I'm writing this as part of the Grown in My Heart Blog Carnival, where they posed the question: What did people forget to tell you about adoption? You can visit the website to see the answers by some other amazing writers. GIMH is a great adoption community – everyone who writes for it is touched by adoption in some way, form, or fashion. I've learned a lot from the people who write there, and I think you might, too! Whether I agree or not, it's always good food for thought.
When I was a little girl, there was a time I was so jealous of my brother because he was adopted. I thought it was the coolest way to build a family, and I'd often proudly announce it to my teachers at the start of a new school year. "I'm Carrie and my brother is Will, and he's adopted!"
But it wasn't always so glamorous. Once, when I was upset at him over some minor tiff, I came up with what I thought at the time just might be the ultimate insult. “Yeah! Well, you're adopted!” He quickly retorted, “Oh yeah?! Well Mom and Dad chose me.” That silenced me, along with the severe punishment from my parents for daring to play such a card.
But more often than not, the adoption of both of my brothers faded into the background of our family's life, which is probably just as well. One time over dinner, my Dad even caught himself trying to remember the day that he took my Mom to the hospital to deliver Will. We all got a laugh out of that moment of forgetfulness...
Adoption was always a subject of so much joy in our household... the stories of the days my brothers joined our family were some of the happiest memories and most anticipated answered prayers. But what I never knew was how much it hurt, too. I was too young to really understand, and I'm thankful that their adoptions were always such positive stories – not secrets to be kept or things to be forgotten.
But, what I've come to understand is that every adoption starts in a loss. Our family's adoptions happened before social workers really got on their education kicks – no one told us. My parents dealt with it as best as they knew how, and I really think that they did an amazing job. But I'm not sure that there was ever much room for grief.
Like I said – it was a source of joy... and sometimes I wonder if my brothers might have been so swept up in the joy of the whole family that they didn't think there would be room for their unavoidable sadness. Room for their unanswerable questions. I sometimes wonder if maybe they thought bringing those things up might hurt too much the people they loved most.
Maybe in the quiet conversations between mother and son or father and son, there was room for those things. I wasn't privy to all the private moments, and I'm certainly not suggesting it didn't happen. I don't know. I just know that growing up, as a sister who saw all things as equal between my brothers and myself, I didn't understood their grief and their loss. And I know that growing up, I certainly didn't make much room for it.
Since I started working more closely with orphans, I now understand the depth of loss a bit more clearly. I'm sorry for the ways I glossed over it with my brothers, and if I have the honor of adopting someday, I will always do my best to acknowledge that my children come to me with stories both bitter and sweet. And, if you are an adoptive parent, I hope you ask yourself the soul-searching questions: Do I make room for my child to admit that they are sad? To admit that they miss their birth parents? Do I feel threatened by the fact that I might not be all my child needs?
Because when we make room for the grief, a child can heal and grow. That's what I wish I had known about adoption... but then again, I was only 3 when adoption touched my life for the first time.