Several weeks ago we had a momentous event in our family. We met my son’s birth mom. It was amazing, wonderful and filled with more emotions than I could have ever imagined.
Rewind to almost 14 years ago when we first began our adoption journey. We were only 19 and 20 years old at the time and just babies ourselves. In our adoption training session they had originally asked us to get into groups. The two main groups were those who experienced infertility, and those who were family members looking to adopt their kin. Back then, most people adopting were doing so due to infertility related issues. We looked around at the group options and knew we didn’t fit in to any of them. Although I have PCOS, which can make it more difficult to get pregnant, I never actually faced any infertility from it. My husband and I had no interest in having biological kids, and never tried. Due to our young age when we started the adoption process, I don’t think any doctor would have diagnosed us with infertility anyhow. Throughout that evening in the training session, and throughout much of the course, the instructors kept referring to the grief and loss that the majority of the applicants would have been experiencing. I never felt it. Not once. I wasn’t sad in any small way that I wasn’t having biological children, and moved along as if this was the natural way to have children.
Throughout the life of having more children come into our family, I had still never experienced any grief or loss. I certainly had moments where I was annoyed with adoption related comments, or hurt by things that went on, and it bothered me that I had to get permission to have another child while everyone else could just have children based on their own free will, but nothing even remotely close to grief or loss.
Fourteen years and 8 children later, and I can’t imagine any other type of bond with my children. I love them with all my heart, unconditionally, and know that having a biological child would feel no different to me than the love I feel now.
But I am only one small part of this story.
When we adopted my oldest son, we discussed the importance of having openness in his adoption. If you looked at adoptions even 30 years ago, most of them were closed, their was no contact with birth family members, and often kids were not even told they were adopted until they were adults, or worse, when they found out on their own. My husband and I knew we wanted our son, and all future children, to have the opportunity to know where they come from, help form their identity, and feel connected to their biological family. For some of my kids, this has been possible. For others, they have only been able to get connected to birth aunts, or birth siblings in other adoptive homes. For my oldest son, however, we managed to track down his birth mother and half sister a few years ago and began an online relationship. I knew it was so important and valuable to my son, and he loved asking questions to his birth mom about his family tree, history, and birth father. The time eventually came when he was 12 years old, when he asked if he could meet his birth mom. I sent her a message, asked if it would be alright, and was overjoyed when she said yes!! I knew how much this would mean to my son and how much this would help him as he entered his adolescents. We were all a bundle of nerves and excitement as we waited for the day to finally arrive.
As we waited for the big day, my son began telling his friends about his upcoming event. I remember him coming home from school one day and mentioning that his friends had asked him if he would rather live with his birth mom or us. He casually laughed it off, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. There are a LOT of irrational thoughts you have preparing to meet a birth mother…but you tell yourself they are all irrational. You remind yourself, they aren’t really things you need to be worried about. I don’t really need to worry if he will like her more. I don’t really need to worry about whether she will regret her decision to place him for adoption. I don’t really need to question my entire parenting existence up until this point. I had pushed aside all other negative thoughts as nothing more than worry and craziness. He is our oldest son, and this had been our first experience at one of our children meeting their birth parents for the first time.
Questions started swirling around my head. What if he did want to live with her instead? What if he wished he had never been adopted? What if he liked her more? They were all silly questions that I knew were not things I should be converned about. I knew my son loved my husband and I and that we were a family. I suddenly felt so self-conscious and worried. Who was I in this grand scheme of adoption and what was my place? (Of course my son was having a ton of questions swirling around his head too, but this post is focused more from the adoptive parent’s perspective).
I tried to push all my irrational fears aside and focus on the positive. The days leading up to the meeting though, a new thought crept into my mind. I have always viewed parenting as a life long commitment of unconditional love. I love my children regardless of their behavior or actions. In most child/parent relationships, that feeling is mutual and the child is the most important person in the parent’s life, and the parent is the most important person in the child’s life. It suddenly occurred to me that I might not be the most important person in my son’s life. In fact, I might not be the most important person in ANY of my children’s lives, since they are all adopted. Each and every one of my children have another biological mother and father. Another important person in that life that may be, or may become, their most important person. It hit my like a ton of bricks. I suddenly felt the grief and loss I had always bypassed all those years. I began to weep…a deeper cry than I had ever felt, and experienced a physical pain unlike anything I can describe. I felt the grief. I felt the loss. The loss of never having a biological child who sees myself and my husband as their primary parent and provider. Don’t get my wrong, my children may very well see my husband and I as this, and there is certainly nothing wrong with a child having more people to love, and more people to love them…I know rationally there is nothing to worry about…but somehow it still hit me. Somehow I still felt the pain of this realization that I might only be the person who raises these 8 children and nothing more.
I can’t end this post with a positive realization I later had. I am still processing all of these feelings since it happened so recently, but I CAN say, the meeting went amazing.
On the day of the meeting, we anxiously waited at the ferry terminal for his birth mother and half sister to arrive. We finally saw them through a window and went rushing outside. They had flowers waiting for us, and we had flowers waiting for them. Mathieu’s mom pulled him into a warm embrace and hugged the hug of a mother who has been longing for her child his entire life. You cannot accurately describe those emotions. Mathieu hugged his birth mother like a child who was finally getting the final piece to the puzzle of his life. Next he hugged his sister and his mother embraced me, whispering thank you into my ear as we hugged. I knew we were connected through this amazing child…a mother who birthed him, a mother who raised him, and a child who loved us both.
We walked to a local restaurant and began our visit. His birth mother was talking a mile a minute, clearly excited and over the moon to finally be meeting her son, and getting to know him and his adorable personality. They asked each other questions, shared similarities, and got to know each other. He discovered his similarities with his sister, and they found out what an amazing child Mathieu is. At one point, Matt reached out and handed his birth mom a package. She opened it up to see a silver pendant necklace. The pendant was a circle with a tree in it. Mathieu explained it represented a family tree, since we are all in his family tree together. She wiped away a tear, and brought him in for another hug. His face shone with love and pride.
The meeting soon came to an end as we walked them back to the ferry terminal. The meeting could not have gone any better. Not only did my son meet his birth mother and begin a new relationship, but we all did. We gained two new members to our extended family that day, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the gift that woman gave us…the privilege of raising her son.
As we got back into the truck, I turned around to ask Matt how he felt it all went. His response was not what I expected. In a sad voice he replied “It went great, but I sure wish I could meet my biological father too.”
Adoption. There is always so much more going on than we ever realize. So many thoughts and questions swirling through our children’s minds. Meeting my son’s mother was amazing, yet altering, and I know has made a huge and positive impact on my son and his future. Yet, questions still remain for him. He still has half of his identity missing, information he may never find. Hopefully one day I will have the privilege of sharing the story of him meeting his bio dad, but until then, I am so thankful for the children I have and the amazing and large extended family I have also acquired. Openness in adoption is beautiful, raw, and so very important (when possible).
To find about more about Mathieu’s adoption, click here.
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