Adoption, Expectations, and Mothering

Since 2011, this blog has shared thoughts and insights on many aspects of adoptive family life and relationships. Consequently, our expectations, thoughts, feelings, and understanding about adoption and mothering have evolved in response to new information. Our coaches have read widely; attended conferences; listened to podcasts; participated in panels and interviews; taken courses; nurtured relationships with adoptees; conducted research; and written books.

In their recent conversation on our podcastADOPTION MATTERS: REAL PEOPLE. REAL LIFE. REAL TALK,” adoption coaches Kim Noeth, Sharon Obazee, and Sally Ankerfelt focused on Mother’s Day and how the holiday creates a complex experience for them and all adoption triad members.  (By the way, you can also watch their discussion on our vlog.)

Lessons learned

One of the greatest lessons I drew from them is the value of having women from all three sides of the adoption triad speaking and deeply listening to one another. Without judgment. Without refutation. Without taking offense. They conversed with defenses lowered, a commitment to learn from one another, and open hearts and minds. Most importantly they brought mutual respect.

Braving these unsteady, sometimes difficult, and awkward conversations takes courage. Each coach brought a willingness to share, and a desire to learn not only for their children’s sake but also for the sake of themselves and their entire families. Each chose to be open, and vulnerable, and to trust that their words would be received with respect and compassion. Without a bedrock of safety and forthright honesty their conversation could not have unfolded.

Each heard something new

All found value in listening. Their conversation brought some thoughts and beliefs to conscious awareness. This gave them a chance to reexamine these presuppositions for accuracy and relevance. They also heard things they had not previously considered or noticed. Each learned something different. They also shared some familiar information that landed in a way that brought them insight, hope, and increased awareness. Unsurprisingly, it also delivered a dose of hard reality too. All of them affirmed the value of this open dialog.

Sharon, Kim, and Sally felt it helped them individually. They recognized how these new perspectives could benefit their families as well as their coaching clients.

Admittedly, Sharon, Kim, and Sally are professional coaches, colleagues, and friends who are well-skilled in communication. They intentionally chose to be mindful of their tone, language, and content. Together, they co-created a safe environment. They understood that their words would be received and filtered through the lens of each listener’s role in adoption. Even if it contradicted or challenged their point of view, there was space for truth-telling and truth-seeking. Multiple truths could and do coexist. This set the stage for an open-hearted conversation.

Conversations unfold

Each of them mentioned a “mothering” situation from their own lives. They described how they had worried about triggering a hidden tripwire that might stress, damage, or even sever the relationships built through adoption. It’s easy to see how this caution can complicate or even block important conversations from happening in the first place. We’ve all probably experienced how trying to protect others can sometimes prevent us from being genuine and telling the truth about our thoughts, feelings, and needs. But choosing comfort over honesty exacts a cost and prevents the creation of an authentic connection.

Of course, Sharon, Kim, and Sally are all professionals and they do not participate in the same adoption. So, it was likely easier for them to discuss sensitive topics straightforwardly. Still, anyone can build the essential trust to brave similar conversations within their personal constellation of adoption relationships. This takes intention and commitment.

Focus on creating benefits for the child you all love

Clear ground rules are essential. Keep your child’s best interest as your compass whenever you form expectations and promises so all of you have a consensus about what is promised. Commit rigorously to making your relationship a success for the sake of your child. Follow through on your promises to each other. Offer grace and support, forgiveness, and second chances. Actively seek ways to help things succeed instead of looking for ways to shut down the relationship.

Look for solutions not exits.

Regularly seek the guidance of an adoption coach or therapist to help you build a structure that empowers your open relationship. Create systems and practices that encourage and nurture your relationship. This is an ongoing process that benefits from having ongoing guidance and support. Tackle issues promptly before they become overwhelming.

Be mindful of your communication style. Examine your expectations, fears, worries, and presuppositions. Identify how these feelings might skew your thoughts, decisions, and actions. Focus on making the triad relationship work not on ways to cut ties because that might be less complicated. Anticipate that glitches, disappointment, and complications will happen because that’s life. Nothing is perfectly smooth.

The love for a child links you forever

In the past, adoption was often described as finding a “forever” family for a child. However, the reality is that both birth and adoptive families are forever connected to the adoptee. An adoption legally transfers the rights and responsibilities for raising a child from the birth to adoptive families. Yet, the biological, emotional, and psychological connection remains.  An adoption decree cannot dissolve those connections. If some of the people from your child’s birth family are not safe, look for other birth family members who are. Also, remember that people change. So,  periodically revisit any decisions you have made previously about who is a safe connection.

Your child benefits significantly when you make space for all of “their” people. These relationships and connections are life-long. They will outlive your child’s youth when they are under your care and tutelage. Someday they will be adults who will decide for themselves which relationships they will continue and which they will not. Strive to build relationships that last for life.

Consider these questions regarding mothers:

  • How should we treat mothers?
  • How should we honor and celebrate mothers?
  • What constitutes a “good” mother?
  • Who deserves to be a mother?

A book recommendation 

Researcher Rebecca Wellington recently published “Who Is A Worthy Mother.”
This is a comprehensive look at the policies and presuppositions that guided decisions regarding which expectant moms were encouraged to parent and who were encouraged to choose adoption for their children Read my complete review


A product to check out

Have you ever searched for an adoption-appropriate card and found it not quite what you had in mind? You may want to check out Pamela Karanova’s “Adoptee Moxie True-to-life” greeting card line.  An adoptee, she designed this line of cards for adoptees, LDAs, DNA Surprises, NPEs, MPEs, Search Angels, and donor-conceived individuals. They can be raw, poignant, funny, or discomforting. Check them out for yourself.

Check out these multicultural books about mothers!


Listen to our podcast or watch the conversation. 








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