What determines success in adoption? Is it when the adoptive families feel they’ve forged a new family with tight bonds and lasting love? Is it when a birthmother can honestly say she has no regrets? Or is it when an adoptee grows up to be a self-confident person, secure in their knowledge of being adopted and secure in their feelings of being loved?
How an adoptee feels regarding their adoption is almost completely dependant on the adoptive parents and birthparents that enter the agreement in the first place. It is because of this that I believe that success is best measured by the adoptee’s point of view.
As a birthmother, I made my choice based on loving my child and wanting to choose what was best for him. Since his happiness was such a central part of the decision, it was his level of happiness that set the stage for my feelings towards how it turned out. I made my decision for adoption, but also made my decision for an open adoption in the hopes of not only choosing a family that would provide him a happy, loving life, but that he would also feel secure in the fact that he was loved by his birthmother. I made choices to give him a life filled with answers, not secrets so he could grow with a complete vision of who he was and who he could be.
His adoptive parents also made choices in his best interest. They choose to adopt and build their family. They choose open adoption so they could share with their child his history and never have him question if he was wanted. They choose to provide him the information he asked for as he grew older and show respect for his beginnings and his birthfamily. They choose to love him and make him a permanent part of their family. His feelings of belonging in their family set the stage for their feelings towards how it turned out.
Because of our choices, Joe grew up knowing how much all of his parents loved him. He learned respect and understanding. He also learned compassion. He understood sacrifices and gifts and help a deep appreciation for them all. He has no doubts about how much he is loved – by both his families. He holds no negative feelings towards either of us, because he had never experienced either of us holding negative feelings towards the other.
During his younger years it was his mother, Kathy, who answered his questions and told him about me. She did so with honesty and respect – and love. Children will learn how to treat others from their parents. Because of her positive outlook, he learned to be positive as well.
When he was a teenager and questioned his mother (as all teenagers do) it was my turn to talk to him with honesty, respect and love about her. Kathy was his mother and regardless of how close he and I became, this would not change. This calmed Joe during those tough years and gave him a sense of security that we would both always be there for him, and love him, and that we each had a particular role for doing this. We had defined it for ourselves when he was a baby and by staying consistent over the years we created relationships with him he could count on.
While the initial choices are for the birthmother, the child’s life with the adoptive parents is where their perception of being adopted will be first formed. Evading discussions about birthfamilies, or completely ignoring the child’s heritage are symbols that a child picks up that there is something wrong with a part of who they are. By showing respect for birthfamilies and birth heritages, you will be showing the child respect for their whole self. This will be a child who grows with a strong sense of self-worth.
Putting aside our personal fears and negativity for the sake of the child is the best path towards success in adoption. Focusing on their happiness, their needs, and doing all we can to support their sense of self-worth is a job for all the parents in a child’s life – adoptive and birth. By working together we accomplish so much more.
Joe surprises me everyday with his depth of respect for others. And every time he does I see Kathy in his eyes. She taught him that he was loved – by all of his family – and that it is silly to draw lines between the two when instead we can celebrate the glue that holds us together – Joe.