"November is National Adoption Month and I have found my opinions, views and convictions about adoption change and deepen as my children grow. With time I realize that it is about so much more than an unplanned pregnancy on one side and a family wanting a baby/child yet being unable to have one on the other side. In the beginning it is hard to see the big picture and to comprehend the complexities that will unfold. Trevor and I started the process because we wanted more children; we wanted a baby and I could not have any more babies. Birthmoms consider adoption when they feel it is best for their baby maybe even for themselves as well (though it may not feel like it is the best choice for a birthmom when their heart is breaking and they are grieving for the baby they carried and delivered then handed over to new parents).
Here is the magical thing that I have learned...
If both sides are willing to expand their preconceived notions of what "adoption" should be like, what family should be, what is "normal" and at the same time hold enormous amounts of empathy and compassion towards one another while placing the love and best interests of a child above their own something incredible can happen.
It reminds me of the quote by Joseph Campbell
"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
More than anything you have to face your fears and let go of the "what ifs".
On our drive out to Amber's wedding, Claire was getting really tired of the car and started to freak out a bit. Once we hit San Diego she started getting more and more worked up, asking the same questions over and over again and saying things to try to get a rise out of us. She asked "Is Amber my real mom or are you my real mom?" I told her, "Amber is your birthmom and I am your mom, we are both real." She replies with, "No Amber is NOT my birthmom, she is my real mom and you are my fake mom." No matter what I say or how I try to explain anything, Claire just keeps getting more agitated and starts shouting about telling everyone at the wedding that Amber is her real mom not her birthmom. She then started repeating, "You are my fake mom. You are not my real mom, Amber is." For the most part I stayed really calm and surprisingly I didn't take any of it personally or feel hurt or insecure about being Claire's mother. Because I know that Claire is curious and trying to find her bearings and understand her place in the world. I finally said this, "Claire, it isn't nice to call someone fake. Amber and I are both real moms. You grew in Amber's tummy, she delivered you and took care of you and was your mom for the first few days of your life then she gave you to me and daddy because she wanted us to be your mom and dad and for Brennan and Bella to be your brother and sister. I am your mom, your real mom."
Claire thinks for a minute, then finally calmly says, "OK, you are my mom. But I don't want to call Amber my birthmom. I am going to call her my best friend." And with that it was over.
I have thought of that little exchange several times since it happened and I specifically thought of the many adoptive mothers that would absolutely be crushed by their 5 year old saying some of those things. I think it is normal and healthy and I am glad that Claire feels safe enough to talk to me about things that confuse or upset her. And the fact is that we went on to have a wonderful weekend in which Claire absolutely shined in her flower girl role.
The week of Lily's birthday, I spoke at my old high school about adoption and what it is like today. I find the details of the early days and weeks harder and harder to focus on and instead I talked more about what life is like today and how we grow, interact and share our lives together. In the second class presentation, I shocked myself by getting totally choked up when talking about Lily. I was talking about how Miss Lily was turning 3 in just a few days and that her new habit was waking up before dawn, crawling into my bed, laying her head right next to mine on the pillow and breathing straight into my face. As I snuggle Lily and kiss her face, I find myself thinking of how grateful I am to be her mother and how at little moments like that I think of her birthparents. I always remember them. (I am seriously crying at this point, in front of a large class of high school students) Adoption has changed me in many ways and besides the obvious of growing my family, it has made me more empathetic, more flexible, slower to judge, more open-minded, more compassionate, and more grateful."