Post-Placement Workbook: Reality of Openness

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Jane just walked in the door from a visit with her child and the adoptive family. Her mother, in the kitchen, tenses. As Jane walks by, her mother peeks out and questions with a strained smile, "How did it go?" Jane shrugs her shoulders, "Fine." Alone in her room, she pulls out the pictures she’d been given and flips through each one slowly. Before she can stop it, the tears come. Saying goodbye once was hard enough, but saying it again and again is even harder. The reminder that she is not her child’s mother is bittersweet. Over the next few days, it is all Jane can do to just get out of bed in the morning.

The reality of openness is that it’s hard, painful, and constantly changing. The benefits of openness however, are so rewarding that the pain is a small price to pay.

Your open adoption, in reality, will change with time. Just as all relationships do, they rise to new levels, face crisis, and grow from the many challenges brought on by sustaining an emotional purpose with others over whom you have no control.

Foundation Facts

In this section you will examine yourself as a birthparent and the role that you will play in your child’s life and in the lives of the adoptive parents. Having the basic foundation facts of your role and the relationships that you are growing into will help you to have a secure starting point.

Below, write about why you chose the adoptive parents you did:

What personality traits did you see in the adoptive parents that you liked the most, and why?

One birthmother said, "I chose the adoptive parents I did because the adoptive mother was very strong, and she had a no-nonsense way about her. Her personality was large, and she was out-going. I grew up with a mother who was indecisive, weak, and secluded and so I wanted this adoptive mother for my daughter. It was a shock when the very thing I chose her for turned on me. She was very decisive to the point of controlling and after spending several years trying to deal with it and understand it, I just couldn’t do it anymore. If things weren’t her way, they were no way at all. I haven’t seen my daughter now in over two years."

Are you aware of any personality traits in the adoptive parents that you foresee having difficulty dealing with? if so, what?

Knowing the personalities of the adoptive parents is important. It is important because the better you know how they make decisions, how they re-act, and where their responses to you are coming from, the better equipped you are to deal with the relationship in a positive way.

Rate the following from 1 to 5 as best you can. (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest)

The adoptive parents ….
- 5 4 3 2 1 always make decisions after thinking and talking first.
- 5 4 3 2 1 listen to my needs well.
- 5 4 3 2 1 can compromise fairly
- 5 4 3 2 1 in all things they put my child first.
- 5 4 3 2 1 are relaxed and open around me.
- 5 4 3 2 1 are not influenced by outside forces.
- 5 4 3 2 1 share their concerns easily.
- 5 4 3 2 1 feel comfortable sharing their lives with me.
- 5 4 3 2 1 have seemingly dealt with their infertility.
- 5 4 3 2 1 can handle change of plans at the last minute.
- 5 4 3 2 1 do not seem to feel intimidated by me.
- 5 4 3 21 never make assumptions about me or how I’m feeling.
- 5 4 3 2 1seem to get defensive when I broach touchy subjects.

Rate the following from 1 to 5. (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest)

I …
- 5 4 3 2 1 can handle change of plans at the last minute.
- 5 4 3 2 1 very rarely do I take comments personally.
- 5 4 3 2 1 am not insecure about my needs.
- 5 4 3 2 1 can easily give my opinion on things.
- 5 4 3 2 1 when hurt I first consider the other person before getting upset.
- 5 4 3 2 1 when things don’t go my way I am understanding and lenient.
- 5 4 3 2 1 never make assumptions.
- 5 4 3 2 1 do not get intimidated
- 5 4 3 2 1 my needs are important but I take others needs into consideration always.
- 5 4 3 2 1 have been able to deal with the issues of relinquishment.
- 5 4 3 2 1 get defensive easily.

Now, looking back at the ratings you placed for the adoptive parents, which did you rate the lowest?

Why did you rate this/these low?

Examine now the possible causes of the low rating you gave and check the following:

  • It’s probably me, or something I’m doing.
  • It has nothing to do with anything I’m doing, they just feel this way.
  • They are acting this way because of outside influences.
  • It’s just who they are and I’m not concerned about it.

Understanding a possible conflict personality between yourself and the adoptive parents will give you a heads up. Understanding why and how they react will prepare you to take the issues in stride. You will be less likely to react negatively, take it personally, or make assumptions that could create miscommunication and doubt.

*Example: Tara wants to grow closer to the adoptive mother and believing that their relationship is strong enough for that, she writes a letter stating that she’d enjoy going shopping or out to eat occasionally, just the two of them. Several weeks pass and Tara begins to grow concerned. She wonders if she said or did something wrong. Finally she receives a letter in return. Tearing it open, excited, she reads, "I thought things were fine the way they were, I’m sorry if you don’t feel that way. I’m afraid I’m pretty busy for a while, but am still looking forward to our scheduled visit in three months." Tara is devastated and begins to feel rejected. She clouds her thoughts with things like, "She’s just nice to me because she has to be, I see that now," and, "She’s just pretending to be my friend." An enormous kink is created in their relationship and Tara feels intimidated and overlooked.

