family is everything

I was hanging out with a friend the other day when I mentioned that we’d be hanging out this coming Friday at Ky’s great grandma’s house for a fun Easter day of an egg hunt and then dinner with our family.

She replied that it was really generous of us to make the effort we do with Ky’s family.

I had to take a few breaths before I responded. More on my reply in a minute….

Generous is not a word I use when I describe the relationship that we have with her birth family. That implies that I’m doing something that is “showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected” as per Google dictionary.

It is necessary and it is expected. You bet it is when you are living in the world of open adoption (OA).

I struggle sometimes in talking with other adoptive parents in various degrees of an “open adoption” because let’s face it, I’m judgemental about it. I’ve got a strong opinion about OA now and I’m not afraid to talk about it. Actually, I’ve never been afraid of it.

My main issue stems from people who say they are in an open adoption and they really are in a semi-open one and using the word “open” as a pretence to imply that they ARE being generous in keeping their birth family involved in their lives.

That drives me up the wall.

While everyone goes into adoption with an idea of what they want in mind, its so important for prospective adoptive parents to *really* research what openness is (if that is what you are considering) by way of talking to families who have adopted, adoptees, and birth families. You truly have to comfortable with expanding your family beyond just the child before agreeing to anything with prospective birth families. If you aren’t, clarity and transparency is a MUST or you are without a doubt setting everyone up for hurt down the road.

There are so many things that need to change in the education of parents who want to adopt domestically and the definition of what open really is needs to become a priority. Yes, when you take that baby home – legally he/she is yours. The degree of openness cannot be enforced it is entirely up to the adoptive parents as to how they navigate the relationship with the birth family. Adoptive parents do get to set the rules once those papers are signed (in most provinces/states) and unfortunately birth families (outside of the birth mother and father) never really get a chance to voice how they feel.

Monika over at Monika’s Musings wrote an amazing post recently about what openness means to her. I LOVE her thoughts and think that Ohana is about the most accurate and thoughtful definition of what openness really should be in adoption.

In my experiences in talking with other adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents, I’ve realized more and more that most people only really *think* about what the relationship might look like with the birth mother and father after having a child placed with them when they are considering an OA. There is very little talk about what it can mean to the entire birth family who *also* relinquishes that child.

I can’t imagine not having Ky’s entire birth family in our lives, but it just wouldn’t have occurred to me to consider them if we hadn’t met Ky’s birth grandmother the night she was born. I will never forget looking at her minutes after Ky was born and realizing that she didn’t want to touch Ky because she was so unbelievably sad about what was about to happen to her granddaughter that day. Her granddaughter wasn’t going home with her daughter, she was going home with strangers. It was she who put Ky in my arms before they all left the hospital the day she was born and it was she who made me see just how much loss is involved in adoption.

It was that moment that I knew that couldn’t let them lose her. I couldn’t just leave and take their baby away. Let’s face it, our baby girl isn’t just ours.

She is everyone’s.

And you know what. That’s exactly how it should be.

I find it sooooooo necessary to point this fact out clearly to everyone who asks about our relationship with them.

My reply to my girlfriend was this…

I’m not being generous. I’m being a mom. That means making sure I take care of all my family, and her birth family is my family now.

Adopting a baby domestically goes way beyond maintaining ties to a birth mother and father only. Family can be huge and the loss of a baby can go generations deep. It’s that point that I emphasis when I talk about adoption now. In domestic open adoption, you aren’t just adopting a baby, you are gaining another family.

Cherish your families and remember that the baby that may be on its way to you though adoption comes from a family that is grieving their loss.

Family is everything and your baby can reap the benefits of knowing and loving them all.

Intend on loving them all.


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tpicTracy is a mother to a gorgeous girl whom her and her husband adopted at birth in January of 2012. She holds a Master’s degree in Guidance Counselling and is a high school counsellor by day, self-admitted know it all by night, and gate-keeper of three enormous families on the weekend. She formed her new family by way of an exceptional open adoption and now spends her weekends making sure her family, her husband’s family and her daughter’s birth family all get to shower her with as much love as she can get. She can be contacted at


  1. Love. This.

  2. I have never been involved in an adoption, but I think it is a beautiful thing. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want your child to be loved by as many people as possible!!!
    I can not speak to this personally, but I know when I was thinking about the possibility of adoption I wasn’t sure if I could handle open adoption, as I think I would be insecure in the presence of the birth mother. Now that I am a mom, I know that I would forfeit my insecurities (if I did have them) to honor my child’s birth family and to ensure she was loved by as many people as possible. Eventually open adoption will be better understood, or at least I hope so!

