For those who have made an adoption plan, the holidays are not always easy. If you have an open adoption, however, finding solace in letters, pictures, and updates can help. Knowing that your child is loved, happy, and healthy can bring the greatest peace of mind. Camilla*, a birth mother who placed her daughter for adoption through Adoptions With Love, agrees. Below she shares her story in hopes it will empower other birth mothers to find peace this holiday season.
You have a pretty open relationship with your daughter’s family. Has your adoption plan always been open, and is that what you initially wanted?
When I started making an adoption plan, I had no idea what I wanted – or more importantly, what I would want in the future. I remember being pregnant and filling out the initial adoption paperwork, and having NO idea what I was doing. At that point, I still wasn’t sure if I’d go through with it, wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually submit the papers to start the process. What I remember most about those forms, though, is a single check box. It’s the one you check off if you want to receive letters and pictures of your child as they get older. When I first filled out the forms, I left it blank. I stared at that box for a long time, and in my already-emotional state, decided that there was no way I would be able to emotionally handle watching my baby grow up without me.
At the last minute, though, I went back and checked the box. I figured I might want those letters and photos someday, even if I couldn’t handle them right now.
I have no regrets about checking that box. Getting to see my daughter safe and happy and healthy with her adorable family is one of the greatest gifts of my life.
I got so lucky with my daughter’s parents. They were incredibly kind on adoption day, and when I wanted to see my daughter at six months old, they agreed immediately. After that, almost three years went by before I asked to see my daughter again, and again they agreed without a second thought. They have been so generous with me.
Our adoption started off mostly closed, because I couldn’t handle it yet. I worried that knowing me would confuse my daughter, that it would be too emotional, that my existence in her life would be too hard for her parents to explain. Eventually I decided that it would be better for her to meet me now than to try and introduce me later. Over the past four years (and these past few months particularly), we’ve started to work on having a more open adoption.
What does openness look like for you and your daughter’s family now? How do you keep in touch?
Our adoption, and its openness, is evolving over time. They send me photos and a letter every year near her birthday, and we have a shared Shutterfly account. They post photos and comments of my daughter on various occasions and holidays, and I’ve been able to share some of my own baby photos with them (per their request). I got to see my daughter in person back in May, and hope to schedule another visit soon. Her parents are amazing, and the more I interact with them, the more I feel that I made the right decision in choosing them to be her mom and dad.
Will you all be connecting in any way this holiday season? If so, how?
I hope to schedule another get-together with them soon, yes! I’m always hoping for another one. I’ll reach out about it after the New Year, and if they respond the way they have in the past, I imagine they’ll be just as excited about it as I am. We talked about openness the last time we met, and we all seem to be on the same page about it –
That it’s better for our daughter to know all of us, have access to all of us, and be able to ask questions of any of us. I think it’s a healthier type of relationship to have.
Have you experienced the holidays since making an adoption plan?
This will be my fifth holiday season since my daughter was born – my first holiday season as a birth mom was 2013. I honestly don’t remember too much detail that year, because I felt like I was underwater. That’s the only way I can describe it – it was almost an out-of-body experience, like conversations took longer to process and words took more time to get to my brain. Everything felt like it was happening to someone else, and normal everyday things, like getting dressed for work or going out with friends, felt like much more effort than they should have been.
Every year that goes by gets easier, though! When the holidays come around now, I mostly just look forward to seeing new photos of my daughter.
How are you feeling with the holidays approaching this year?
I feel pretty good about them this year. This year, for the first time, I sent my daughter a birthday present, so I also plan to send the family Christmas presents – nothing crazy, but just little things to let them know that I’m thinking of them and wish them a happy holiday season.
I definitely hope to see her soon, though I’ll wait until the new year because this time of year is so crazy for people. I hope that seeing my daughter and her family starts being a regular occurrence. And I hope that my daughter, her sister, and her parents are happy and healthy and enjoying life!
Do you have any advice for other birth moms who might be experiencing some grief this time of year?
I think the thing that helps me the most is looking at pictures of my daughter. I love seeing her photos and reading the letters her parents have sent me, because it reminds me of the amazing life she has and how much she is loved. It brings me peace to know that she’s a happy, healthy kid in a loving family. That’s exactly what I wanted for her. So even when I miss her, I know that she’s happy.
Are there any special holiday traditions you’ve created, or hope to create, with or for your daughter as she grows up?
I don’t know if I have any holiday traditions in mind particularly, but I love the idea of having one with my daughter. I love family traditions and I hope that she and I have something we share on holidays as she gets older. That would mean the world to me.
*Names have been changed for anonymity