Thursday, September 27, 2007

Twenty Things: #1

1. I suffered a profound loss before I was adopted. You are not responsible.

I'm not sure that any of us can grasp the loss that a child feels when they realize that they have lost a family.

When my daughter was 4 years old she suddenly encountered her loss. We were driving and she was in her car seat. Suddenly from the back seat I heard her sobbing. When I asked what was wrong she responded, through her tears, "I miss my birthmom!" I am so glad that I had had some experience and a bit of knowledge about adoptive grieving before this happened. Otherwise I might have responded with surprise and a bit of exasperation. Instead I simply told her that I knew that she missed her birthmom and I was sad that she was sad. She asked a couple of questions and then went back to being a 4-year old- happy and carefree. A few weeks later she calmly asked me..."So, Mommy, did we kind of switch mommies?"

We did all the right things (well, as much as we could humanly do) - telling her about her adoption and her birthparents, reading her Lifebook and giving her all the unconditional love we could give. The reality is this - nothing we, her adoptive parents, could do could fill the space in her heart that needed some kind of connection with her birthfamily. We desperately wanted her to feel loved. We wanted her to never feel rejected or abandoned. But eventually she could express the grief she felt over losing her birth family.

If she were telling this story she would tell you that she loves her adoptive family very much. She has never desired to return to her birth family. She simply needed something to fill in the empty space left by her birth family. She knew when she needed it the most and she asked me to find her birthmom for her. She had questions and she needed answers.

When she was 15 we were able to reunite with her birthmother. We spent a couple of hours at IHOP talking. My daughter spent most of the time listening. There were several moments when her birthmom would say something and she would punch my leg under the table. The punch meant - listen to her, she sounds just like me or she likes what I like or we have the same opinions, etc. After leaving that day I asked her how she felt and she replied, "I feel complete."

My daughter will soon be 19 and we have not had another meeting with her birthmom. They have communicated by email. Perhaps someday they will have a closer relationship. But through all these years I have occasionally asked my daughter if she wnated me to try to set up another meeting and she always said "I'm okay, no thanks."

I know there will be other times in her life that she will feel the need for her birth family and I sincerely want her to have healthy relationships that will help her to know who she is. In the meantime, she is confident in God's divine plan for her life.

As an adoptive mom, it is important for me to be confident in my role as her mom. It is critical that I not feel threatened by her need or her relationship with her birth family. She will feel the most loved when she knows that I want what is best for her; when she knows that I support her. I believe that she would not have felt the depth of loss if she had had an ongoing relationship with her birth family. I pray that families starting the adoption process will understand this loss and will do what they can do to build a heathy relationship with their child's birth family.

Remember, It's not who the child belongs to; but who belongs to the child.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

When I read this book I found myself sad and horrified at the depth of loss that adoptees expressed. I grieved because the needs noted in this book were all too familiar to me. I could see some of the issues through the eyes of my adopted daughter and my heart hurt for her.

The voices of these adopted children tell a familiar story of loss, fear, and hope. This book was written by a woman who was adopted herself, giving voice to children's unspoken concerns, and showing adoptive parents how to free their kids from feelings of fear, abandonment, and shame.

Sherrie Eldridge reveals the twenty complex emotional issues you must understand to nurture the child you love-that they must grieve their loss now if they are to receive love fully in the future-that they need honest information about their birth family no matter how painful the details may be-and that although they may choose to search for their birth family, they will always rely on you to be their parents.

This book is a great resource for adoptive parents. It is preventative medicine, if you will. As I became more familiar with the needs shared in this book, I felt better equipped to help my daughter work through her feelings of loss and abandonment.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Loving Your Child's Birthmother

Tonight I spent the evening with birthmothers in our monthly support group. They each have different stories.

One of them just placed her baby girl 3 weeks ago. She is grieving - she is at peace. Her arms ache with emptiness but her heart tells her that she made a good decision for her daughter. She already sees the amazing things that God has done and continues to do through this unplanned pregnancy. God has used this time in her life to bring her back to Him, restore relationships and give hope to a family that had lost all hope.

Another grieves tonight in a different way. Her life has been riddled with difficulties. Her son is 13 years old and she allowed those issues to separate her from the contact with her son that has always been freely offered by his adoptive parents.
Tonight she admits the fear that her son will never forgive her for missing his last 5 christmases and birthdays. Tonight perhaps she will begin a journey of healing.

The third young woman shares a sad story of broken promises and her broken heart. She placed her child in a private placement and the promises that the adoptive family made so quickly before the baby was born have now turned to fear and anger and a refusal to communicate with her or send pictures. She wants very little - she poses no threat, but she has no recourse - no solution - no advocate and tonight she simply needs to pour her heart out to others who can truly feel her pain. My heart breaks for her and the hopelessness of her situation.

The last woman has an awesome adoptive family who truly honor her. They will help their one-year old son to always know and love his birthmom. She has had a hard life and tonight she asks for prayer that she will have the strength to set her life on a straight path.

Our desire is to minister to these women and to advocate for them. All adoptions are unique, but I pray that more adoptive families (especially those in private placements) will seek out training and preparation for adoption. Many of the broken relationships are results of a lack of education. Families and birthmoms need preparation and they need an advocate.
I have seen private placements that work, but I have seen many more where fear has consumed adoptive families and the birthmother loses.

God builds families through adoption through birthmoms who make a courageous decision to give her child a life that she cannot give them. Adoptive families have an opportunity to be Jesus to these young women - to offer grace and mercy to the woman who made the incredible sacrifice.

How do you honor your child's birthmom?