    • Insecurities play a huge role in why a lot of doors get closed in adoption between adoptive parents and birth parents. It’s so important for people to really research what their options are and dig deep within their hearts for what they are comfortable with before pursuing adoption. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    • I’ve felt the same way when thinking about open adoption, plus an added layer of “but I won’t WANT to share my kid!” It all makes me really appreciate the sort of confidence, security, maturity and honesty that a balanced open adoption relationship entails. ❤

  3. I think a lot of insecurities stem from the attitude that acknowledging a child doesn’t biologically come from you makes him or her not your “real child.” Openness is hard, just like any other committed relationship (marriage comes to mind). But it is SO worth it.

    Love your take on the “generosity”! You don’t include your own family (say, your parents or siblings) in that child’s life out of generosity, you include them because they’re family. That attitude should extend to all of a child’s family, even if they’re not biologically related to you.

    Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks Monika! I think just changing “my” to “our” in conversation is also a step towards a more open relationship within adoption.

      Ps-thanks for letting me link you up!

  4. I’m sending this to my friend who is currently looking into adoption for her family building as treatments haven’t gotten her anywhere. This is a perfect explanation of what I couldn’t convey to her about open adoption. As someone who’s life is touched my adoption, from many years ago, closed adoption too, this really makes me grasp a better understanding of what it means to adopt a child. Thank you for this.

  5. I used to say, “if we adopt, it will be CLOSED.” Then I learned about open adoption and now I can’t imagine NOT doing it openly. I think that in most cases, this should be how adoptions are carried out in this country. It makes me sad thinking about the family adopted children lose when those adoptions are closed.

  6. Reading about open adoptions has changed my mind a lot. I was a bit like Courtney thinking that it would be closed but reading your story has given me a lot of perspective. Unfortunately even open domestic adoptions in Australia are just ridiculously hard – almost non existent. There are permanent foster arrangements but the child does not legally become yours and the idea of losing a child is to hard for me to deal with. Hurry up and start blogging again girl 😉

    • It is all about the education portion that agencies give prospective adoptive parents. Without them advocating for birth families and openness familial ties are unfortunately broken every day.

      I just closed the blog the other night – healing for me has meant that that blog is done 😉

      We’re going to be doing a series of posts on this topic (healing) in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!

  7. What you said above in a comment about changing “my” to “our”– I think that’s a beautiful way to approach the relationship we ALL have with our children.

    One perspective I love about parenting comes from Judaism. I can’t pinpoint a source except that it was within the context of a conversation about Judaism and parenting, possibly with a rabbi in one of my old conversion classes. (Gonna get religious up in here for a moment!) Children don’t belong to us– G-d allows us to have them for a while, but they’re here to be in our care, not to “belong” to us. They are their own people and we are tasked with their care, education and upbringing. I try to maintain this perspective when I get frustrated that my girls aren’t doing what I want them to do (stay out of the dog’s cage, stop climbing onto the couch and stealing the remotes, stop chewing on all the wooden furniture and leaving tooth marks in it) because their job isn’t to do my bidding and follow all my orders– MY job is to help guide them and nurture them. It’s easy to feel justified in one’s control over someone else when that person “belongs” to you and is therefore an extension of oneself.

    When I think about how you say “our” rather than “my,” I appreciate that you are acknowledging that K’s origins are from beyond your immediate world. She isn’t just “yours”– she has a larger network behind her and that history and biology is a part of her world, too. My children are biologically mine, but they have a network behind them as well that I don’t share. They are part of the Jewish people (I haven’t actually converted). They have blood relatives, though distant, in Lithuania and probably Estonia. They have ancestors who perished in the Holocaust. And they were put here to be my children, but they don’t “belong” to me, they belong to themselves and they are my family.

    Long comment is long! *puts soapbox away, sits down*

    • This very much reminds me of Khalil Gibran’s poem “Children” from The Prophet, where it talks about how children are ours to nurture but not to make like us, to instead let them be themselves. I take it to mean that no matter how biologically related you are to your child, you are to nurture them in whatever ways they need, and if they have more family than you, they ought to be as connected as possible to it.

  8. That Monika is a smart one! And you, Traathy, are such a good mama for seeing what your adoption arrangement looks like from your daughter’s point of view. We who grew up in the age of closed adoption, like your girlfriend, can find it hard to change that Either/Or paradigm: either YOU are Ky’s family or THOSE PEOPLE are. You are now an ambassador for Both/And thinking. You explained it so well to her.

    As someone pointed out to me, we fully expect that a parent can love more than one child without it taking away from the child. In OA, we show also that a child can love more than one mom/dad/grandma/brother/aunt/etc without it subtracting in any way from that family member.

    Addition is much better, eh?

    • Monika is awesome!

