We attended a birthmother panel from our adoption agency last week. It is mandatory for all their clients. I have to preface this by saying that I am aware that I have a bias already, as one who wishes to adopt a child. I am also aware that their experiences don't always mirror the experiences of others. I'm leaving out a few identifying details as well. There were 3 birth mothers, including one who shared her experience last year. I have to say, that it was quite obvious that these young women loved their children. In no way did I get the impression that they did not consider the children they gave birth to as not theirs, though they did not claim proprietorship. One person asked what they looked for choosing a profile. They talked about looking for something that clicked with them, whether it was an activity they liked or a love of dogs. Of course, they were looking for a couple that were financially and emotionally stable. They noted that if they had gone through infertility, that was a plus because it showed the couple could weather hard times. Then they went through the book, picked the ones they liked and then met with each of them. Based on how those meetings go, they make a decision.
I did ask why they decided to not parent their children. They all said it was for financial reasons. Because of their life circumstances, including jerk boyfriends who broke up with them, they felt that they could not give the child what they deserved to have.
One girl was an adoptee herself. She expressed how painful it was growing up not knowing where she came from. She believed it was in the best interest of the child to know their original parents. Another girl had given up TWO of her children. She became pregnant in high school, relinquished the child and THEN changed her mind and kept the child for 4 months before giving the child back to the adoptive parents. The second time was a couple years later (apparently she forgot about the torment she went through) and became pregnant again. She made a remark about wanting to have children of our own one day but until then she could go to someone else's living room to see her children play.
Another birthmother expressed that she was having difficulty in seeing her young son because the adoptive parents were not returning her calls and letting her see the child on the birthday or Christmas. Her next step was for mediation. I don't know the details of her open agreement with the parents, I don't think it's legally enforceable, though, correct me if I'm wrong. I could tell she was really distressed about not being able to spend time with the child. At the same time, I could well imagine the adoptive mother trying to deal with a growing child's questions as to what role she played in the child's family life. She may have had holiday plans that did not include the birth mother or realized that she wanted to control the frequency of access to the child.
We left as soon as it was over, dashing out. I did have a charity function to go to but that wasn't the reason I was in such a hurry. I have to admit, I got the impression that adoptive parents had all expense and responsibility of raising a child and the birth mothers still wanted to play a big part in the child's life. The issue may be the frequency of contact, the type of contact and the fact that people often change their minds about open agreements. What happens when teenage rebellion rears its ugly head and the birth mother can easily become default parent? DH and I discussed the type of agreement that we could live with when we get chosen. I get that open adoption is what's best for the child, not the adults. I don't mind being in contact with a birth mother, knowing the person and important medical factors, but I don't want to have a monthly visitation either. I want to be a child's mother, not a babysitter or a guardian. I certainly know how DH feels and he happens to be a very protective person. Trust me when I tell you he's not as flexible as I am. I appreciate and respect a woman's choice to have a child and place it for adoption so that they can have a better life. That's a kind of sacrifice that I could never understand. I've already thought of the type of gift I would give the birth mother to commemorate the child's birth.
I've read adoptive parents' blogs about open adoption and I've read the books about how important it is for the child. I get it and I would never keep their origins a secret from them. I guess I just have to wait and see what happens and just keep my heart open.