Adoption can be a tricky needle to thread, even when one is trying their best to do the right thing. Today, I bring you the story of an adoptive mother who is trying her best to do what’s best for the children she is raising.
My husband and are the adoptive parents of two children (domestic), placed with us at birth after their original moms chose us from our profiles. The adoptions were supposed to be “semi-open,” in that we exchanged letters and other communications through the agency only, and didn’t share our last names or the towns in which we live. This was the policy of the agency, and it was the moms who chose the agency.
I naively assumed this process was driven by the mom’s wishes (we did not “choose” the agency… our first placement was very sudden and via a connection that our home study social worker had at the agency).
After the first year with our eldest child, communicating through the agency, we took the lead from his mom and stopped using the agency as middle man (and also shared last names and the specific location where we live). We now correspond regularly and directly with her, and take her lead for the amount of contact she wants. We would do more, but also we respect her choice regarding how much contact we have. If and when our son has more questions or wants more contact, we will facilitate that.
For our younger son, the agency told us after 6 months to stop sending letters and pictures for his mom because she had moved and they did not have a forwarding address for her. I assumed this was her choice too, so while it made me sad for our son, I stopped sending the letters. Now I am not so sure about any of this. I have a handful of reasons to believe that the agency was very badly administered and evidence that, at best, they were sloppy with record keeping and filing. I do not trust that it was his mom who declined contact. What I am sure of is – it’s my responsibility to know as much about our child’s first family as possible, and to share what I know as/when our child asks for it.
And here’s the sticky part where I don’t know how to balance what is ethical and what is best for our child: While I was not supposed to know his mom’s last name, I learned it in the first week of our child’s life (there was an extended hospital stay, and the hospital revealed it… I didn’t go looking for the last name). When the agency told me to stop sending letters, I easily found our child’s mom and extended family on social media. I feel like the agency should have done this, and not simply accepted the lack of a forwarding address as an indication from the mom that she didn’t want the level of contact stipulated in the adoption agreement. But they did not, and thus I have been checking in on her through social media all these years, collecting whatever information I can for our child. I am now wondering if, because of my suspicions that the agency was negligent, I should reach out to his mom directly and ask her if she wants any contact with us or updates.
What I don’t want to do is violate her privacy or wishes… but also I want as much information for our child as I can gather. Of the two children I’m parenting, he is the one with the most questions about/interest in his first family, and while I care about his mom and her wishes, I don’t feel I actually KNOW them. And, of course, our son is my priority. He’s approaching the age where his questions are becoming much more specific, and I want answers for him.
I guess what I’m saying is that I want to get a clear picture of his mom’s true wishes (not her wishes as filtered through the agency’s policy and negligent administration) before he gets to the age where he can find her on his own. While I know I can’t protect him from the traumas of adoption, I can support him, and I don’t think putting him in the position of being blindsided by whatever he finds would be the best way to support him.
The first response to this story came from a woman who surrendered her child to adoption and I do agree with her simple answer – Reach out to her. At this point you have nothing to lose.
There are many many answers and most are encouraging the attempt to make contact. I’ll just share this one from an adoptive parent – I think you can make contact to verify her wishes, but when she tells you what she wants, respect that. And understand that your son may be blindsided regardless of what you learn now—like everyone, the wishes and life situation of his mom may change by the time he’s older and wants to know more.
Follow your instincts and respect whatever you learn. At least you can say you made the effort and if the effort closes the door, you can then put the question into the mom’s box to answer – when that day comes.