Hello everyone, my name is Laurie Walker, and I am an Adoptive Family Specialist with American Adoptions. I have worked with many birth mothers and adoptive families in my time here at American Adoptions and love being able to watch families form through adoption.
Q. We are so very grateful to our daughter’s birth mother for the precious gift she gave us. The love we have for our daughter is beyond anything we ever expected, and for that, we can never give enough thanks to both the agency and our daughter’s birth mother. Although we love her birth mother very much and want to remain in contact with her, we are struggling with the amount of contact she wants at this point. During her pregnancy, we communicated each week via phone or email. After the adoption, we thought the communication would lessen pretty quickly. We knew that initially we’d probably talk each week, but it’s been a year and this amount of contact is still happening. She seems to get upset if she doesn’t hear from us each week, and honestly, I’m not sure we can keep up with this amount of contact. We are considering closing down our email address altogether and just sending pictures through the agency at this point. Please help.
A. As you know every adoption looks different, and there are many options for contact even within the broad terms of semi-open and open adoptions. Most adoptive families say that their biggest concern about direct communication or future visits is that birth parents will end up wanting more than was originally agreed or will be intrusive if there are disagreements on how things should be done. Adoption is not about co-parenting with the birth parents, so this concern is typically not a reality. What is more often reality is the dilemma you are voicing right now. What if the amount of contact you have begins to be more than what your originally wanted?
Ask yourself what you are comfortable with not only right now, but also long-term. This is something each person should do before the adoption takes place so that it can be communicated to the birth parents. If you are comfortable staying in touch via email, ask yourself how often. Then, the best approach is to email with your child’s birth mother like normal and share, at the end of the email, exactly when you plan to email again. Do this each and every time you email her. Not only does it set up proper boundaries for your benefit, it’s to her benefit too. No longer will she run to her email every day and be discouraged if she finds nothing. She will heal better having specific expectations for emails from you. Some say they feel comfortable emailing every other month and set a calendar reminder to do just that.
What if your child’s birth mother emails you back right away? Do you email her back again? Doesn’t that just set up a chain of emails and broken boundaries again? The answer is simply yes, it sure can and does. The best advice is to set up a separate email account that you only use with your child’s birth mother so that you will not look at that email account each day. You are best to also tell your child’s birth mother that you will only check it every other month if that’s the timeframe you decide to use for correspondence. Make a commitment to yourself to truly only check your email on the dates you’ve designated to email her. Otherwise it will make it much harder to stick to your boundaries.
I do not recommend that you stop the email communication altogether, unless this plan was clearly communicated to the birth mother before the adoption took place. Abruptly ending communication like this can create not only distrust from the birth mother, but also anger that could damage your relationship with her forever. This is not in your child’s best interest. Find a happy balance and change your communication with her accordingly.
I encourage you and your husband to talk about what contact you are both comfortable with and identify what fears you each have about the contact. You could make a pro and con list to help you to determine your true comfort level. Remember this should be based on long-term comfort so that a change does not have to occur again in the future. Whatever you and your husband decide, it is crucial that you are both 100% committed and comfortable with the plan and that it is clearly communicated to your child’s birth mother.