As an adoptive parent, I spend a copious amount of time worrying and wondering about how to approach my children with the fragile subject of their adoptions. Adoption’s not a topic that surfaces much, but I like to worry and prepare. When they were tots, I researched and bought the best preschool books on the topic and began reading and talking to them, hoping that if the words were familiar, the emotional impact would be easier to bear. Naturally kids reach a point in their lives where they’ll feel confused, realize that they are not like other kids, and question why their birth parents “gave them away”. Oh, how I hate that phrase that people like to use.
My children never asked much about the subject, even when I’d read or talk about it with them . When they “got it” was a heartbreaking moment. My husband and I tried many years of fertility therapies and methods to no avail, and finally I was told one too many times that I’d never have a baby. We wanted children and the decision to adopt was easy to make. So we went about the involved process. Enter adorable N…we were so happy with our first adoption experience that we drained the entire retirement fund for our daughter, sweet gorgeous M.
As the saying goes,
“We’ll take 2, they’re small”.
Finally - we were a complete package, 1 boy, 1 girl – a happy family. 5 years later, the impossible occurred: I became pregnant. During my pregnancy, as all prospective moms do, I’d feel a little kick and tell about it. One day this happened and N looked up at me and asked, “Wow Mom, did I do that when I was in your tummy?”
Yikes. My tummy came up to my throat as I fought back tears to explain that he was in another mom’s tummy, his Birth Mom. I pulled M into the room and explained the adoption process, told them their birth stories, answered any questions and followed up for a couple of days. Near the end of my pregnancy once again, N asked me if he kicked my ribs like the baby was doing. I hesitated (quite possibly with a sharp intake of breath), and he corrected himself, “Oh that’s right, I was in another mom’s tummy, not yours, right?” And once again we had “the adoption talk”.
Every so often over the years the subject comes up, and I respond with frank honest answers, trying to shield as much life reality as I can, and boost their confidence with the sentiment that we are so very lucky to have them in our family. I stay with a consistent explanation, but I’ve always known that sooner or later it wouldn’t be enough, that I’d have to dig deeper, go into areas beyond my and their comfort zone. Little did I know today was the day.
TGIF, such a crazy busy week that I stopped for McDonald’s for the kids after Tae Kwon Do. My husband was picking up a nice spicy dinner that the kids wouldn’t like, so I waited for him and checked my Facebook while the kids ate their McHappy Meals. I was in the midst of chatting simultaneously with a friend and my cousin when something perked up my ears and made me pause. I quickly signed off. G said to big brother N, “Did you like to eat cheeseburgers when you were in Mom’s tummy?” I’m amazed that G remembered: a few days ago G randomly told me he liked fruit, so I told him that when he was in my tummy he made me want to eat lots of it too.
N replied, “No G, I wasn’t in Mom’s tummy. I was in another mom’s tummy. I’m from __ and I was adopted.” This, their discussion over cheeseburgers and shakes, while I Fb-ed. What? I casually said, “What are you guys talking about?” closing my laptop.
“Just that me and M are adopted, and didn’t grow inside your tummy like he did. Do you know their names?”, N asked. “Whose names?” I asked, startled by this new in-depth curiosity. “Our parents.” Ouch.
M asked, “Do I have any stepbrothers?”
Super yikes, the dreaded question. I said, “Hold on, hold on, come and sit and let’s talk.” I was never so grateful for a Happy Meal toy as I was for the next 10 minutes as G played while I struggled through this emotional discussion with my precious, vulnerable little souls. I frankly told them that I didn’t know their birthparent’s names and that I didn’t have much information besides medical information about the birth parents and their births. I explained that they could try to locate their biological parents when they turn 18, and I completely understand and support that curiosity.
Next I asked M why she asked if she had stepbrothers. She shrugged, “I don’t know, I just wondered. But probably not, because if they got rid of me, they probably don’t want any other kids.” She said it offhand, but I could see the emotion in her expression.
These questions and their instantaneous popping up told me that N and M had been thinking about these things, possibly talking them over with each other - wondering, worrying, feeling pain. My brain was swirling, this was a moment I’d feared.
Emergency Mom Power Skills needed!
Don’t fail me now!
I’ve tried to avoid exposing my kids to certain world/life realities. But now I decided to share a very horrid practice/concept with them so that they could get the full impact of how wonderful Adoption is, how sacred life is.
I explained Abortion. In basic terms.
I started with my standard talk about “the why” of adoption placement – the talk they’ve heard countless times). I told them that sometimes girls/women get pregnant and can’t keep their babies because they’re poor, too young, or unable to take care of them for some reason, etc.
“But……..sometimes women pay to have their tiny babies killed inside them.” Their eyes got wide with the horror. Harsh.
So I continued quickly,
“Your birth mothers were very strong. They could have taken a different path and had an abortion and been finished with it. But instead, they thought about what was best for you, their babies.
didn’t ‘get rid of you’, she ‘gave you life’.
She gave you the greatest GIFT: of LIFE.
She gave us the greatest GIFT: of YOU.
Your birth mothers felt you inside of them, took care of their growing baby, worried and made the hard decision to give you a better life than they could give you. They probably cried over the decision, and maybe they still do when they think about their child/you. But, they wanted you to have a good, happy life. Daddy and I hope that we’re giving you that happy life. They gave us a special job of doing that for you, their birth babies. But from the moment we met you, you were our babies. We fell in love with you and we’ll love you forever. We are so blessed to have you in our family.”
Photo Credit: http://www.cafepress.com/+gift_of_life_journal,46996763
OMG. I must say I felt pretty relieved and proud of the way I handled a spontaneous panic mama-on-the-spot situation. I hope that I can continue to proactively meet their questions honestly; to offer enough comfort to meet their growing insecurities, curiosities and difficulties with this complex, emotional issue. I hope that I’ll catch these little comments and stop their hurt from spinning out of control. I hope that I can continue to keep an objective eye, to understand the natural tendency to “want to know”. Who wouldn’t? I wish I knew their birth parent’s stories, for my own knowledge. God has granted me love and the greatest gifts of these incredible children. Thanks dear God for showing me the wisdom tonight to comfort my children.
Maybe it’s time to research more books on the subject so I can prepare for the next round.