Great relationships don’t “just” happen. There is no luck, chance, or fate that creates a happily ever after life. Great relationships take work and communication. They also take a certain amount of intentionality. This is especially true in open adoption relationships.
Adoption stories often seem to start with relationships that were ‘meant to be.’ An expectant mom happens on a hopeful adoptive family’s biography online, through a friend, or at a clinic. This progresses to a meeting in which everyone’s personality just gels and it seems meant to be. From this first meeting, the relationship grows, and baby is born and placed with that hopeful adoptive family. Expectant mom changes her role from a woman considering adoption to that of a birth mother. The hopeful adoptive family becomes parents.
And this is where all too often, everyone assumes the happily ever after will begin. Cue the violins as the credits start to play over the sunset.
As anyone who has ever been married will report, the happily ever after does not naturally happen after the wedding gifts have been opened and the honeymoon pictures are posted on Instagram. The happily ever after turns into days of routine, complete with challenges both little and big. This is balanced with joys that are also both little and big.
Likewise, as anyone who has ever managed an open adoption over a long period of time will report, the happily ever after does not naturally occur after the baby is home from the hospital and the newborn and family pictures are posted on Instagram. The happily ever after involves both challenges and joys. How these challenges and joys are handled will determine whether the relationship thrives and grows, or becomes fraught with tensions.
No matter how magically the adoption seems to come together in the beginning, there will be a time that the adoptive family does something that the birth mother does not like. It may be over something small—like a haircut or school picture. It may be over something more substantial—like a move to a different part of the country or adopting another child. There will also come a time that the birth mother does something that the adoptive family does not like. This may also be something small—like a tattoo or posting a picture on social media. It may be something more substantial—like a new relationship or another pregnancy in which birth mother parents.
How can an open adoption thrive in such circumstances?
Do both sides ignore the things that are disliked? Or do they have the courage to speak up, take ownership of their feelings, and move forward?
To create that happily ever after, the adults in the relationship have to move from having good intentions toward the adoption to acting with intentionality. Yes, that’s a fine distinction, but it’s an important one.
Acting with intentionality means that instead of saying “We will get together sometime,” the next visit is set at the time one visit is ending. Acting with intentionality means that instead of saying “Let me ask my husband when a good time to call will be and I’ll get back to you,” you say, “It was so good to hear from you, let me ask my husband and I will get back to you by Friday.”
Happily ever afters DO happen, but not by mere chance or through fate. Happily ever afters happen when the adults in the relationship put in the work, communication and intentionality for it to do so.