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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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Thank you for posting! My son had a difficult time trusting me (too many female care-givers he had to say goodbye to before adoption) and even now prefers his dad, who is the at home parent. All this has hurt me, and I find it difficult to hide the pain I have. I have always been rather transparent. I guess I’m getting ample opportunity to practice!

By EthiopianMom on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm.

Yes, thank you for posting! My son, too, bonded more quickly with my husband when he came home at 9 months old. He had been passed around family and friends from his first month on but his birthfather had spent more time with him than his birthmother. He’s still a “daddy’s boy” and it does hurt sometimes. Somehow, though, he finds it easier to have deeper conversations with me- well, as deep as you can go with an almost 4-year old. He has so far asked me 2 questions that I had to pause before answering.

He tells his story as ‘you and daddy wanted a baby and you were sad, so God sent me to you.’ One day earlier this year, he asked me why he wasn’t with his birthmother. This was right after she visited. I repeated what I’d read to say when you know that you can’t be totally honest yet about the birthparents’ challenges: “your birthmother wasn’t able to care for any baby because of her head being hurt.” (she had a terrible head injury years before getting pregnant) My son then asked, “but I’m not a baby anymore, why not now?” I responded that she still has a hard time even taking care of her herself. Then, I tentatively asked if he wanted to live with her. Fortunately, my son quickly responded, “no, I want to keep living with my mommy and daddy”.

A couple of weeks ago, my son came home from preschool and asked, “how much did you pay for me?” We have never talked about the cost of his adoption in front of him or the fact that we had to take out a loan to pay the attorney. Did another child at school say something? I thought for a moment and answered, “all mommies and daddies pay something for their children. Some pay the hospital and some pay the attorney.” Thankfully, that seemed to satisfy him and we went on with making cookies.

I admit that I didn’t think that he would be so curious about his story at 3 years old. I am honored, though, that he feels comfortable asking me whatever is on his mind.

By drhillsmrs on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm.

Thank you to both of you for your comments. It is nice to know you are not alone when your child asks a question that is tough or unexpected. Often I hear mommas say they think they are doing something wrong if their kids have these type of feelings, like they did not make adoption a happy enough event. The truth is adoption is painful and kids begin to experience the reality of this pain in stages. We, the parents, need to be there for them with honesty, love, and strength. Drhillsmrs I had the same conversation with my daughter when she asked me if she had to go live with her birthmom (whom she does not know). I said: do you want to? And she said “No!” But I held my breath until her answer came out. Yet, still, I was ready to face a “Yes!” with equal calm and understanding. Parenting is a tough job, isn’t it?! smile

By Gaby on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm.

Hi Gaby,

While there are many challenges to adopting older children, I sometimes think I have had it easy, because my kids came to me already knowing and remembering their stories. They understood why they needed an adoptive family without any help from me. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job supporting your daughter and being open to her questions and concerns.

By Sharon Van Epps on Friday, December 28, 2012 at 4:22 am.

Oooooh what a killer comment… you handled yourself and the situation beautifully… I can only hope I can do the same when the challenging questions/comments/conversations begin with my almost 4-year-old.

By Barbara Herel on Wednesday, January 02, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

Unfortunately, these questions brought up by young adoptees are quite common. As an adoptee who has met with many other (adult) adoptees over the years, I can tell you that a small child feels emotions he or she cannot understand. Those emotions surface as questions. Be thankful your young adoptees are asking those questions and are looking for you to answer them.

They may still have sad, or ambivalent, feelings about your answers. This is the troubling part of being an adoptee.

In a way, your adoptees are fortunate to be able to talk with you about their feelings and ask questions. Many of us much older adoptees were not ever allowed to think or feel about our adoptions and were told not to—- by our adoptive parents. Many of us were not allowed to ask questions. We were adotped and our questions went unanswered for most of our lives.

These are valid questions these children are asking. And, no matter what your answers are, these children will always know that they are different, that they have another set of parents out there somewhere, and may have brothers and sisters they are not allowed to see.

This dual identity is inherent in adoptees. And, I think many times, it is cruel to put a child through this.

Put yourself in your adoptee’s place. How would you feel if this was happening to you? Think back to when you were a small child. Sometimes being a child is a scary experience. Add to that, the uneasiness of being forbidden to see the mother who gave birth to you. Not a good feeling to be raised like this.

By KallyLB on Friday, January 04, 2013 at 12:04 am.

Thank you, Sharon and Barbara for your encouragement!

Kallyl, I’m sorry to hear you had a negative experience with information about your adoption. Just like the story of your birth, the story of your adoption should not be veiled in mystery. It is not fair for the child.

I can understand a little (since I was not adopted) how difficult and confusing this situation must be for my children. That is why I try to answer their questions as openly and honestly as I can. Our adoption is close by their birthmother’s choice. I would much have preferred an open adoption for the very reasons you state. I don’t ever want my children to think they are forbidden from seeing their birthmother. While it may not be the ideal situation to raise a child, it is our reality and we are doing the best we can to make their childhood, and really, their whole lives, as normal, full of love and happy as we know how. Answering their questions openly is one of the ways.

Thank you for your input and your comment!

By Gaby on Friday, January 04, 2013 at 12:49 am.

Very sad fact of adoption is the feeling of theft.  I feel as though my precious baby granddaughter was stolen from us. As a grandparent I have no voice. As the paternal Grandma I had no influence. the maternal family basically said this is how it’s gonna be. I love my granddaughter with all of me! I have been grieving her absence since before the day she was born.  We are a good hardworking middle class family & my husband and I wanted to raise our granddaughter forever or until the kids both 17 were ready it didn’t matter we wanted her because she is our family and we love her. This is part of her story and will she ever know that I begged & pleaded to keep my family together or that I miss her every single day?  Will her second family tell her how I cried uncontrollably when they took her. Will she know I was the third family member to hold her-first her mommy then her daddy ( my son) and then me or that I stood outside the door while she was born and wept when I heard that precious newborn cry? Will she know her uncles and grandparents were all at the hospital all night while her mommy was in labor?  Will she Ever Ever know? I know it is difficult to field the questions of young children. And as my heartbreaks over and over I just really wonder…. Will she know how much she means to all of us? With tears streaming down my face as I know I have lost part of my family.

Please tell them how much they are loved hug your children a little tighter for those of us who can’t hug and rock our grand-babies!

By Liya on Sunday, January 06, 2013 at 10:25 pm.

Liya, my heart breaks with your story. I’m sorry you had to go through this. I don’t think anyone can understand just how you feel until they have been in your shoes. I hope you have the chance to tell your granddaughter one day to her face just how much you love her and how hard it was for you to let her go. We try to convey to our children how hard the choice their birthmother made must have been for her and her family but the truth is we don’t know first hand because we have never placed our child for adoption. For now I can only hope that my mother’s love for my children can help me to answer their painful questions as I would hope their birthmother would want me to answer them.

By Gaby on Sunday, January 06, 2013 at 10:50 pm.

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.
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