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Adoption Blog: Familia Means Family


It is impossible to predict how your momma's heart will feel when the hard adoption questions come. You think you know. You think you are prepared. After all, you have read all the books, know all the stages, have heard all the possible questions your adopted children may ask. You know that one day she may scream in anger that you are not her real mom, and you have carefully thought about the answer you will give. You may even think that you have guarded your heart against the pain of such interactions.
Isabel, adopted domestically as an infant, is almost seven. She has always known she was adopted and we have openly discussed any questions she has had over the years. She started asking them when she was three and she saw a friend's pregnant belly. Those first questions were simple and expected: "Did I grow in your belly?" "Whose belly did I grow in?" As she has gotten older her questions have become more sophisticated: "Where is my birthmother now?" "How did she find you and Daddy?"
I have felt very successful at fielding my daughter's questions and answering them to her satisfaction, so far. I was not ready, however, for the conversation that came a couple of weeks ago. It started, as most of our adoption conversations do, in the car. We don't talk about adoption every day. It is a part of who we are as a family, but we are so much more than an adoptive family that many months can go by without an adoption discussion. Every once in a while, when I feel perhaps it is time, I will remind Isabel that adopting her and her brother was a blessing to her daddy and to me and I invite her to ask questions. In an effort to create an honest dialogue, I remind her that nothing she says or asks will upset me. And I must be doing a good job, because what she said that day rattled me more than I expected it would.
"Sometimes I get sad," she began by saying.
"Why, Baby?" I asked.
"Because sometimes I think that you and Daddy stole me from my other family."
Oh, how my heart broke. I had read that children could have those feelings but we have explained to her many, many times, that her birthmother made a choice to find a family for her that could provide everything a baby needs. We have talked many times about the process we went through. She has met our social worker and she has seen the pictures of the day she was placed in our arms. We've covered it all. She seemed to understand. She's even giggled at my reenaction of our excitement when the phone call, and laughed at my description of her daddy and me driving like crazy, but not so fast that we would get pulled over, to meet her. We have made the story one of joy and wonder. Or so I thought.
I know that adoption is painful and I knew that she has been wrestling with the idea of this other mother, out there, whom she has never seen. Family is very important to my little girl and knowing that another woman is out there, without her, missing her, breaks her heart often. But thinking we stole her was not something I had expected to hear.
So I took a deep breath, swallowed my pain, and made sure she did not see a hint of it before explaining to her, one more time, how the process of adoption works, hugging her tight while I did. And then I made sure to tell her that it is OK to be sad, and that I would cry with her if she needed me to. I know this won't be the last time we have a difficult conversation and I know it is not the last time I will have to swallow my fear and hurt. My job as her momma is to be her emotional pillar, so she can come to me when her little heart breaks and know that it is OK to grieve. I want to be a safe place for my daughter to mourn her loss and find unconditional love, even when her questions break my heart, as well.

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Gaby & gqqfier 15
Thank you for the kind words and compassion.  I write notes to my granddaughter frequently and intend to save them to hopefully share with her someday. She is my first grandchild and only about 3 months old.  I hope for an open relationship but at this time I don’t feel as though the adoptive parents want to include me. We are within the same age group and it felt like they wanted to distance themselves from us. I asked for an email address and offered mine but they said to communicate through the social worker.  Yet they said they want as open as the kids want apparently that is not including grandparents. I don’t know but I felt very judged as a parent by the social worker and the new parents.  I am a good person with a good education and I have beautiful children they are kind compassionate loving people. My son may be young but he is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. I know he is hurting every day and missing his daughter but believing it was too much for his parents to raise her and also believing that he was not capable at this time in his life.

By Liya on Monday, January 07, 2013 at 5:48 am.

Thank you, Liya and KallyLB, for posting here.  The voices of adoptees and first families are so important, and I am grateful that you’re adding your expertise to this forum.

Kally, I have a dear friend who is an adoptee from a closed adoption, and her parents never allowed her to ask any questions (her mom burst into tears any time she did).  Her experience is a powerful reminder that my daughters’ questions are important, and that their sadness (or whatever reaction they have) is more important than any emotions I might have as the grown up/parent.  No matter what, I want to be a safe place for all of her questions and emotions.  And I’m really glad they have my friend to talk to, if they feel like they can’t share something with me.

By NancyL on Wednesday, January 09, 2013 at 4:28 pm.

Hi Gaby,
Wonderful post. My son had a different twist on things. He was afraid someone was going to come and steal him from us. I think this came from his sense of loss and not wanting to lose another parent. These kinds of things are heartbreaking. My heart ached for my son to have to deal with such grown-up and confusing feelings at such a young age.  I remember when he was only 5 him asking me why his first mommy didn’t want him. It was all I could do not to burst out in tears. Or how he told me his birthday made him sad because it was the day he lost his first mommy. Such big feelings for little children. I think you handled this so well. My son is now 14 and his understanding now is obviously better than when he was younger. But the feelings are still there and still complicated. We are now in reunification with his birth mother, which has helped him a lot. It’s a process.

By SunlandMom on Wednesday, January 09, 2013 at 6:56 pm.

Thanks for your honesty! It is absolutely something we never expected either. It’s so helpful when these stories are shared. So much about infertility and adoption seems muffled at times.  Liz—

By Liz Raptis Picco on Wednesday, January 09, 2013 at 8:47 pm.

The story you have made of “joy and wonder” is the story of her trauma and loss….

By Jane52 on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 7:49 am.

Jane52, it is the story of her adoption with all the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am not as naive as to think that adoption is all rainbows and butterflies. But I cannot change the fact that her birthmother made a plan for her adoption. I didn’t even meet her birthmother because my children came to me after she had already terminated her parental rights. This is the story of how she came into our family and I have two choices: I can focus on the trauma and loss, like you say, and keep reminding her all her life of the painful side of adoption, or I can focus on the positive side of it which is that she has a family that loves her (as opposed to being in the foster system bounced around for years), that she was wanted and cherished, and that we are raising her in honesty, including the honesty of the pain that does exist in adoption.
Nobody is denying that adoption is painful, but since she was adopted and that is her story and there is no changing that, it is my job to help her navigate through it in a healthy way rather than let it destroy her.

Thank you for your comment.

By Gaby on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm.

Well said, Gaby.  My oldest is not yet four, the questions so far have been easy… my hope is that my children will feel they can express to us any and all emotions they have about their adoption.  You are doing a great job!

By jszmom on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 1:48 am.

Thank you, Iszmom!

By Gaby on Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm.
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