Posted by: jenn11970 | August 2, 2007

Better or Worse… Open or Closed??

Having recently reunited with my daughter, it was inevitable that my sister and I would get into a discussion of which was better…. open or closed adoption.

As a First Mother, I never thought I would saddle another young woman with the same pain and anguish I had gone through … EVER. So the decision to adopt was not entered into lightly. From the very beginning I insisted to my DH it would HAVE to be COMPLETELY open. No ifs ands or buts about it. This mom, was not going to worry whether her child was alive or dead in a ditch. She would have to know what she wore for her Christening, be present at her birthday parties, and she would hold her when we celebrated Christmas with her family. She will be at her sweet sixteen, (why not we were at her first mom’s), and she would see her graduate from high school and college. Wedding…. of course, no question. These were the types of things we discussed before deciding to adopt. I had to help my husband really understand what I missed, and what I had lost, so it would be real and important to him as well. This is not to say it is without snags. ANY relationship is, and this one is no different.

Although tough to handle at first, my family has been my rock regarding the loss of my daughter to closed adoption. They didn’t always have my “we will find each other and it will all be okay” feelings, but they never made me feel like a freak for believing so hard. With the open arrangement we have with Little One’s first family, they have been a little more verbal and it has been harder to make them understand. Just when I think they understand, they question a visit, or a birthday party we go to, or if we go out to dinner and invite J along. It gets tiring explaining yourself, and after a while I begin to think to myself, “Did these people not see me suffer?? Did they not know how much I was hurting and how much the lack of information bothered me?? Do they not remember the way I felt for 19 Birthdays and 19 Mother’s days??” Then I have to put on my peacemaker hat, and remember they are not the ones who really went THROUGH it, they were on the sidelines. I am sure they have their own issues, but not like mine. I have to think outside of my comfy cozy first mom box. I have to have look at it from their point of view, and level of understanding.

So this is a little bit about how we spoke of the differences in closed and open adoptions. To add insult to injury, she used my own fears, words and reunion against me to support her argument….. and actually made sense!!! I was horrified at how my words and feelings actually strengthened her argument.

You once said you know you couldn’t have handled an open adoption. You said it would be like having a wound that would be just beginning to heal and then WHAM… a visit and it is wide open again. How could you watch someone else raise your child?? Did you not say that???

Well, yes I did… but you are taking me out of context. I also said everyone handles situations differently. That’s what adds uniqueness to the human species. Not all people suffer from the same triggering mechanisms.

Didn’t you say you are amazed at how wonderful it is to see how well B and L raised your daughter? Weren’t you relieved she was so happy, and that her natures were nurtured? Didn’t you say it was so nice to meet her parents as an adult and feel as though you were on even ground because NOW you are all adults? Weren’t you glad she never had to choose sides, or feel loyalty issues?

Well…. again yes, I did. However, that doesn’t mean I think it was better just different. I also said it hurt me to have her ask me what her background consisted of. Where her height came from. Why she had curly hair and where did her eyes come from. Those are the type of questions non-adopted people take for granted. Can you imagine not knowing the answers to those questions while growing up? Does that mean I was okay with her having to wonder all these years???

Suffice it to say my sister thinks closed is the better choice. She believes it allows the adoptive parents to really bond with the child, and get to really parent without a first mom hovering in the wings. She also thinks it will keep the child from confusion and from feeling like a pawn being shifted between 2 sets of parents, and many sets of grandparents etc, and also keeps the child from having to choose between 2 families. My sister feels it is better for the First mom too. It gives her the time needed to process the loss, and work on getting through it. (I have to say I was glad she said through and not over.) The old out of sight out of mind theory. Since closed adoption from a mother’s stand point is all I know, I can see where she would think it was better.

I will concede, the jury is out on which is better or worse. I think for the children, open is probably better. I know adoption is about the child, but that doesn’t mean the feelings of the other parties actually cease to exist. If that were the case, first mom’s wouldn’t suffer any pain, and neither would adopted people. I do feel that open adoption should not be used to coerce anyone to relinquish, or to make it easier for a couple to adopt. Using it as a carrot is wrong. Closing an open adoption for no reason is wrong too. I do wonder however, if it wasn’t a little easier for me to work through because the adoption wasn’t in my face all those years. I didn’t have to watch them raise her, although wondering was really no fun either.

I don’t know. I can see my sister’s points, and I can even rationalize them in my mind. That being said, this mom doesn’t have any plans of doing anything but open, as long as my daughter’s first mom is able to handle it. If she needs a break, needs to regroup, she knows she has that option and the door will still be open when she returns. As Little One gets older, that may be harder and harder to explain, but if she needs it, we will find a way to make it okay. We love Little One, her First family, and especially her First mom very much. I think that with anything having to do with family…. where there is a will, there is a way.



  1. Did you sister’s child get adopted? How would she know what was better?

    I think open would have to be better than closed, that goes without saying.

    How wonderful you are reunited with your daughter. Must add you to my links.

  2. No, my sister and I were just discussing it. I relinquished a daughter and I also adopted a daughter. Sorry for the confusion…maybe I need to do a “My Story” piece..LOL!

    I would love to add you too, I have read a few of your pieces and have enjoyed them. I am just entering this wonderful world of on-line journal.

  3. Great post Jenn! and you are right.. every situation and every person is different. All anyone can do is enter into the situation with the best of intentions and take one day at a time.

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