Barbara, Like Sadie, I feel like an ambassador for open adoption. My husband Jeff was adopted in 1963 and we adopted a domestic newborn in…...
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Family Reunion: Meeting the Biological Siblings for the First Time
After a full day of traveling to the little Indiana town where our daughter, Beth (now 2), was born, our first open-adoption visit with our daughter's biological family is about to begin. When we finally arrive at the house where Beth’s biological mom, Kim, is living with her mother, grandmother, and three children—Jacob, Mia, and the most recent addition, baby Robbie, who is 7 months, I’m nervous, excited, and still in shock by the news that Kim has a new-ish baby with her new boyfriend, Eddie.
As we pull into the driveway, Kim and 8-year-old Jacob are on hand to greet us. Jacob, who shares the same biological father with Beth, was almost 6 when she was born. I remember him at the hospital all wide-eyed and excited as we watched Beth get cleaned up and weighed through the nursery window.
"That’s my baby sister!" he said bursting with pride.
"Yes, it is!" I recall saying a bit too brightly, trying to push away thoughts of the aftermath—the moment he would realize that his sister wouldn’t be going home with him.
While Beth retreats shyly from Kim and the other adults—Kim’s mother, grandmother, and father, none of whom we have met before—she instantly takes to Jacob. Soon she is demanding his undivided attention. "Jaaacob, come here!" she calls, and he, the ever-obliging big brother, is right there, helping her climb onto the swing or dig for worms.
As Kim and I watch brother and sister reconnect, she wonders out loud exactly what I was thinking, “Do you think she remembers him at all?” It doesn’t seem farfetched to me. After all, Beth did hear his voice for nine months in the womb and felt his touch in the hospital as he gently held her close.
At home, Beth always seems drawn to the older boys the way she is right now with Jacob, wanting to hold hands, hug, or get nose to nose and say “Hi, boy!" "Uh oh, you’re in trouble," other moms have playfully warned me. Yet now that I see Beth with Jacob, maybe she isn’t "boy crazy." Maybe she’s "brother crazy," unconsciously seeking out that sibling relationship because of some innate memory of Jacob. Now that’s not so crazy, is it?
I ask Kim what she has told the kids about Beth being with us. She says Mia, her 5-year-old, who was 3 when Beth was born, doesn’t ask about the why at this point, so she hasn’t told her much. Jacob, however, is a different story.
Kim shares that she has been very open with him, in short: that she loved Beth very much (and still does) but wasn’t able to take care of her and Jacob and Mia. That’s why she chose Tony and me to be her parents. I’m happy to report that this is exactly what Tony and I have been telling Beth since the day we brought her home.
Kim also tells me that Jacob and Mia talk about Beth often and include her in their pretend play. Kim asks if Jacob could talk on the phone with Beth and I wholeheartedly agree. I make a mental note to buy stamps, special notepaper and pens to hopefully spark a pen-pal interest as well. Beth loves to go outside to the mailbox and get the mail. If she thinks opening a pre-approved credit card offer is fun, I can just imagine her little brain exploding with delight opening letters from Jacob!
I pick up baby Robbie. He is a strong, solid little boy who grunts and smiles a lot. I see that he and Beth share the same fair skin and little bow mouth. I say to Beth, who has detached herself from Jacob, for the moment anyway, “This is your baby brother.”
"My baby brother,” she parrots and returns to Jacob’s side, holding his hand.
Like Mia, I know Beth doesn’t fully grasp the situation at hand or even what the words “brother” or "sister” mean for that matter. But one day she is going to realize that siblings typically grow up together, and I feel her loss. (And the loss Jacob must now be feeling.) Still I am filled with hope that the phone calls, letters and visits will provide some comfort. I can’t take away her pain, but I can create a safe place for her to express it.
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Barbara HerelNew York
I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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