When I first felt led to adoption, all I could think of was how wonderful it would be to add a new child to our family. As I looked at photos of children needing families, I envisioned them sitting with us at our dinner table, playing at the park, opening gifts on Christmas morning, and sleeping peacefully in their new beds. Of course I knew that they would have difficulties transitioning to a new home and environment, but I had read stacks of books on adoption, and subscribed to a few adoption magazines so I felt ready to tackle any mountains that the trail of adoption put in our path.
As any parent will tell you, however, reading it and knowing it in your head is not the same as living it. I’m not sure that even reading every single book printed on the topic of adoption adequately prepares you for the day that your child says, “My Mom must not have loved me or she wouldn’t have given me away.” Or, “I guess to my first Mom I was just a piece of junk. If she really loved me, she would have kept me.” Yes, I have heard both of those, and the pain that comes from the heart of the child expressing those words can be overwhelming. Watching feelings of despair wash over a child because their birth parents abandoned them can leave a parent feeling helpless.
Sometimes no amount of reassurance of “Your mother loved you, but could not take care of you”, is enough. Sometimes there are no easy answers. I know my children were supposed to come to my family, but where does that leave the role of birthparents in their lives?
Fostering has added yet another dimension to the biological parent issue in our home. One of my foster daughter’s parents are still in her life as reunification is the current goal on her caseplan, although it will now only be with one parent as the other has made no progress and it is recommended that her rights be severed.
My other four year old will never again live with her bio parents as their rights have already been severed. She will move in exactly two weeks clear across the country to live with a cousin. That will add yet another dimension of pain and loss to the children in our home because she has been their sister in every sense of the word for 22 months now.
Now that I am on the other side of the coin as I watch them leave, I have gained more empathy for my children’s birth parents. I see not only my adoptive children’s pain, but I catch a glimpse of their biological parents’ pain as well. Yes, some made a conscious choice of drugs over their children, but I do not know what caused some of my children’s mothers to have to leave them and never return. Was it poverty? Inability to care for medical needs? A desire that their child have a better life than they could provide?
Maybe like me, they had no choice. Maybe like me, their government made the decision for them. My government decided that “blood relations” means family even though these relatives are virtual strangers. Basically, “blood is thicker than water” or more honestly, “shared blood means more than the strong and loving attachment you have to your foster family”. Maybe their government made the choice for them by telling them a second child would cost them thousands of dollars in fines, so it would be best to abandon the disabled child in order to try again without any financial penalties.
I don’t know, but as I prepare my foster daughter to leave our home, my heart aches with an intensity that I have not felt before. Her new adoptive parents–from our limited conversations–only see the happy side so far. They are still in the “Opening presents on Christmas morning and sleeping in new beds” mode I was in over 10 years ago. They reassure me all will be well, that she will be loved, that she will be happy. So far, they refuse to see the painful side; the loss that is involved in leaving not only bio parents behind, but the home and family she has had for the past 22 months. They refuse to believe that she will grieve.
They don’t understand that I will be praying for her day and night and wondering if she is sleeping well or crying herself to sleep. They don’t know of the night terrors she had when she first arrived here, nor do they want to hear about them. I worry she will have them all over again and wonder if they will know how to handle them. And as I worry…as I have sleepless nights, my empathy and appreciation for my children’s biological parents deepens. Sometimes it is in pain that our greatest life lessons are learned.