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.

Kitchen cabinet vent

This was a creative solution to cover a vent hole on a kitchen cabinet under our sink in our old house. It is so much nicer to look at this then the old, broken and ugly previous vent. You don’t notice it initially but if you look closely you will see this piece has holes all throughout it so that it can serve as a vent.

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Birthmother: Seeing life

By Birthmother – Pictures on the fridge: Benefits of open adoption

Adoption isn’t what it used to be.  I always had the impression that adoption was a simple formula: a distressed biomom hands her baby away to a social worker, never to see or hear from the child again.  And in this formula, when the adopted child eventually grows up and starts asking, “Where do I come from?” she must become an amature investigator, digging through scraps of information on a daunting quest to find the mysterious disappearing biomom.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that this was NOT a successful formula.  Can you imagine going through your life with so many unanswered questions?

I’m happy to inform you that society has evolved and has created safer, healthier ways to build an adoptive family.  Adoption today is whatever you and your adoptive parents decide it will be.  The options for building an adoption contract are as diverse as the individuals seeking adoption, and I can tell you: this is a very diverse group!  You may choose a closed adoption, where the biological family stays entirely out of the picture.  Or you may choose something completely open, where the biological family and adoptive family interact, exchanging letters and pictures, or even seeing each other in person.

For a biomom, open adoption means watching your child grow even as you know he/she is not your child any longer.  The best comparison I can make is following your favorite celebrity on TV; it’s as if my children are TV superstars and I can’t WAIT to see the next episode.  I feel a fascination with my children even though I’ve only met them once or twice, only seen a glimmer of who they really are.   And I am always curious to learn more.  What is their everyday life like?  What are their favorite things?  I see that my daughter was in a dance recital and of course I wish I could see her dance.  I learn that my son is speaking his first words and I wish I could hear them.  I hear that my daughter enjoys learning about science and wish I could join in one of her mini “experiments.”

Even in an open adoption, being a biomom means never being a full part of your child’s life.  I will always be on the outside looking in.  I will not get to see every laugh, every tear, every accomplishment.  People ask me if this is painful.  Sometimes it is.  Of course it is.  It may always be painful for me to be reminded of what I chose to give up.

BUT, seeing my children and their adoptive families also reminds me why I chose adoption in the first place.  I see the adoptive parents blossoming and smiling as they experience the family they always dreamed of.  I see that my children are in homes filled with love.  I see my children surrounded by opportunity and support that I could never have provided them.  I wouldn’t trade these glimpses of family for anything – they are the moments where I am assured that I made the right choice.

What is the opposite situation, in a closed adoption?  Not knowing anything?  In a closed adoption you could hope that your child was thriving… but you wouldn’t know!  You could imagine what your child looked like, but you wouldn’t see her with your own eyes.  My own curiosity would never permit me to survive in a situation like that.  It’s the difference between missing someone you care about and losing them completely.

What’s best for a biomom might vary depending on her personality and her situation.  But here’s my bottom line: open adoption is for the child’s benefit.  I chose open adoption because I don’t want my children to walk around with the nagging questions of “Where did I come from?  Where are my biological parents?  Why did they give me up?”  When my children have these questions I want them to know exactly where to go for answers.  I spoke once with a woman who had been raised by an adoptive family, in a situation where her biomom was not known to her.  She explained how much it would have meant to her to hear anything from her biological family.  She always wondered if her biomom was thinking about her, if her biomom remembered her at all.

I want my children to know that I think of them every day and that I will always miss them.