Ask-an-Expert

I have a question about an issue with our open adoption. We are grateful for open adoption. We love and appreciate both of the birth mothers to our children. We have private blogs for them that we update regularly with photos, videos, stories, etc. We text and email here and there, send letters/cards/packages, and have done visits before. The issue is with one of our children’s birth mothers. She sends packages/gifts/letters to our son, which we share with him and we feel it is important for him to know her and know how much she loves him. For a bit she would sign cards/letters written to him with her first name. Which we thought was great. He knows her by her first name, and as his birth mom.

Recently, however, she has now gone back to calling herself “Mom” (my son is 3). Her Facebook profile has numerous images of him which she pulled from the blog or pic messages, with comments that would lead most people to believe that she is parenting. There is no mention of our family or adoption…ever. There hasn’t been much openness about her choice to place him for adoption outside of us and her immediate family. She has told us that there are still many people that think she is parenting. 
I know I can just not look at her Facebook page to avoid being upset over things there. We feel like we have embraced the open adoption and want to acknowledge her, but we feel like she is still in denial that she chose adoption. She also still calls him by the name she wanted for him, which is now his middle name. So basically my question is…do we let this go and let go of pride? I know she made the most difficult decision, I don’t want to minimize that. We want to make sure there is a healthy open relationship here. We don’t want our son to be confused about who he is…who Mom is. Any advice would be much appreciated!


We polled our experts and let them weigh in on this issue. Here’s what they said:
You should discuss with birth mom what name you feel is appropriate to call her. His birth mother should address herself as whatever name you have decided. It appears that the birth mother is not at peace with her adoption plan, nor is she clear on what openness means to you. You are correct that she is probably struggling with her adoption decision but you are likely not going to be able to help her with that. Post-placement counseling is in her best interest.

Distinguish between your own needs (“Am I threatened by this?”) and your child’s needs. A frank conversation about your child’s best interest is in order, but it may not go the way you want it to. His life is your priority. Do not make it an issue of your own discomfort. If you are resolved and secure in your place as a parent, then you can focus your energies on him. Hopefully his birth mother will make choices that will bring happiness to herself.

– Steve Sunday, president and CEO of Covenant Adoption
adoption professional since 1981

Sounds like she definitely has some issues that need to be dealt with and some healing to do. It’s unfortunate that she is choosing to mislead people in her life about such a brave and noble thing that she did. In general, I think there will always be bumpy spots in the road with open adoption. That’s great because we are pioneers in this endeavor and can share our experiences to help others along the way. 

In this instance, you don’t have too much you can do about what she does and says to other people so I would focus on what you can do. As a three year old, your son is well aware of who is parents are. I believe if you teach him that [BirthMom’s name] is his Birth Parent and that he came from her tummy because that’s how Heavenly Father brought him to your family, he will accept that. He doesn’t know how cell phones operate, he just knows that they do. He doesn’t need to fully understand adoption to know that you are his Mom. When going through mail and presents, maybe just reiterate it’s from BirthMom (insert name here) instead of whatever she’s written. Then in the future, when he hears Mom coming from her, he’ll attach “birth” to that in his mind. As long as you’re doing what’s right he’ll get the correct message. 

It may take some time for her to get through this very difficult thing. There is pain in her heart that can be compared to nothing but the loss of a child. Pray for her to find help in healing and comfort with her decision. Without giving any details, have your son join in the prayers for her, this will show him that you love her and he will love her as well. Maybe have your son draw pictures of her from time to time and send them to her. When she feels that love in return, she will feel less desperate about the situation and may be able to see the miracle and blessings that are adoption.

– Sherri Barker, BirthMom of 10 years in open adoption
United For Adoption board member


We have been fortunate to adopt two beautiful children and have open adoptions with both their birth families. Something that has helped me with our open adoptions is to have an eternal perspective. Is this really going to matter later in life? Is it something to do with either your insecurities, uncertainty, or conflicts as a adoptive mother? Sometimes the problem can be with ourselves and we don’t even know it. I also believe open communication and honesty is key in open adoption. Always think of the child first. Is your son affected by his birth mother posting pictures on facebook? Is it affecting you as parents? That is a personal decision that you and your husband need to discuss. In regards to your son being confused who Mom is he will never be confused since YOU are the ones that are his parents and do everything for him. You will be with him every day of his first 18 years of his life. I do think you should address her calling him by a different name. I believe that is disrespectful to the child and unfair to call him a different name in person and letters. 

It sounds like she needs some post placement counseling but that is not your responsibility. You can suggest she contacts her caseworker if you feel comfortable in your relationship with her. The birth parents are on a different journey than adoptive parents and she may need some guidance in the healing process. We do not know what they are going through and a professional would be the best to help her in this situation. It is very clear how much you love and appreciate your children’s birth mothers. I know that you will do the right thing and I hope that you can continue to have a wonderful open adoption!

– Jessica Moon, adoptive mom 
United For Adoption board member
We want to hear from you. What’s your take on this issue? Do you think there is something this mom can and should do? What would you do in her situation? Leave your comments below.

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