Shared love: A potential bridge for birth and adoptive parents

Josh and I have been married for 18 years this year. We have five children, three born to us and two adopted; our oldest daughter has a son, so we’re also grandparents!

Josh owns two businesses and I stay at home to homeschool the children; in fact, we’re in our ninth year of homeschooling.

Our first adopted child was placed with us when she was 6 months old and we fostered her for 17 months before the adoption was finalized. Our second child was placed with us when she was 2 days old and we fostered her for 18 months before adopting her.

As you can probably tell, we are a busy, active family! We spend a lot of time with our extended family; in fact, the kids are very close to their cousins.

In the past, there was usually a “distance” kept between birth parent or parents and the foster or adoptive parents, but that is changing in many cases—and we think it’s a great thing, if possible in light of individual circumstances.

We met the birth mother of Izzy (Isabel), our second adopted child, when we took Izzy for her first doctor’s appointment. In fact, I had asked if we could meet Izzy’s birth mother in the hospital when we were being placed with her, but the response was that it was not a good idea. I wish now that I had pushed the idea more because at our first meeting, Izzy’s mom said she felt a little better after having met me.

I can’t imagine how scary and difficult it would be to have your newborn baby placed with “faceless” strangers. I felt it would have given her some peace if she had seen and met us.

In fact, that first meeting went really well!

We connected right away. I had been a little nervous because I didn’t have much information about the case, but had been told there were significant issues in the family. Yet, both parents were always respectful of us, kind and very appreciative of the care we were providing Izzy. She had been sleeping in her baby seat and her birth mother asked if she could hold her.

I remember thinking that was a little odd—after all, she was the child’s mother—but also respectful and I said, “Of course, you can!” I treated her with respect and kindness and let her know how much we loved her baby and loved taking care of her. She really appreciated that.

I tried very hard not to judge or let the details of the case affect my relationship with Izzy’s birth mother. Izzy is the youngest of her mother’s seven children. She is the only one who never lived with her, so she has been unaffected by any issues her other kids have dealt with. Some of her older siblings have difficult behaviors they need to work through.

There is no question in my mind that Izzy’s birth mother made mistakes and didn’t learn from them. She experienced a lot of issues over several years and as a result, her children were removed from her care for a time. Yet I could see how much she loved them.

She had been in foster care herself as a child and had gone through some horrible things. She had no support and, in some cases, no direction—please understand, however, that I’m not making excuses for her; she should have known not to do some of the things she did.

Yet I tried to look past all of the issues and see her. She is a good, nice person. She paid a steep price for her mistakes, and I don’t feel we need to punish her for the rest of her life.

Izzy is safe, happy and healthy. She will not deal with or see all the bad. We can protect her and keep her safe.

It’s human nature to want to know who we are, where we came from, who we look like and so on. Even if my girls never have a problem with being adopted, I believe there will be a natural curiosity about their parents.

We adopted both as babies. We could have just walked away from the birth families, but I think at some point the girls will want to know. I’m hoping that by always having a relationship with the birth family, the adoption will just feel normal and natural. The girls will never have to wonder or question anything.

In addition, because I have built a good, trusting relationship with the birth mothers, I believe that if the girls ever go to them with an issue when they are older, their moms will talk to me about it. It would be as if they had gone to a grandparent or aunt—we all have the same goal: just to love, support, and help them grow into strong, confident, kind, loving and amazing people. We can work together as a team.

Please understand we are not co-parenting—the birth mothers don’t get to make decisions about raising the girls. Both of the birth moms respect us as parents and would never do anything to go against us, but we all just want what is best for the girls.

There are never too many people to love a child! I think it is important for the kids to know that none of it was their fault and everyone loves them and wants them to be happy. It’s okay to love everyone—adoptive and birth family.

But please realize: Open adoption has its challenges.

You have to open yourself up to people who may have hurt your children or people you wouldn’t normally have a relationship with, or people who make bad choices and don’t learn or grow or change.

But what I care about is how they are with my girls. They are appropriate, kind, loving and supportive of us as parents. We never really had any rules. We just kind of jumped into it and have been handling things as we go.

I think the biggest thing is trust and honesty—which goes both ways. We do not have a set schedule or guideline as to when we get together, how many pictures they get, and so on.

I need a real relationship—they have my number, we can call, text, send pictures whenever we want. I usually print off pictures a few times a year and they get a lot! We get together when convenient for both of us.

I know Izzy’s mom wishes it was more often, but I have five children and I just can’t do it as often as she would like. As Izzy gets older, it will get easier for her, I’m sure. Her birth mother is afraid that Izzy will forget her, but she won’t!

There is a bond between my girls and their birth mothers simply because they are mother and child. It is a beautiful thing to see.

Izzy was 20 months old when we got together with her birth mother post-adoption. At that point, she had not seen her mother for seven months. But Izzy remembered her! The moment we walked up to her birth mother, I could see that fact in Izzy’s face and it took her only a couple of minutes for her to warm up and go to her birth mom.

Our other adopted child adores her birth mother! To her, she’s like a favorite aunt or a grandmother; I think that’s the best way to describe it.

When we are with her, she [the child] sits with her, eats with her, wants her to take her to the bathroom, etc. But our kids know who “Mom” is. When they get tired or aren’t feeling well or have just had enough, they only want me.

I am confident in my role as their mother and I am able to just love the relationship my girls have with their moms. I don’t think you have to worry about your child choosing birth mom over you.

But everyone has to decide what they are comfortable with. For me, I need a real relationship; my girls’ birth moms have become like family. They are part of my kids and my kids are part of them.

I think it would be disrespectful to my children if I didn’t respect their birth mothers. In my opinion, there is nothing like a mother’s love, so no one else in the world loves these girls as we do.

Our love for the girls has bonded us and is something we will always share. They are the moms who created them, carried them and gave birth to them and I am the mom who gets to raise them.

Michele Gluck
Diakon Adoption & Foster Care parent

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