Thanks to tired old eggs, I turned to infant adoption as my means to motherhood. Like so many women, I was more than ready and willing, if not genetically able, to be a mom. Not sharing the same DNA with my child didn’t faze me in the least.
Whether it was adopting or giving birth, I knew I would love my baby wildly, madly, insanely. And with this simple knowledge I set off on the adoption path, firmly believing there is no difference between being a mom by adoption and being a mom by biology. Four years later I can tell you, I was wrong.
Not in the way I love my child, of course; I am in a straight-jacket of love for my girl. No, I was wrong in thinking that adoption wouldn’t hold such a prominent place in my child’s life, and, in turn, my child rearing. But right from the start as I stuttered and stumbled my way through my daughter’s adoption story, I knew, even with my sleep-deprived new-mom brain, that weaving adoption into our lives would be one of my greatest responsibilities.
I have come to learn that being an adoptive mom means:
1) I think and talk about adoption pretty much every day. I’m always looking for ways to bring my daughter’s birth mom, siblings, and other family members like Grandpa and Nana into our everyday conversations. At this point, I’m the one doing most of the talking, but more and more it’s my four-year-old taking the lead, saying things like, “I sat in Kim’s belly, right Mom?” and telling her schoolmates that she has a brother who lives in Indiana. Then I remind her that she actually has two brothers and a sister. That’s part of my job – creating an ease and openness surrounding the event of her adoption and her biological family.
2) I am now an adoption educator and advocate. People will say the darndest things when it comes to adoptees, birth mothers, and the adoption process. It’s really no surprise when Lifetime Television is the public’s go-to authority on adoption. That’s why I am my child’s frontline of protection and enlightenment: so one day, she can say for herself, “My first mom didn’t give me away. She loves me very much.” So armed with adoption facts and spiffy comebacks, I’ll continue to deflect, defend, or discuss open adoption because as my daughter’s mother this now comes with my territory.
3) I seek out other adoptive families. Having adoptive and biological family members is our normal. It’s normalizing as well as empowering and fun to connect with other families who adopted their children. Also, whenever I hear about other family situations, like single parent homes by choice or divorce, families with two moms or dads, I’m quick to point it out to my daughter, “See that’s how that family works. All families are different.”
4) I am not only the primary caretaker for my daughter. I am also the primary caretaker of the birth family relationship. After all, we have a daughter in common so that makes them my family too. I’ve come to view the birth family relationship the same as I view the in-law relationship*. And like other important relationships in my life, it’s up to me to nurture it, cultivate it, and make it strong. I do this by talking respectfully and lovingly about them to my daughter, nearly every day; by placing their photos alongside our other family photos; by staying in touch through Facebook and phone calls; and by visiting each year. Our hope is they visit with us too. I know it’s hard, painful, for my daughter’s biological mom to be in touch on a regular basis. Yet the door always remains open to her and other family members.
So being an adoptive mom these past four years, I now know some of the differences (no doubt in the coming years, I’ll know even more). I am grateful and happy that my daughter will know her full life story and will have authentic relationships with both sides of the family – adoptive and biological. For my family, adoption is sometimes an amuse-bouche or side dish; sometimes it’s the main course. But it’s always on the table.* A heap of thanks to Lori Holden, author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption for insights I picked up along the way.