Two Mothers and One Child: Adoptive Mothers' Lived Experience with Birth Mothers in Open Adoption

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The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of adoptive mothers with birth mothers in open adoption in order to illuminate these experiences and the understandings which underpin these relationships. In depth, repeated conversations with the researcher focused on the ongoing, everyday experiences these adoptive mothers have with the birth mothers of their children and provided the text for this study. The study's research methodology was hermeneutic phenomenology. Themes that emerged from the texts of the conversations were used to reveal the meanings of why each woman came to be in an open adoption, the essence of their experiences being the adoptive mother of a child, and the life they share with the child's birth mother. The researcher's written reflections explore what it means to be an adoptive mother in an open adoption by focusing on the bom1daries that these women experienced with mothers, adoptive mothers in closed adoptions, and birth mothers. Special attention is given to meaning of the experiences of naming the child, being entitled to the child, terms for the child's birth mother, contact with the child's birth mother, and the own-child relationship. The meanings and understandings revealed in this study were validated intersubjectively with the participants. The writing reveals the personal biography of the researcher and how her phenomenological work with the adoptive mothers created new possibilities for seeing the adoptive experience. Implications for curricula in family life education include recommendations for exploring the meaning of involuntary childlessness, the meaning of being a family, and the meaning of parenting.