I am the first person to admit that I had no clue about adoption before I adopted my son. I remember when I was growing up, I would tease my brothers that they “were adopted”. There was a girl in my first grade class who was adopted, but I was always told not to talk about it to her. I came to think that adoption was something that was a secret, and because it was a secret there might be something wrong with it.
When my husband and I decided to adopt, we signed up for an adoptive parenting class. I remember thinking I was just glad that I could be around other couples going through the adoption process, but what I didn’t expect was to learn so many things about the language of adoption.
I remember the very first thing I learned was that the birth mother is not the “real mother” as many people might say. She is the birth mother and I am the adoptive mother. (That took about a year of correcting my Dad to get him to use the right term.) I learned that the correct term to use is international adoption and not “foreign adoption” because the word “foreign” has a connotation of not belonging somewhere. I remember learning about how my language about adoption can affect how others around me perceive adoption and most importantly how my own child would see adoption.
Last week, a friend of mine who has adopted children wrote that her children had been asked questions about their “real family”. At first, I was angered that people would even ask a question like that especially with all the politically correct things that people now say and do. It seems that adoption, in many cases, is still one of those subjects that people don’t think about before they say something.
After I stewed about it for a few hours, I started to realize that I really don’t think people intend to say something about adoption to hurt another’s feelings; I think it is just that many people don’t know the language to use when talking about adoption.
When I first brought my son home, many people I would meet would say he must look like my husband because he looked nothing like me. I would tell them that he was adopted and a nervous smile would appear across many people’s faces and say things like “Oh, how nice! That is so wonderful. He is such a lucky little boy!” It always felt like they were a bit uncomfortable once they knew he wasn’t my biological child. I would always think, “No, it’s my husband and I who are the lucky ones to have him!”
Even though I surprisingly got pregnant with my daughter, I find since I adopted my son, that I am not quick to ask another mother how her labor was or how long she breastfed. I find that I am slower to speak and quicker to listen. The blindfold that had been across my eyes is lifted. How do I know if a child is a biological child or an adopted child? My thinking has changed and my confidence has grown when I speak about adoption and I think it puts other people at ease to ask questions and for me to convey the vocabulary of which they were not yet aware.
One of the things that some people ask me is if my son and daughter are “real” brother and sister. My answer is that they are as real as siblings can get. They live together, play together, eat together, go to school together and they fight with each other. The only difference between them is that one was born from a wonderful woman who gave my son life, and the other was born from me.
We do talk about my son’s adoption as a family. As a matter of fact, both of my children were arguing in the car on the way to school one morning because my son said he had more moms than my daughter, and he named them off: his birth mother, his foster mother, and his adoptive mother. My daughter was so mad, and she asked me why she couldn’t be adopted so she could have three moms, too. I guess we achieved the positive look at adoption in our family. Ha Ha!
My husband and I are BOTH of our children’s REAL parents. We are there when they are hurt, up with them at night when they are sick and there to cheer them on in their successes. People who love each other and are there for each other no matter what is really what a family is, right?
Every night when I tuck my children into bed, I tell both of them that I love them infinity. I tell them my love has no beginning and no end for them. During the four year struggle my husband and I had with infertility, I would pray each and every night for a little spirit to come and join our family. And, now I have two! Sometimes I can’t believe it, but they are definitely real, and the love I have for each of them is infinite.
I know my children are my “real” children because they are with me each and every day, I hug and kiss them each night, and my heart is full of love that only a mother can truly know. Our family is a real family and it just happens that adoption is the way we got to where we are today. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ll continue to build our story as a family together. Our family is the real deal.
Has your family had any experience with adoption? Tell us about it.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can read more about her life as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
Photo credit to the author.