Adoptive parents are conflicted by the thought of “birth parents” and we cringe when shows glamorize the reuniting of adopted kids with their long lost families. When you adopt a child, you are not just agreeing to raise him/her, you fully participate in this child’s life as his/her parents and your family becomes the child’s family. As a parent of both biological and adopted kids, I can unequivocally say we love each child equally, unconditionally and we tailor our parenting style to each based on what they need, not on how they came to our family.
Words cannot articulate how much we appreciate the efforts and decision of the birth mother to give up her child… to us, the ultimate gift. As we picked up our newborn son, we discussed how this joyous occasion for us was filled with pain for her. And we know she must experience a tough day every year on the date he was born. But although we appreciate the birth mother for the critical role she played and sacrifice she made, this does not mean I want her in our lives now, specifically re-entering the life of my child that she decided to give up. I am not heartless, I am honest – too often the view of the birth mother is the sympathetic one – but the angst adoptive parents live with is very real. For us, this will change at age eighteen when the decision shifts to the child about whether to pursue some action or not and hopefully our adopted son and daughter will have enough maturity to think through this complex situation.
When a situation is up close and personal, you reflect upon your views. We decided to approach this dilemma the same way as other major decisions they will make. For example, they will each select a spouse to spend their life with. This is their decision to make and we will respect their wishes. Should there be misgivings, we will keep them to ourselves (unless they are glaring or safety related). We provide context and support for their heritage. We created a wonderful family tree where their extended branches are based on ancestry, and direct branch comes into us. We visited the Great Wall of China and Olivia takes Mandarin language and culture. She embraces her Chinese heritage and we encourage her. It is harder with a domestic adoption, where there is less of a wall, less anonymity but we know he is Irish by ancestry and have done research and projects to learn more about Ireland.
Since we do not know what inherited traits they have, we focus more on character, work ethic, and pursuing potential strengths. We are not sure if someone’s birth parent has an amazing talent or not. Sorry to my biological children as we are sure there are no Olympic swimming genes in their bodies! So they are much more open to the potential of what they can be and more flexible in pursuit of what they want.
This will be their journey and decisions about who is in their life are ultimately theirs to make. Although we may silently die the biggest “small death” of all, we will not limit our children by choosing their path or deciding the key people in their life. I know I will be one of them; the rest is up to them. We will remain on the sidelines cheering on their choices but for now we are busy enough just getting through our jam packed weeks. I end with the beginning. Life is a journey and you impact your next steps. We never started out expecting to have four children or a blended family but we would not change a thing.