The popular news column, “Dear Abby,” featured a post by a caring grandmother that read:
Dear Abby: My teenage daughter will be giving birth soon, and she has decided to place her baby for adoption. I have told her that whatever she decides, I will support her decision. Here is the difficult part: This will still be my biological grandchild. When this beautiful child is lovingly handed over to the adoptive parents, I will be losing a grandchild. I am already in mourning. Are there other grandparents out there who are going — or have gone — through this and how are they coping? I already see a therapist, but I would still like to know how others are coping. — Un-grandparent in Ohio
Dear Un-grandparent: I wish you had told me more about the kind of adoption your daughter has chosen for her baby. If it is an open adoption in which she will be kept informed about the child’s milestones and progress, ask the adoptive couple if they would welcome you as an “extra” grandparent for the child. If I hear from others who have gone through this process, I will let you know, because I’m sure they will write to help you through your heartache.
This exchange inspired the following blog post about open adoption, adoptive families and birth grandparent’s involvement in life post placement.
The Early Stages of the Adoption Plan
Answers to Some of the Tough Questions
Learning of your child’s choice to make an adoption plan might leave you wanting to ask a lot of questions, here are some common questions and answers that other people in a similar position had about what adoption meant for them as grandparents.
Will I still be a grandparent if my child creates an adoption plan?
• What does being a grandparent mean to you?
• Does this vision fit with your child and the adoptive family’s vision?
• How do you see yourself being involved in an ongoing relationship with your birth grandchild?
Your grandchild will always be a part of your life regardless of whether your child chooses to parent or place the child with an adoptive family and open adoption gives you the option to send updates and be updated on their life.
Can my child handle the emotional strain of making an adoption plan?
• How has your child coped with grief and loss in the past?
• How have you managed loss in your own life?
• Are you in some ways blaming yourself for your child’s current circumstances?
• What family rituals are in place to commemorate losses?
The life experiences of your child may be very different from your own. It is important to step back and realize that this will be one of the biggest and most difficult first decisions as a parent that your child will make. They need to decide what the best thing will be for their child.
How can I best demonstrate my love and understanding for my child?
• How can you support your child no matter their decision?
• What can you do to prepare yourself for this life change?
• What role does your child want you to play while they are contemplating their decision?
• What expectations does your child have of you should they choose to parent or plan an adoption?
Give yourself permission to grieve the upcoming changes in the life of your child, no matter their choice. Ask for help if you need it and if you don’t know what to say sometimes just being there shows you care. Birth grandparents usually have some kind of influence the birth parents’ decision to parent, abort or place the child for adoption. It is important to not to have your wishes pressure or sway your child during the decision making process. They might be make a different choice than you believe to be right, but in the end it is their decision and having you, the grandparent, as a support system for them is what they need most.
How can I stay involved with my birth grandchild and their adoptive parents after placement?
“We have experienced parenting, so we know what we’ll miss, whereas a young birth mom doesn’t always realize this,” said Janice Widner, whose daughter placed a child for adoption years ago, in a Chicago Tribune article. “So for birth grandparents, adoption can be harder emotionally.” It is not uncommon for birth grandparents to feel less important in the adoption process because the birthparent’s have the final say when it comes to open adoption. Keep in mind that this is your grandchild and that is different than being a parent again, help and support your child make the best decision for their life.
If your child is placing through open adoption, it might be a good idea to have a conversation with your child about your desire to be a part of your grandchild’s life after placement. You and your child could approach the adoptive parents and ask them how they feel about grandparent involvement in the child’s life as well and agree upon something that works for everyone involved. One grateful birth grandmother responded to the Dear Abby post explaining that each summer the adoption agency her daughter and son-in-law placed through sponsors a picnic that is attended by birth and adoptive parents as well as grandparents, other family members and of course the adopted child. Adoptions From The Heart hosts a picnic just like this one in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Connecticut.
Other ideas of ways to stay involved and connected from actual adoptive parents who have maintained relationships with their child’s birth grandparents include:
• Crochet a baby blanket, sew a quilt or if you aren’t crafty head to a nearby store and purchase a baby blanket.
• A photo album, collage, or just pictures of the baby’s birth parents as they were growing up. It will be wonderful for your grandchild to see themselves in their birthparent’s at different ages and adoptive parents like to have photos of other members of their child’s birth family!
• A family tree and compete medical history from your perspective would be an invaluable gift because birth parents don’t always know as many ins and outs as you might.
• Write letters. Some adoptive parents keep scrapbooks or binders with letters, cards and items from birth families for their children
• We keep in touch via email and visits; sometimes we meet halfway in between our homes to go to the zoo or aquarium.
Building a Relationship to Last a Lifetime
Having a relationship with a grandchild is a desire for some birth grandparents and building that relationship through honest communication with birth parents and adoptive parents can help make that possible. Whether it is letting the adoptive family know of your love and support through letters and visits, or establishing a valued friendship by going the extra mile, it might just make all the difference.