An Open Adoption: Becoming a Hardacker

“All my problems started the day I became a Hardacker,” our daughter told our counselor. We laughed when we heard the comment.

Our daughter is adopted and we have an open adoption with her birth-parents. We met them prior to her birth through an adoption agency and hit it off right away. They said we were like older versions of themselves. Over the years that connection has turned us all into family and friends, and we value their presence in our lives as much as the daughter they entrusted to us when they were teenagers.

We all went into this  adoption process with plans to give her the best experience possible. My husband John and I read books on adoption, raising adopted children, and open adoption. We understood that adopted kids struggle with identity because so much is unknown of their early life, and sometimes this leads them to make up stories telling themselves their lives would have been better if they hadn’t been adopted.

We wanted an open adoption to answer those questions and give her an understanding of who she is and where she came from. Sam, her birth-father, was adopted and had lived that struggle with identity. He knew he wanted an open adoption so he could be present to answer her questions and assure her of his love.

One particularly non-traditional thing Sam wanted involved her birth certificate. He had discovered his original birth certificate as a teenager, and it recorded a different name than his own. He wanted his daughter’s first birth certificate, the one with the names of her biological parents, to have the same name as her second birth certificate, the one that would have our names as parents.

And so, apparently, all her problems started the day she was born.

We laugh because we know that under the angst of our hormonal teenager is a girl trying to understand her identity as an adopted child. And she is loved unconditionally by not just one but two sets of parents who have been laying the groundwork to give her the smoothest transition possible through this stage of her life since the moment she was born.

We all desire that our children never struggle or have to experience pain

I won’t lie to you though; I had secretly hoped our open adoption would allow us to skip this stage. I know it was naïve. I knew it was naïve when I hoped it at her birth, but we all desire that our children never struggle or have to experience pain. And so, on that day I first held her, 24-hours-old, knowing it was already too late to protect her from difficult experiences, I hoped and prayed that we would be enough. We hoped that the choices we had made and the relationship we were developing with her birth-parents, Sam and Lauren, would be enough to overcome struggles and identity issues that come with being adopted.

It wasn’t enough, of course. When she was four-years-old and telling me she wanted to go to her “real home” with Sam and Lauren because she had already figured out that kids live with the people who give birth to them, we knew it wasn’t enough.

I wish open adoption was the secret to helping adopted children smoothly transition through life without those feelings of abandonment, without questions about their identity, without struggle. I wish there was a secret at all. Not all adopted kids struggle as much as my daughter, some struggle more, some less. Eventually though, no matter what their story, every one of them has to sit down and ask themselves who they are in light of their adoption story.

I hoped and prayed that we would be enough

 For my daughter her adoption story has gotten mixed up with teenage hormones, anxiety, social media bullying, cultural ideologies, and life circumstances. All the stuff any child her age struggles with these days no matter what their family looks like.  And it would be easy to just address the obvious issues and not remember that she looks at all of life through the lens of adoption and as a result all her problems really started the day she became a Hardacker.

But as we all, parents, birth-parents and child, go forward, I am confident she will eventually discover all the answers were also there the day she became a Hardacker.


Melanie Hardacker
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6 thoughts on “An Open Adoption: Becoming a Hardacker

  1. We have friends with two kids through open adoption. One’s mom is involved and eager to still be part of life. The other’s mom cut off contact fairly quickly. The kids are still quite young but my friend is wondering about future questions, with such different involvement levels. I love that you have embraced open adoption so well – challenges and all. I guess there are no neat answers, are there?

    • Truth. No neat answers. Over the years I have noticed there is no common adoption story, every single one is unique. I try to encourage my daughter to define herself by the positive aspects of her story rather than focusing on the negative ones. Hard for teenagers in general but we are getting there. One day at a time. I am sure when the time comes God will give your friend the right words to answer her kids questions. I could not have planned ahead of time the wisdom God has given as we have walked this path.

  2. This is offensive and I feel very sorry for the girl you took yet so easily dismiss as she matures.

  3. I hope now and in the future more parents are helped to parent and adoption becomes rare.

  4. You laughed when she said that? She was telling you her truth. It wasn’t funny at all, it’s tragic! What I wonder is…when will people like you who have a child that tells you it is NOT enough, do the right thing and correct the wrong done to the girl you held onto despite knowing it should be better? She deserved more. You could have worked with Lauren and Sam to fix what you all broke when she was four instead of persisting in the delusion that it was ok to keep her and pretend you were her mother. Adoption happens with the stroke of a pen. Reinstating the correct parents can happen with the stroke of a pen. That Lauren is her mother and Sam is her father will NEVER change. You could have helped Lauren limit the trauma but you didn’t…maybe you can help others do better. The dumbest thing about open adoption is that the level of emotional strength that it takes to be in that relationship is more than enough to keep and raise a baby in difficult circumstances.

  5. I noticed some negative comments from people who fall into an “anti-adoption” group on this point and have gone back and forth on whether to respond or not. I have decided to respond because as I look at the world today I feel a lot of amoral ideas went unanswered over the years until, without any other voice to contradict, they became truth. So while I am not going to respond to the specific comments about my article I do want to affirm the adoption option.

    When a woman has an unplanned pregnancy she has basically 3 choices, abort, parent or place for adoption. None of these are the perfect choice. They all come with challenges. Especially if you are young, uneducated and alone as many women are in those situations. I am not going to tell you adoption is always the best choice in those circumstances because I don’t believe that is true 100% of the time. In fact as part of our process I had to answer this question for myself, “why in today’s accepting society with our excellent welfare system and so many resources would a woman not parent?” Without boring you with the details my answer basically boils down to realizing that every option has challenges. There is no perfect answer. For some women parenting is the right choice, for others adoption is the right choice. And while I can’t even fathom a scenario where someone would say my daughter would have been better dead than raised by me, those who would say that claim to be the “pro-choice”. If we are really giving these women a choice adoption must remain one of those choices.

    I know there have been and continue to be bad adoption experiences, corruption within systems and adoptive parents who go on to abuse their children. My heart breaks to know that is what some people’s experience with adoption is because that has not been our experience, that has not been Sam and Lauren’s experience that has not been our daughter’s experience. And so we cannot judge the entirety of the adoption experinece on the sins of a few.

    And truth be told biological children have the same struggles even when raised in safe, 2 parent homes with a solid socio-economic background. I had someone comment on my private facebook page about the universal truth of kids struggling with identity and a desire to blame their family whether biological or adopted. Raising kids is tough. Anyone who would tell you otherwise does not have children.

    I am sure the anti-adoption people will rip this whole post apart and I don’t intend to respond to them but, I wanted to give voice to the other side of this story and not let a few negative comments distract from the beauty of our adoption experience.

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