There has been a discussion on my blog's Facebook page about the importance of acknowledging the roots of our adopted children. Here is a post (now updated) that I wrote exploring my thoughts on this issue two years ago:
It was early evening, and I was talking on the phone with my daughter’s birthmother, M. We were discussing her plans to come visit us in Chicago for the first time.
A trip to Chicago would be no small feat for M and her kids. They have never been on an airplane, never seen a big city, never done a lot of the things that we take for granted in a metropolitan lifestyle.
As we talked, M relayed the following conversation to me:
“I told a friend of mine that I was going to Chicago to see my kid.”
To which her friend replied, “She’s not your kid. You gave her up for adoption.”
And M responded, “Well, it’s hard to explain. It’s sort of like we share her. Or I’m an aunt or a friend or something.”
I listened to M’s story and murmured, “It’s complicated.”
Oh, it is. So very complicated. Only those who are in an open adoption can understand how hard it is to define the role of the child’s birthmother. No, she is not really an aunt. No, she is not just a friend. And no, we don’t share the child.
The birthmother’s role is really best defined as just that – a birthmother. No other word can capture all the subtleties of that role, all the angst and beauty and insecurity and fear of being a birthmother.
M referred to K as “her kid.” And you know what? That’s okay with me. Some people might be extremely threatened by that wording. But I cannot deny that M carried my daughter in her womb for nine months, grew her and delivered her into my care. K was her kid. Now she is my kid.
But even though I am the mother, I cannot erase the birthmother’s history, nor would I try to. In accepting M’s unique claim to K, I free myself from a lifelong battle of denial and insecurity.
When I heard M call K “my kid,” I tried to place myself in her shoes. I was five months pregnant (with C) when M and I had that conversation, and I absolutely felt attached to the baby in my womb. My pregnancies are never free of trauma, and just in that month, I had undergone two botched amnios. Facing the possibility that I was carrying another sick baby was terrifying, but things worked out, and C joined the family.
I laid awake in bed the night after my conversation with M and imagined how I would feel if my beloved child were born but I could not keep her. What if I were in M’s shoes, and I had to say goodbye to my baby? Wouldn’t I still think of the child as mine, on some level? I couldn’t pretend all those months of pregnancy would disappear from my consciousness.
Healing takes years, and M has not healed yet. She always wanted and loved her baby, but she was unable to take care of her. At the time K was born, her brother and sister had already been removed from the birthmother’s care and placed into protective custody.
M knew that K too would be placed immediately into foster care. She loved her baby and wanted her to go to a permanent home, not to spend her life being dragged through the foster care system. Her first and last unilateral decision as K’s mother was to place her for adoption.
M probably has moments when she feels that she is capable of parenting K. But the harsh reality is that it is too late. Adoption is forever, and K belongs with us now. We have raised her; we love her; she loves us.
If I can offer M comfort by allowing her into K’s life, then I am okay with that. And if I can offer K some answers about her background, then I will do it. It is not always easy but it feels right. It is a decision that I have made as K’s mother.