Adoptive mother: The absence of shared genes

Ever since becoming a mother I’ve been very aware that motherhood through adoption is not and never will be the same as mothering your own biological children. It isn’t the act of mothering my son that is different as that seems to be the same as any other mother as far as I can tell. And mothering my son has been wonderful, absolutely wonderful – pure joy. What I’ve noticed to be different is the undeniable fact that no matter how much I act like his mother, as I do naturally, I will never really BE his “real mother” – his biological one.

Sometimes when hanging out with other Moms, I hear them talk about how their son or daughter really looks or acts like themselves or their spouse or another closely related family member and I can’t imagine what that must feel like. The lack of shared genes leaves me feeling a bit sad or sorry at times like I’m somehow not getting the full parenting experience. I imagine it brings a sense of great pride that someone else carries on your genes. I’ve often wondered if it somehow strengthens a bond between the child and his/her parents. Fortunately I’m lucky as an adoptive parent to know both of my son’s biological parents so I can at least see both his birthmother and his birthfather in him and I can pinpoint the features and mannerisms of him that come from each birthparent which is wonderful and very special and will mean the world to our son someday. But this knowing who he takes after only goes so far as to what I really know about his birthparents and what they have shared with us about themselves and their extended families. Yet even if I had all the information I could possibly want on my son’s birth family, it is simply not the same thing as knowing your ancestors and being able to share stories and your own genetics with your child.

I’ve asked my husband recently if he ever thinks about or gets sad over the fact that our child isn’t genetically related to us and will never look like us. Thank goodness for him and his logical, steady self because his response is, “I never really let myself dwell on these things because those thoughts and feelings never lead anywhere good.” Now why, WHY, can’t I think more like him?

I do try to take my husband’s lead and I remember that there is a flip side to every issue out there, good and bad. For instance, when I hear my friends worry about traits coming out of their children which are the same traits they themselves struggled with I am reminded that there are some real benefits to adoption. In this case, we can easily take our son at his face value and not read too much into his traits or mannerisms, or assume his path will follow similar steps of his ancestors. Since our knowledge of his ancestors is limited, it forces us to be present with our son and let him develop into the very unique person that he is without letting preconceived ideas of how he might turn out get in the way of his development.

I read about a fellow adoptive Mom once that shared how she responded to the inevitable question/statement that all adoptive Mom’s get sooner or later, “You mean you’re not my real Mom?” I loved her response to her child’s follow up statement, “I wish I came from your belly.” She said very firmly, “I don’t. I’m glad you didn’t come from my belly because if you did you wouldn’t be the same person that you are.” I think about this response and it gives me much peace of mind because it is so true. My little boy would not be the same person that he is if her were mine biologically. He wouldn’t have gorgeous brown eyes or golden brown hair and great olive skin and a sweet personality. He’d be someone else entirely which are not those things. He is such an awesome little boy and I love him so much that I couldn’t imagine him any other way – even if he isn’t my biological child.

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