By now it is common knowledge that the landscape of adoption has changed completely, even within my lifetime. People who are my age, in their mid-30s and closing in on their 40s (yikes), and who were adopted, usually don’t know a whole lot about their first families. Now, thankfully, the tide is starting to turn. Children born in the U.S., and even some children born internationally, sometimes get the chance to know their first families and maintain a relationship with them. Study after study has shown the benefit of this long term. It is becoming accepted that open adoption, when possible, is truly the best for all involved.
I’ll admit, it was a journey as an adoptive mom to get my heart to place where it could accept that, for my children, I might need to share the title of mother with a woman I didn’t choose. But, once I adopted older children, children who had memories of their first mom, that was the natural choice. I wasn’t about to cut the woman who had sacrificed so much for me, and them, out of their lives. It would have been devastating for them and for her. How could I do that to someone who had just given me this amazing gift? To someone who had trusted me. Part of my journey was understanding my role in the adoption triad.
Turns out, my role, in this part, involved sitting down and shutting up. I get to be their mom every day. I get the little moments. I get the birthdays. I get the Christmas mornings. I get the hugs. Yes, I get the hard stuff too, but I think any mom would agree we put up with all that because of all the aforementioned joy. There was a moment when this realization dawned on me and I think it came right around the time I watched two of my kids from Ghana maintain a healthy relationship with their first mom. Yes, they talk to her. They call her mom too. I am happy about that. Any sadness I might have felt about that was completely outweighed by what I KNOW they need, by what I KNOW she needs. My needs can come after both of theirs. I am the member of this triad who hasn’t been directly touched by trauma as a result of adoption.
When my kids from China came, especially Tess, there was a huge loss associated with not knowing that first family. Where were they? Did they know she was okay? Do they think about her? Do they think she’s dead? Probably. They probably spend moments grieving a baby they don’t know is fine, one who will live a relatively normal healthy life now. I have often said that if God could grant me just one favor in heaven that it would be to find Tess’s first mom, to allow me to hold her hand and to say to her “We did it! You gave her life, and then, because you couldn’t do it, you passed me the torch and I RAN. I ran HARD, but so did she, and she made it. Thank you. Just, thank you.” That is all. Thank you.
Undoubtedly, in that hypothetical heavenly moment, there will be pain for her. There will be moments completely lost. There is that loss every single day for my Ghanaian kids’ first family. So, last year, when I got a friend request in my Facebook profile from a name I recognized very well, one that gave birth to the children I now call mine, I took a deep breath, and I clicked accept. My children’s birth mom is now my Facebook friend. She sees the moments I post online daily. She sees when her son makes the Talented and Gifted Program at school. She sees when her daughter dances beautifully in a recital. She sees our beautiful, chaotic family. She sees.
This week people started shouting their adoptions. I know supposedly why this occurred. At the time, I posted a note to Facebook to any friends who might have had an abortion who might feel shamed by that hashtag. I stand with YOU in that moment. I am so sorry. Abortion and adoption are not opposites, they are actually not even interconnected. It’s not one or the other. The issue is NOT that simplistic. Pro life and pro birth are actually quite different, and shaming people who are in pain is NEVER acceptable. Never.
As I lay in bed last night and ranted to Joe, which I often do, we talked about that hashtag a little more deeply. I am Facebook friends with a woman who gave birth to my children. Had I chosen to “shout my adoption” on social media, wouldn’t have I been shouting her pain? Wouldn’t I have been reveling in my joy, but also in her and my children’s loss? I believe I would have. When your child’s first family in faceless it’s easy to forget, just like it’s easy to forget that behind every abortion is a woman in pain whose life, and feelings, counts for something too, no matter how you feel about her life choices. No matter where I stand, I try to remember that. Maybe it’s easier for me because none of these “issues” are faceless to me. They are people, people I love.
–FullPlateMom, who tries to put the person first, always.