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Adoption Blog: Familia Means Family

The Person I Wish I Knew



Isabel turned six this past January. Inevitably, my children's birth dates are days I spend thinking about S., the person who saw each of their first moments in this world and made the hard choice to let them go.

How do I thank the woman who changed my life twice by giving me such precious gifts that I can never repay? I don't think the word to express what I feel toward her has been invented. It is so much more than gratitude, or admiration, or even indebtedness. I am a mother because she is not and I am reminded of her sacrifice every time I look at my children.

One of the things we had to consider while going through the process of adoption is how open we wanted our relationship with the birthparents to be. The spectrum is wide, from no contact whatsoever, to visits in your home or theirs several times a year. We thought about this long and hard, and chose our place on the spectrum carefully and prayerfully. But, in the end, the decision was made for us by the kids' birthmom.

For whatever reason, she chose not to have contact with our children. I cannot judge her. What do I know? I've never been in her shoes. I choose to believe that she felt her pain would be a little easier if she didn't know them or see them. Perhaps she had never heard of open adoption and didn't know she had another option. I do know in my heart that it was not the heartless act of a careless mother. From what I know of her situation, an adoption plan was a courageous choice, meant to give her children a life she knew she could not. That's a woman who loves her children in my book.

But adoption, as happy an event as it can be, is not all rainbows and butterflies. In adoption there is loss and, believe me, my husband and I are the ones who suffered the least. Yes, we mourned the loss of the biological children that never were, but in the end we are parents. We have these two amazing beings who fill our lives with laughter and joy.

On another side of the adoption triad is a woman who walked into a hospital pregnant walked out with empty arms, back to real-life, minus baby. On the final side of the triad are two children who are loved by their parents, but who are left with lots of painful questions that may never receive answers, and that become deeper and more thoughtful as they get older.

Isabel began asking such questions early on. The one I dread most is: Why didn't she want me? Now, I know that's not true, but how do you explain that to a little girl?

There are seasons when the questions cease for a while, and then there are seasons when it seems like adoption is all that's on her mind.

A few days ago she came to me and said:

-Mami, I saw a picture of S. holding me as a baby!

-No, Baby, we don't have a picture of S. holding you, I replied.

-But, Mami, I saw it on the computer screen!, she insisted.

Our screen saver is an ongoing slide show of family photos. I realized she had seen a picture of her foster mom holding her the day they placed her in our arms. It made me smile because her foster mom is white and Isabel is black. My little girl still does not associate families by color, as do most children at her age. This is not unusual, given that there are five families formed through transracial adoption among our close friends.

-Baby, that is not S. That is a lady who took care of you when you were little.

-Oh. Well, where is S.?

-I don't know, Baby.

-Where does she live?

-I don't know, Sweetheart.

-Oh.

Then off to play she went.

Isabel had never before expressed a desire to see her birthmom or to know where she lives. But I know these are shadows of things to come. How I wish I could provide her with a picture. How I wish I could see a picture. I want to know where she got her big brown eyes and her beautiful mouth. More than anything, I know the feeling of belonging that I experience when I look at my own mom and see the family resemblance.

There is loss in adoption, and the mirror is a constant reminder. Isabel and Noah are blessed to have one another: They look like each other, they have that connection. Many adoptees do not and we can't minimize the importance of family resemblance. Matt's family has strong genes. There is the Johnson's mouth, the Johnson's hair, the Johnson's you-name-it. When they discuss the cousins' traits I ache for my kids who will never be part of that conversation.

No matter where I was on the openness spectrum of adoption before, I have now become an advocate for the open end. What child would not benefit from more people his or her life who loves his and cherishes him?

There are lots of misunderstandings about open adoption out there, and they mostly come from a place of lack of knowledge. Yes, there are situations in which a relationship with the child's birthmother may not be best. But when this is not the case, I now believe that the decision about how open to make the adoption should be considered carefully, with research, and with the child's best interest in mind.

Since we did not have that choice, I can only pray daily for S. and tell my children what I know about her, making sure they always know the difficult choice she made for them and how much love, pain, and selflessness is involved in that choice.

*Dear S., if you are out there, I hope someday we meet face to face. I want to thank you in person for the way you changed my life and introduce you to the two incredible human beings you brought forth.*


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20 Comments

I love your openness on what can be a delicate and emotional subject.
I am working with Lazarus Carpenter, a singer / songwriter from the UK who was adopted at 8 weeks old in 1952, he has spent a lifetime searching for his birth parents and siblings, the journey has been emotional at times and is best portrayed in his own way via music.
His story will bring him to the USA in September where he will meet 3 of his sisters for the very first time, we are documenting his journey on film and there will be a book available in early 2013, this will be a must read for all parents of adopted children.
you can view his story via the link, but his journey is far from over….. thank you for reading this short summary….

http://youtu.be/WjiWAKyFTf0

By k21john on Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 6:43 pm.

