This past weekend I was taken by surprise when an X-ray completed on my son that was intended to evaluate whether or not he had pneumonia revealed something else. The doctor walked into the room and asked if I have ever had any concerns about his heart. As the conversation developed, I began to realize that I know virtually nothing about his genetic medical history. I stood there and felt a little panicked at all that I do not know.
These four words, “I DO NOT KNOW”, are words that I have had to say to medical professionals about both of my children through the years. I get angry when I do not have the answers or clues needed that could assist in seeking results or directing the path that doctors need to take. I know though that even parents who are raising biological children do not always have the answers needed when discussing medical history, and that medical conditions are not always related to genetic history. I mean, look what happened at me!
As an adoptive parent though, I feel very helpless when standing in front of medical staff with barely anything to add. My thoughts go from frustration, to anger, and then to guilt. I feel frustrated for not being able to help. I get angry at realizing that poor choices by my children’s birth mothers could lead to health problems for my children. I also get angry knowing that it is almost nearly impossible for people who have been adopted to find out their medical histories. Often, they have to get attorneys to subpoena the courts to open the record. It is not an easy process at all. I understand protecting the birth family’s and adoptive family’s right to privacy, but when it comes to medical history, adoptees should have the right to know as much as they can.
The guilt sometimes comes from not finding out as much as possible before the adoptions were finalized, or for not pushing for answers from case workers and biological family members if possible. I do not blame the case workers at all (I was once one and my husband is currently one). I just wish getting the information would have been easier. I know that I asked as many questions as possible about their genetic medical history. It seems though that each time something comes up and I do not have an answer for, I feel guilty. Looking back, I wish I would have listed out every disease process and used a yes/no system to ask questions about genetic history.
I was talking to another adoptive parent the other day about these issues and we both agreed that it is different from raising biological children. Let me clearly state though that It is NOT different in the love, effort, and energy poured out when parenting. It is NOT different in the genuine sense of knowing our children are “ours”. But, there are different issues that adoptive parents face. My friend who adopted privately has had to face similar issues. Her son is now an adolescent so she was able to share with me how she has faced some of the unknowns and questions her son has had through the years.
There are many unknowns in adoptive parenting. I do not know if any other significant medical problems will develop as they age. I do not know what my children will think or feel about being adopted as they grow up. I do not know my children’s biological grandparents’ names, histories, or any other valuable information that could be passed on. I have very, very few pictures of their birth mothers and fathers. I do not know if they will look for their birth parents (although I am open to assisting them with this). I do not know if they will get angry for not having more open contact through the years.
My son is okay. It was just an incidental finding related to respiratory issues. His heart is healthy and he is going to be fine. I can relax now. I can stop stewing over the conversations about health issues that I should have had with his case worker and birth mother. I have come to realize that adoptive parenting is an incredibly complex; yet, amazing experience. I am also realizing that I must walk in faith when it comes to navigating the unknowns.
If you are an adoptive parent (especially out of foster care), do you have any nuggets of wisdom you have gleaned through the years that you would like to share? If so, please comment as I am always seeking out ways to understand the complexity of adoptive parenting.
8 thoughts on “Adoptive Parenting & the Unknowns”
I was once asked if I was concerned about my daughter having special needs (an infant at the time). My reply was that we could have a biological child with special needs as well, so, no we were not concerned. We have learned through the years, as she is now ten, that you learn and grow with your children no matter what comes! We are blessed to have two terrific kids, both adopted thru the foster system.
I totally agree and feel very blessed as well!!
I have really enjoyed following you through this blog. What a blessing you are and have to share with so many people! We have three children adopted thru the foster care system – now ages 22, 18, and soon to be 13 – as well as two biological children. It has (and continues to be) both a joy and a challenge to parent all our children, but not being able to answer some basic health questions has probably been the most frustrating. As a foster parent, I worked very closely with two of my three children’s bio parents, trained new foster and adoptive parents, and worked as a parent aide for other parents who had children in foster care, and still have lots of holes in the story of my children’s lives. Fortunately, I do have the ability to contact all three parents (two through social media and one through a relative) if we come across anything new or if the kids come up with questions that I cannot answer. My children are now also old enough (both chronologically and developmentally) to be able to work through the emotions that come with some of the things they are now finding out. One of the things that I always tell new foster parents is to write down everything they learn from the bio parents of the children in their home. It could be vital to them down the road, or to an adoptive parent, and especially to the child should they not be able to reunify with their bio family.
Thanks again for sharing with us!
Thank you Janet. You are a such a fantastic advocate for children and birth families. Thank so much for reading my blog!
I’m so glad your son is okay! What a relief!
Thank you so much for sharing this story with us. I do not have any adoptive children…yet. We hope to adopt one or two children once we have one more biological child. Your insight helps me to mentally prepare myself for the challenges we will face… especially since we plan to adopt from a 3rd world country. I doubt we will be able to get any information on our future children’s medical history.
My advice is to do your research and ask as many questions as possible. We fostered our children so were able to participate in team meetings and visits with birth parents, but even with this advantage, there is still a lot of info I wish I had learned. Thanks for reading!
Just to encourage you 🙂 none of us knows until we get to the doctor what is wrong. I have 3 adopted children and have medical issues with only one yet they all have unexpected issues that arise. My eldest is 10 we adopted her from Kenya. We know nothing about her history. We adopted her when she was 1 year and seven days old. Medical issues are something that my second child had and it was by God’s mercy that she lived. Our third does not have any medical issues that we know of but we do have contact with her family. Each of our situations are different, but this I do know… They are God’s kids and He is letting me take care of them for Him. He will provide a way to get help when needed, strength to get through it, and people to come a long side when you need it as you know because you survived a life changing ordeal. Know that you don’t know and it is ok. Being an adoptive mother, it is hard because we don’t know what to write down on forms. It will be ok 🙂 Just rest in the fact that He will allow peace to flow over you if You ask. If this helps I am so glad, but if it offends I am sorry. 😦 Bless you on your journey dear lady.
No offense taken at all! I do have very limited contact with one of my children’s birth mother, but even then, I do not know and/or trust that she is aware of everything. Sometimes it is easier to fall into the trap of what we don’t know (future, etc) versus what we do (God’s hand in all of it). Thanks for the comment and the encouragement. I really enjoy hearing from other adoptive parents!