I wonder, will I get emotional every time my son has a birthday? He’s turning two in a couple of weeks and, truthfully, sometimes while he’s napping, I pull out his baby albums and get weepy. I can’t help it. Like a lot of moms when their child’s birthday approaches I find myself reminiscing about when he was born.

Only, I wasn’t there on the actual day he was born, I was there the day after. We adopted our son, and I’m proud to say that his birth mother chose us to be his parents.

Parenting is a huge responsibility, and for adoptive parents—it is also a huge honor. I’d imagine that most new parents feel overwhelmed when their baby is first placed in their arms. They might feel inadequate, but also so overpowered with love for this little human. Adoptive parents feel these same feelings, too.

The difference is that our child, our entire beginning parenting experience, is a gift given to us by someone else. We were entrusted to take care of this baby by the first person who ever loved him—his birth mother. It is because of her selfless love that we call ourselves parents.

My husband and I were taken totally by surprise when we were chosen to be our son’s parents. Out for what we thought would be a fun and relaxing weekend getaway, we got a phone call saying that a baby had been born the day before, and his birth mother picked us to be his parents. After a very surreal nine-hour drive to the hospital, we found ourselves holding our son in our arms.

And from the minute we saw him, we knew he was meant to be ours. He even smiled at my husband. (I swear!) Like most new parents, we cried happy tears. We smiled and cooed at our little guy.

But even as we focused on our baby, his birth mother was on our minds, too. We were anxious to meet her, although we had no idea how our meeting would go. It was mind-blowing to us that this total stranger had so profoundly altered the course of our entire lives. I tried to imagine the range of complicated emotions she must be feeling—I worried that I would say the wrong thing, but above all I just wanted to make sure that she was okay.

She had already been released from the hospital when we got there, so we arranged to meet her the next morning at a nearby Starbucks. It was a pretty quiet car ride there, as we both tried to fight back our nervousness. If you’ve ever had to meet a stranger in a public place you know it’s an awkward situation at best. Now imagine trying to meet a woman who has just placed her baby with you.

Finding her, introducing ourselves, and sitting down with some coffees was strange for all of us. And yet the feeling of familiarity we had with our son extended to his birth mother too. And despite the intensity of the situation, I think all of us found comfort in each other’s company. My husband and I knew right away she was meant to be a part of our lives—and she has been, ever since.

For the next few months, we texted her almost every day with updates on our son’s growth. She texted back sharing her feelings of peace with her decision to place him with us. After the first year, contact with her slowed down slightly, as all of our lives continued to evolve. But even so, we still keep in touch with her—through texting, and in person, too. As with any family get-together, these meetings can be emotional and stressful for everyone, but they are always loving. We always leave knowing each other a little better and feeling a little more connected.

When I tell people that we have an “open adoption” (which simply means we keep in contact with our son’s birth mother), I often get a fearful reaction. People sometimes ask, “Isn’t that weird for you?” with a worried look on their faces. It seems to be ingrained in the collective consciousness that adoption is something secretive.

Many people say that birth parents “give up” their child—a term that open adoption agencies reject because it brings to mind imagery of a birth parent disappearing, never to be heard from again. Although that has been the reality for many adoptions, past and present, it is not the only way. Open adoptions like ours are becoming much more the norm, to everyone’s benefit.

I can tell you as my son’s mother, that staying in touch with his birth mother does not feel weird. Posting pictures of him on our shared iPhoto account, and reading her comments of “He’s so cute,” “He’s so smart,” etc. make me very happy. I am proud to show her how wonderful he is and to assure her that he’s doing well. I am grateful to know she is happy with the way we are raising him.

While helping my son rip open his presents at his second birthday party (and fighting off my tears of nostalgia), I will be mindful that no gift could ever equal the gift his birth mother gave to all of us—the gift of family.

You might also like: