After my son’s adoption in 2008, a neighbor asked me, “Are you concerned that you didn’t connect with him since you did not carry him?” I was only briefly stunned by her question. I knew that I needed to think quick and give her an answer. After all, she asked me in front of a group of neighbors during our block party and I did not want to be standing in the middle of an awkward moment of silence. I replied, “No, not at all. Loving him is very natural…as if I gave birth to him.” All she responded with was “Oh”.
When I told my husband about the conversation, he said, “She didn’t carry or birth her husband. Does that mean she is not bonded or connected to him?” (Good point honey, good point) He has always had a great way of simplifying things.
Her question has stuck in my mind through the years. I really cannot blame her for her lack of knowledge about adoption. After all, she had only given birth to children. She had never experienced the incredible richness of becoming a mom through adoption. I am still not sure what she meant by the word connect. Perhaps she meant to say “Are you worried that you have not bonded with him because you did not give birth to him?”.
Looking back on our short conversation, I wished I would have said to her the things that have been revealed since becoming a mother through adoption. I have realized that my expecting was not in months, but years. My labor was not in hours, but years as well. I did not carry my children in my body. I carried them in my imagination, my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams.
I carried them in that quiet space where it is just myself and the Lord.
Foster and adoptive families usually get asked all kinds of random and often insensitive questions. When we were going through the licensing process to become foster parents, someone said to me, “You are not going to take one of those meth babies, are you?” Was that a question or a directive? I was not quite sure. The truth is that many newborns who come into protective services in the state I live in have been exposed to prenatal drug and/or alcohol usage. To call them “meth babies” though felt very cold and calloused to me.
Here are some more questions that I have been asked:
- Are your kids “real” siblings?
- Are you scared that their “real” parents are going to take them back?
- Are you sure it is okay to tell them that they are adopted?
- Do you plan on having your “own” child in the future?
- Do you know their “real” parents?
I answered the first two questions with a “no” and a “yes”. No, I am not scared their “real” parents are going to take them back….that would be considered kidnapping. Taking them back is not an option. Adoption is legally binding and permanent.
Yes, I am absolutely sure it is okay to tell them they are adopted. It is a travesty for children to not know their history and to be lied to. It damages every ounce of trust and relationship built through the years. It also gives glimpses of the thought that adoption is something that should be kept secret, as if it is shameful.
As far as the kids are concerned, they are real siblings. Trust me, if you spend any amount of time in our home, you will notice that they fight like cats and dogs, yet are inseparable. There is nothing fake about their relationship as a brother and a sister.
The last two questions can be answered by this fabulous quote I found.
“Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial. Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary. Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child. Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all your own.” -Rita Laws, PhD