Thank you for the information and the comment, K21john. I wish Lazarus the best as he meets his birth family. How exciting!

By Gaby on Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 9:33 pm.

Thank you Gaby, it will be emotional Journey across the States but one he has dreamed of for soooo many years…
Jx

By k21john on Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 11:33 pm.

It is as if you were writing down my exact thoughts on my children’s birthparents.  I so wanted an more open relationship with them for my children’s sake, but unfortunately it’s not up to just me. 

I speak a lot with prospective adoptive parents and most of them are very wary of an open relationship with their future child’s birthparents.  I completely understand their feelings - I think all of us were there at one point. 
I then share how my feelings have changed as I see my children yearn for information about their birthparents.  It hurts them when I don’t have answers.  It’s obvious they feel rejected. That seems so wrong that they’d be rejected by the person who made such a brave and loving choice of adoption.  But I don’t think my child’s young mind can understand that just yet.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I hope people read it and are inspired to open their hearts to the beauty of open adoption.

By Danielle Pennel on Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 7:07 pm.

Both my children are adopted internationally, so we have no information to share with them.  I wish we had something, even a name.  My daughter asks about her birth mom a lot and it’s so hard having to say “i don’t know”.  But i do know that heir birth moms made a choice for their children out of love and courage, and that IS something i can share with them.

Thank you for this lovely post.

By Tazzy on Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 7:32 pm.

Thank you, Danielle. I have found that, in general, agencies do a better job than say, lawyers or private adoptions, at explaining the benefits of open adoption (this is a general rule, not an absolute!) and asking you to research and read before you make your decision. Several of my friends who have adopted privately really have not been asked to think about this much.

By Gaby on Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 7:35 pm.

Thank you for your comment, Tazzy. We are adopting internationally right now so I’ve been thinking about this as well. Here in the US, when and if my children choose to search, I am pretty certain something will come of it. Internationally adopted children don’t even have that option most of the time.

By Gaby on Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 7:37 pm.

Well written.  I have 2 adopted children and both are in open adoption relationship.  Honestly when we started our adoption journey I was very scared to have an open adoption.  But after being educated and understanding the importance I would have it no other way.  My boys are so LOVED by their birth-families and I feel blessed to now call them family.  When my oldest son was 4 1/2 his birth-mother passes away.  I thank god every day that he got the oppurtunity to know and love her.  We even had her buried at our church so he will always have a place to visit her.  There is not a week that goes by that he does not talk about her.  I get asked often how do you do it.  I answer how could I not.  As you said open adoption is not for everyone but if given the chance it is a leap of faith worth taking.

By Bo&Jay; on Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 8:44 pm.

I am an advocate of openness and have been from the beginning of our process, but, like you, it’s not something that is completely in my control and I’ve learned to be open to the changes. Is your adoption officially closed? Or is there a way you could (or someone else could) reach out to S and see if her feelings have changed? She may not feel comfortable with a relationship, but perhaps she’d be happy to exchange photos through an intermediary.

By TracyRaz on Friday, May 04, 2012 at 11:18 pm.

My husband and I adopted our daughter as a newborn from the US 6 years ago. Her birth mother chose a closed adoption even though we had gone into adoption wanting semi open. We may never get the chance to meet her birth parents but we pray Isabella will be able to some day. I read this Blog posting, first one ever, and love how you expressed how I feel. Isabella’s birth mother will forever be my hero and we pray for her all the time.

When Isabella was very little I decided to write a story in my head to give her information that would be her own story. I only shared what I thought she could handle hearing at the time and wove it into a Cinderella story. She asked for it all the time and as she grew I put in more details. Last year, my husband put it into a book format and we gave it to her for her birthday. All her friends loved it and wanted one of their own.

We are creating a website to offer these to adoptive families. We offered marketing and donations to the agency we adopted her with because of the amazing experience. During our meeting yesterday a woman approached me about doing a book for the birth mother. She volunteered her story since she was one. After reading your blog, I was curious if you wouldn’t mind if I could post part of this one blog on page we create for the birth mother?

The website is: http://www.mybellastory.com

By My Bella Story on Saturday, May 05, 2012 at 5:59 pm.
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Meet the Author

Gaby

Gaby

South Carolina

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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