her. She and Turkey-man had occupied the number one slot in our lives for nearly two years. Suddenly, their world was shifting.

I had long since recognized how entwined our lives forever were. Every action on the part of our family has a ripple effect that impacts the birth families as well. The reciprocal is quite true as well.

As I have said multiple times, we were not comfortable with open adoption at first. We had in mind that we would send pictures and updates to the birth family, but not maintain an ongoing relationship. I envisioned that we would adopt a baby and then move on with our individual lives. As our comfort level shifted, we began to see a narrow aspect of the mutual benefit that would come with a continued relationship. What I was not able to predict was how much each major life decision would impact the other family both from our side and that of the birth families. In a way, we were not the only ones adopting the day the paperwork was signed. The birth mothers were choosing to adopt us as well.

When the first major upheaval arrived, I realized how much we had unwittingly placed in Mama-A’s lap. Without control over her son’s life, she was going to have to walk an adoption journey, not her own, alongside us. Would her son have a sibling or heartbroken parents?

As we adjusted to this wave of change, the next announcement came. Mama-A was moving away. Now we were the ones left grieving the change. No longer would I be able to meet up with her on the fly. No quick trips to the zoo or playground. How I envisioned our relationship for the future was suddenly unpredictable. With no control over the life of our son’s birth mother, we were unwittingly confronted with the impact her departure would have on him long-term. (Thankfully, she has moved back to the area and our relationship has resumed as before!)

Watching the relationships ebb and flow, it is undeniable how interwoven our lives are and yet there is a necessity in recognizing the individual right for all of us to make choices that are in the best interest of our immediate family. At times in my mind I want to dictate the decisions that Mama-A and Mama-D make. Sometimes it feels selfish and other times I realize the responsibility I have to my children, knowing the impact of the decision that their respective birth mother is facing. I try to not borrow worries from the future and yet given that Mama-A and Mama-D are so young, I know that a tremendous amount of change is likely in both of their lives. Further down the road there will be life decisions that our children make that will leave both us and their birth families adapting.

Prior to kids, I knew life was never constant. There are always some adjustments being made, but I was able to live life according to what was best for hubby and I. Having children brings new responsibilities to all parents. Adopting children in an open relationship brings even yet another layer of ripple effect.

Being on this journey has underscored the need for flexibility. Things are always changing when you are impacted by decisions from so many angles. The best we can do for our children is teaching them to keep an open mind. I do not, nor want to have control over the decisions that Mama-A and Mama-D make. What I do have control over is how I relate these decisions to our kids, how I help them navigate something that they have no say in, but will impact them deeply nonetheless.

Open adoption is complicated! There are so many variables that we cannot control on any end of the adoption triad. The benefit for us in keeping these relationships strong is indisputable. However if I have learned anything in the past four years, it is how adaptable we all need to be, a life lesson that benefits us all!

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