The truth is, while you may have a wonderful relationship with your child’s adoptive parents, there are still boundaries that were in fact placed into the relationship from day one. Tara’s relationship with her child’s adoptive mother is actually a healthy relationship and up until the letter Tara felt secure in her role. The adoptive mother simply was not seeking a deeper friendship type relationship with her child’s birthmother. It had nothing to do with her not liking Tara, but her boundaries were drawn. I had the opportunity to speak with this adoptive mother and she replied, "I love Tara to death! But being "friends" with her separate from our adoption roles just wouldn’t feel right to me. How could I be "friends" outside of our roles and still feel comfortable? I’m her child’s mother! I just couldn’t do it."

Understanding the personalities of the adoptive parents is important. When faced with a let-down you will have the wisdom to understand the issues surrounding the event instead of falling prey to taking it personally.

Now, looking back at the ratings you gave yourself, which did you rate the lowest?

Why did you rate this/these low?

Examine now the possible causes of the low rating you gave and check the following:

  • It’s just the way I am, I can’t change that.
  • It has nothing to do with anyone else, I just feel this way.
  • Outside influences seem to cause me to do this.
  • I just can’t help it, I feel vulnerable all the time.

In order to have a healthy relationship with your child’s adoptive parents it’s important to understand your needs and reactions, the way your personality plays into situations that arise.

List several personality responses that you need to work on: I.e.; defensiveness, anger, feeling intimidated, etc.

List several ways in which you can work on the above:

Respecting your needs while respecting the situation:

It happens often. Open adoption arrangements are made, but into the first or second year one of you realizes that emotionally, you are struggling. Visits are getting harder, you begin to feel overwhelmed, and you wonder if maybe you just need a break.

List situations, if any, that have made or might make you feel this way:

How did you, or how would you, discuss these issues and with whom?

Did you or do you think you would feel guilty for having these emotions?


Did you, or do you think you would, just ignore it and hope things get better?


Write here, as honestly as you can, how you define your role as birthparent in the life of your child and in the lives of the adoptive parents:

Think about the future and write here how you foresee your role in the life of your child:

How do you plan on creating the future relationship that you wrote of above?

It’s important to know that your role and the relationships that you have with your child and the adoptive family will change as time goes by. Keeping a "vision" of what you’d like to attain in mind will help you to navigate the difficult times. When grief or sadness overwhelms you it will be necessary to honor your emotions and to work through them, but having a "goal" set before you for the future will give you the kind of motivation you need to keep going.

Know the foundations upon which your relationship with the adoptive parents was created. The boundaries, the initial agreements, and the over-all beliefs and feelings that were discussed and made aware of in the beginning.

Write here what you remember of your first discussions in regards to how open your adoption would be:

Has anything changed?

What do you believe brought on this change?

Is it a healthy change, and if not, why?

If you could sit down again with the adoptive parents and the caseworker and have that discussion of openness again, what would you say, do, ask for, and feel, differently?

Of the above, which differences are still possibilities in regards to working on?

Do you feel obligated to continue in the same pattern? If yes, why?

On a scale of 1 - 5 rate how each of the following statements make you feel: (1 being very bad, five being very good.)

- 5 4 3 2 1 the adoptive family is moving to another state.
- 5 4 3 2 1 you are asked to discontinue frequent visits.
- 5 4 3 2 1 you are known to your birth child by your first name, not as birthmother.
- 5 4 3 2 1 the adoptive parents haven’t introduced you to their extended family.
- 5 4 3 2 1 your letter and pictures are three months late.
- 5 4 3 2 1 the adoptive parents want more involvement from you.
- 5 4 3 2 1 your new boyfriend questions your stretch marks.
- 5 4 3 2 1 your parents forget your birthchilds birthday.
- 5 4 3 2 1 you're not invited to your birthchild’s birthday party.
- 5 4 3 2 1 the adoptive mother miraculously gets pregnant.
- 5 4 3 2 1i n public, during a visit, you are introduced as the birthmother to your child when an adoring person asks whose cute baby is this.
- 5 4 3 2 1 you are asked to baby sit your birth child.
- 5 4 3 2 1 your entire family is invited to your birthchild’s birthday party.
- 5 4 3 2 1 you receive double amounts of the agreed upon pictures.

How you feel about your decision to relinquish will often be subjected to doubt based on circumstances that arise leaving you feeling bad. In order to live in a peaceful contentment of your decision to relinquish, it is important to base your decision to relinquish on only one thing:

True or False:

Regardless of my relationship with the adoptive family or what happens in the future between us, I will continue to believe I made the best choice for my child.

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