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Open Adoption:
Double the Love

  • Linda R. Sexton

The Open Adoption Bin – Is My Child the One Feeling All the Feels Now?

During a recent visit with Ricky, her birth father, my daughter Sofie was shown the memory bin that Ricky had kept over the years. Many birth parents and adoptive parents know just what I am talking about. It is common for both birth parents and adoptive parents to keep a bin of memories and touch points about each other’s families, and of course about the child.

There is this feeling, especially in the early years, that we want to capture every moment, every memory of each other, not knowing what the future holds. We wonder—Will we always be in touch? Will they keep their promises? What will it look like when each other’s families grow and change? So, we lovingly stash every memory we can get our hands on.

These bins are not unlike the pictures and memories that parents keep of their kids growing up, but there is a whole other layer to the open adoption bin. This bin comes with feeling all the feels of both joy and sadness. It has the common joyful memories of the little ones, but especially for birth parents, it is steeped in desire for connection and a longing that never goes away.

Sofie was delighted as she and Ricky pulled out the pictures and memories—scattering them all over the living room floor and sharing them with his children (Sofie’s birth siblings) ages 7 and 9. This bin was full of pictures of Sofie growing up. Some of those Ricky and his family took during visits, and some were pictures and items we had sent to him. At first, it was all joy.

I knew about this bin reveal because it was a Saturday night and I was sitting in my living room watching TV with my husband, David, when the texts started coming in. Sofie was taking pictures of the pictures and sending them to us. There was a particularly sweet one of David holding toddler Sofie and she wanted to share it with her dad. Then there was a beautiful one of her birth mom Rachel, and she sent that to us too. We texted back and forth commenting on the good old baby and toddler days, and the cuteness of our little one.

But soon these mementos brought some unexpected feels for Sofie. It brought up questions and thoughts about Sofie’s birth mom, Rachel. Ricky had many pictures from his teen years and his high school days with Rachel. They were only 15 and 16 years old when Sofie was born.

The next evening after she flew back to her home, she called me letting me know she arrived safe and sound. Then she shared that she had also texted her birth mom with a couple of the pictures, commenting on how beautiful Rachel was. It was then that I knew she was feeling all the feels about the gravity of what her teen parents experienced when bringing her into this world. I asked her if she wanted to talk about it and she said no—but she would with her therapist. Fair enough, I thought.

About a week later I asked Sofie again if she wanted to talk about it and she said, “No, I am out of spoons.”  This is our way of letting each other know that we are emotionally spent and not able to talk, think, or deal with it at the moment. It was actually Sofie’s sibling that started this phrase for easy communication in our family. I think they got the idea from a therapist that explained that sometimes we only have so many emotional spoonful's that we can digest, and when we are full, it is time to stop. Both my children sometimes tell me they are “out of spoons” and I know it is time to leave it alone. This was one of those times.

Eventually we were able to talk about it, and Sofie expressed that these pictures made her think about how difficult it must have been for her teen birth parents. She knew her birth mom’s family was struggling in many ways, and it sparked a desire to really understand her birth mom deeply. This is when I knew the tables were turned. Her birth mom and birth dad spent a lifetime feeling all the feels of joy and loss about the child they placed for adoption. And now my child was feeling all the feels of joy and loss about them.

Adoption is complicated. joy and love, and the grief and loss will always co-exist. I still believe that facing it, talking about it and feeling it is the healthiest way to deal with the complexities of any adoption. While we will always have more work to do, I am so grateful for the open, honest relationships and bonds that exist for our children and their birth families.

Because of openness, Sofie can talk about her birth parents with us—her adoptive family—and she can ask questions to her birth parents directly. That helps Sofie process her own feelings. Feeling all the feels is never easy, but it can be very healing. I am not sure my children will ever say they are completely healed, but they are working on it in healthy ways.

101 views4 comments


Jennifer Eckert
Jennifer Eckert
Jan 17

Thank you Linda for sharing your experience. I know many people and families appreciate learning from this

Jan 17
Replying to

Thanks Jennifer. It is something that I sure never thought about when Sofie was growing up.


Jan 17

Linda, Thank you for sharing this insightful message. Those of us who did not adopt can find awareness through your posts that may have passed us by. Good luck with your book launch. I watched your box opening. It is a joyous time. You know the work that went into this book so celebrate.

Donna O

Jan 17
Replying to

Thanks so much Donna for all of your support during this entire process!



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