      You are absolutely right, addition always means more and in OA it can only mean more love. Which is sorta the point right 😉

  9. This has made me fairly sad. I am an adoptive mom who has tried for years to get the birth mom to have any kind of contact with us. It took 3 years of my writing and e-mailing almost every month before she finally responded and since then we have got 3 sporadic messages from her. Our (mine and her) children were 4 and 18 mos when they were seized from her. They long to see her and tell her how they are as they are now kids with lives and interests and jobs. She sees their older sister every month. Not us.

    I am sad because this situation sucks. I am also sad because I fear moms like you who are willing to (by your own words) judge me harshly for not having an open adoption even though I want it so badly.

    I respectfully request that you hold off on those judgements…you don’t always know.

    • Hey there!

      First, thanks for taking the time to comment but I fear you misunderstood what I said. I love LOVE that you are making such an effort to connect and I would never judge anyone for that. What I was trying to say was that I’m sad when people who adopt who put strict boundaries in place which prohibits an outstanding relationship from forming. You’ve done – from what you’ve said – the absolute best you can at initiating contact and it is sad that your birth mom doesn’t communicate. I hope this changes in the future for your family.

  10. On a similar topic as this. I get the same kind of feelings as you had when people tell me what a wonderful thing I am doing by being an adoptive mom to two, one biological and adopting 2 more right now. It is so honorable and sweet and loving and all. Maybe. I don’t see it that way though. This is just how we chose to have a family. No one says to a bio mom how sweet it is that she is a good mom to her kids. It is just what she does. Same for me. I don’t see my kids as a charity move- they are just my kids.

  11. I love this so incredibly much. To me, the openness is so important for my daughter. For OUR daughter. How could it ever possibly hurt to have this huge extended family who loves her so? It helps that I just adore her other mother the way I do, but… I can’t imagine us trying to forge this path without that bond. It is everything. And from day one, she and I discussed what openness meant to both of us – I know my plan for what this relationship would look like was FAR more open than what she had expected. And to an extent, that made me sad… because I think what we have is so beautiful, and so important, and I hate thinking of her selling herself short in that.

    • Thanks for commenting!

      Honestly though, I don’t think she’s selling herself short, I think there is just a lack of education around the globe about what open actually means (or can mean). Your attitude is exactly the right one for showering her with so much love 🙂

  12. Love this post! It warms my heart so much to hear how you embrace all of your childs family this way! Your daughter will grow up feeling so loved!

  13. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. I haven’t thought much about adoption (yet) but your story about Ky’s birth grandmother opened my eyes on how there’s an entire family to lose – or join.

    • Thanks for commenting! You are absolutely right…an entire family comes with whomever you wind up adopting. Food for thought that not a lot of people are aware of!

  14. This was a great post. Thank you for sharing. I’m always thinking of my daughter’s birth family. We’ve never met them, but that was at the request of her birth mother, and the birth father is out of the picture. What if the only relationship you have with your child’s first family is just with her birthmother? We live in a different state, (one of the main reasons she picked us) and we don’t have a physical address for her, though she has ours (she actually came to visit us in Dec and it was beautiful to see her hold my daughter while she was cooing and babbling at her like they were catching up where they left off). I text her every now and again, but not as often I probably should. I feel I’m the one that initiates communication – which is fine with me, though people (like my mom, who doesn’t understand OA) thinks she should be the one to communicate first. Am I forcing the communication? Should I wait to hear from her first? I just don’t want her thinking that now that she has placed with us, that we have forgotten about her. I don’t want her feeling forgotten.

    • Hey Jonelle!

      Thanks so much for writing. The things you brought up in your comment are totally things we talk about with our friends who have adopted all the time. In the beginning I initiated all the contact with our birth mother because I knew she was shy and she eventually told me that she appreciated it so much because she just didn’t know how to communicate what she really wanted to us (at the time). Her confidence in our OA grew as time went on and as we got to know each other. We’re at the point now that we’re both comfortable contacting each other when ever we feel like it.

      In your case, I think (and this just just my opinion) that as long as you put forth the effort to open all the doors you can you have done all you can. At some point though you have to recognize that she may choose not to enter through the door though. If it were me…I’d keep writing/texting/emailing pics and letting her know that she is a part of your life forever. Maybe articulate that you would love more contact to her? When she’s ready she’ll walk through and its just so important for the kids that we be the adults and keep our doors open. Because I choose OA that meant I was going to keep on contacting her till the cows came home or until she told me that she needed space 😉

      Families and OA are hard when people aren’t educated about them. I spent a lot of time with ours before the recognized that openness was so important for our daughter. All you can do is educated them the best you can! Send them all the OA posts about family you can and give them a test at the end 😉


  1. […] Traathy’s great post yesterday regarding Open Adoption (OA), we thought we’d continuing with the theme of family ties today with a look at an […]

  2. […] what it really means to embrace the idea of “family”. We hope you’ll read Traathy’s post and leave your […]

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