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Adoption Blog: Adoption: Not Just My Profession, My Life
Moments of Sadness Brought Me Closer to My Child’s Birth Parents
The world of adoption is filled with the voices of adoptive parents, and less so with adoptees’ and birth parents’ perspectives. Because of this, it is common to hear about adoptive parents’ pain when referring to adoption disruptions and disappointments. Family and friends, who witness only the hopeful adoptive family’s pain after experiencing a disruption, may also lend their voices, labeling the revocation period “unfair.”
As an adoption professional who’s also an adoptive parent, I can’t help but think that, yes, adoptive parents indeed suffer a great loss when an adoption match fails, but the bigger picture of a birth parent’s loss when an adoption is successful is much less talked about and seems to carry less weight in today’s society.
You would think that, when we found ourselves facing a possible disruption, my own pain and thought of losing Sweet Pea, the precious little girl who had been in our lives for almost two weeks would push me further from her birth parents. Instead, the reality of my situation brought me to my knees and my own deep heartache brought me face to face with the loss that her birth parents were experiencing. I’m in no way saying that my experience gave me any true understanding of the magnitude of the loss for birth parents. Rather, it showed me that I could never truly understand the depth of that pain and loss because what I was feeling was only a fraction of their pain. This realization brought me to a new level of empathy and compassion for Sweet Pea’s birth parents. And, although that sounds like it wouldn’t have helped me cope during the potential disruption, it did.
When our social worker notified us that we might be facing a disruption, we leaned on our friends and family and our faith for comfort. I let myself weep and mourn. I let myself soak in every single moment with the baby. I found myself holding her all the time, even when she would have been content to sleep in her crib. I watched my husband and my boys snuggle her and shower her with love. Many people think that, at the first hint of an adoption disruption, a line is drawn in the sand with the adoptive parents on one side and the birth parents on the other side. But instead of pitting me against Sweet Pea’s birth parents, it actually brought me closer. They were making such a heavy decision that would last a lifetime, and they had no way of knowing if we were going to keep the contact promises that we had made to them. Instead of feeling angry, I felt honored to be entrusted to care for this baby while her birth parents were grappling with this intense decision. I was constantly reminding myself to check my grief. Most of my pain and anger was coming from laying claim on a child who was not mine alone to claim. And so I reminded myself over and over each day throughout the revocation period that we were chosen to care for this sweet little girl one day at a time while her biological parents were given time to weigh the heavy decision they had made.
In the end, the disruption didn’t occur. However, in those moments of fear and sadness that seemed to stretch on forever, I didn’t know what the final outcome was going to be. I needed to respect the fact that her biological parents had just as much right to change their mind during the revocation period as they had to make the initial decision to place her with an adoptive family.
Adoption can’t be expected to be smooth sailing. It stems from loss and sadness for adoptees and birth parents, and disruptions/disappointments bring that sadness to prospective adoptive parents as well. It seems to be that, when one member of the adoption triad is experiencing their greatest joy, it is that exact same moment that marks another person’s greatest sorrow.
Through my own experience, even before meeting my daughter’s birth parents, I have gained so much more appreciation for birth parents who break their own hearts for the love of their children, and for those who, in the end, change their mind and decide to parent because of that same love.
For those adoptive parents who experience disruptions and disappointments, they will become part of your story, your journey to your child. And in the end, it will give you an increased empathy for your child’s birth parents as well as a deeper level of understanding of the real duality of adoption. Be compassionate and understanding. Know that a decision to parent was not in any way intended to hurt you. You all love the same child, and that should bring you closer rather than pull you apart, even in pain.
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