After watching the season preview of "Find My Family" all about adoption, I was left wondering why people choose to place their baby without having an open adoption. Is it because they are ashamed of their choice?
I didn't watch this show but I read up on it after I got this question. The family featured in that episode placed their child 29 years ago. Back then (sounds like it was so long ago even though it really wasn't), open adoptions were unheard of. Agencies, counselors, adoptive parents, doctors, experts, everyone thought closed adoptions were the way to go. This thinking seems to have originated during the Victorian era when sex, illegetimate children, etc., were really looked down upon. It wasn't until maybe twenty years ago that open adoptions first started cropping up. And that was with great resistance.
(Read more about the history of closed and open adoptions.)
For some reason, experts thought everyone would be happier to just be in denial about adoption. Assimilate them in. Forget their past. Seal the records and burn all indentifying information.
I remember watching a movie when I was a kid and it showed a woman in the hospital who just had a baby and it was being adopted. She delivered the baby and the doctors whisked it away before she could even see it. I remember her screaming, "Does he have ten fingers and ten toes?" And that's the way it was. People were afraid of birth moms bonding or changing their mind. And the laws reflected those fears. Open adoptions weren't even an option.
I guess the experts figured that having a closed adoption would help the birth parents move on. Just pretend it never happened. Like that could ever happen. Adoptive parents were instructed to never discuss adoption with their children.
Go here to listen to a short radio program of an adoptee who found her birth mom when she was 30. She makes some wonderful, interesting points. She first asked her mother about her birth mom when she was fourteen, I believe. Her mother (doing what she was told to do by counselors) said that the birth mother was dead. The child knew her mother was lying. Asking about her birth mother was the most important question she would ever ask her mother and being answered with an obvious lie instantly bred resentment, hurt, and anger. Anyway, it's a really wonderful, short interview. Give it a listen.
Jocelyn's birth mom wasn't sure how open or closed she wanted to be. With our agency we decided to send 2 letters and ten pictures a month and if the birth parents wanted them, they could come get them at the agency. After spending days in the hospital with our birth parents and growing close to them, it was very natural for us to commit to an open adoption on placement day. We exchanged emails and phone numbers.
Last weekend when we were visiting our birth parents, our birth mom and I got on the subject of an open adoption. She said that at first, she didn't think she could move on with her life and heal with an open adoption. But she says she is so glad now that we are open. It means the world to her to see Joci and know she's well and happy, and how she's made us happy too. In the end, an open adoption has helped provide her with the healing she needs.
There are different reasons why birth parents may have a closed adoption. In reference to the show Finding My Family and older adoptions (those that haven't taken place in the last decade or so), there really wasn't a choice. I don't think they were ashamed. I think they were forced. Because their parents were ashamed, or society was ashamed. As for birth mothers now who actually have an option, I think most of those who want a closed adoption do it as a way of coping and moving on.