I called Lovely Mom the other day to talk about her perspective as a parent who has adopted a child. “Well, Sarah, it’s simple. I loved you before you even existed.” Those were her words, without hesitation. I played it cool. “Oh, that’s really sweet, Mom. Thanks for the insight!” I hung up and sobbed happy tears— the sort of happy, dehydrating tears you cry at the end of Shawshank Redemption when Red is walking barefoot along the shore to meet Andy and the wind blows his hat off into the ocean.
I think that one sentence best sums up adoption. I mentioned in the last post that adoption is a powerful topic that can be over-emotionalized and reduced to a trite sentiment— the farthest from the truth. So, for Lovely Mom to say she loved me before I was conceived is such an amazing statement. To love something that cannot be planned, but in the future will be born out of the unplanned— well, it boggles the mind.
Many of you told me you’re considering adopting a child, which made my heart do Mary Lou Retton somersaults. The most important thing I can share with you is this: adoption is born from the heart. The desire feels as natural and embedded as wanting to have biological children. Will there be challenges? Yes. Will the love be different? Not for a millisecond. Will my child develop a complex that will require therapy? Didn’t we all?
I know there are many questions you might have if you’re considering adoption. I thought I’d try to tackle a few of them:
How and when do I tell my child they’re adopted?
As early as possible. They may be too young to fully understand the concept, but it’s important that you’re open about how you became a family from the beginning. As they grow up and start exploring their heritage, be ready to answer tough questions such as, “Why didn’t my family want me?” and, “Do you love me as much as if I was your biological child?” Then there’s the real zinger that I would ask my parents: “How much did I cost?” I know, right? What a little jerk. I also stopped having a crush on a boy in kindergarten because he used a pair of safety scissors to open his Twinkie wrappers. “Mom, I don’t like Matt anymore. He can’t open his Twinkies.” I go for the jugular.
Addressing the birthparents subject.
There will be times when emotions ride high with this one. As a parent, you will have nothing but love and compassion for the parent(s) that gave your child up for adoption. It’s these abiding sentiments that will serve as an anchor for your child when they’re feeling hurt, angry, or rejected. When I was a teenager, I was furious with my birth mom for “giving me away.” I would say hateful things about her. Caustic. My family, unphased, would listen patiently and then respond with, “She did the best with what she had. She gave you life. She gave you a chance to live a full one.” And you know what? I’m 33, and have more love and pride for my birth mom than ever. It’s my parents’ unwavering support for her that kept me tethered.
Depending on the situation, you may have little to lots of background information on your child’s birth family. I advise you to share it with your child, even if they were born out of a difficult situation. They need to know the beginning of their story to appreciate and understand the present— the here, the now.
Are domestic and international adoptions different?
Aside from the cultural differences, the stories, characters and love are the same. Practically speaking, the international adoption process can be very lengthy, and, yes, costly, due to the tedious legal process that occurs between the U.S. and a child’s birth country.
Either way, I think it’s important for adopted kids to celebrate their story, not be ashamed of or hide it. I recommend having your child meet and make friends with other adopted kids. If you decide to adopt from an agency, you’ll easily network with other families who’ve also adopted. Get involved. It’s healing for your child to know other kids share the same joy and trials. This is most critical for a child adopted from a different country. Not only are they dealing with different Chapter Ones than most of their peers, but also a stark, cultural contrast. In this instance, building a small community with similar families is paramount.
TOO MANY WORDS! I WANT PICTURES!
Here’s a very abbreviated look at my personal journey:
September 29, 1978: My “Gotcha Day.” The day I arrived to the U.S.
My parents waited for my plane to arrive at O’Hare from South Korea. Lovely Mom may not have given birth to me physically, but if you’ve ever been in an airport during the holidays, bad weather or layovers, you know it can be just as painful as giving birth without meds.
Finally arriving home to the Smack-Dab Middle. Don’t you love how my Gram’s shirt looks like a flock of angry potholders is attacking her?
Lovely Mom with the social worker who made the final decision on which baby to place in each home.
What a difficult job. However, not as difficult as wearing red polyester pants in public.
Open your Twinkies with scissors? I will cut you.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who commented or sent me a tweet about the last article. I’m blown away by your stories. Thank you for sharing a piece of yourselves and turning this vast, cyber galaxy into a big, group hug.
Next episode is dedicated to those who are adopted. I also want to talk a little about searching for my birth mom, which I’ve started writing about and have already cried over. Buckets and gallons.
Yes, more to come, Gigglers. See you soon.
All photos courtesy of Dashing Dad™