This Adoptive Mother’s Secret Fear

imageAt 21 months old, Miles is still unaware that our family was brought together by adoption, or what adoption even is. I’m just ‘mommy’ and we’re pretty much always attached at the hip (my hip, because he still looooves to be carried). There is nothing in his life right now that a hug from me can’t fix. I can kiss away boo-boos and frustrations, tears and nightmares; you name it.

Right now, everything is so perfect and simple.

But I have a secret: Lately, at night, when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep, I’ve been getting a little scared. Not of the dark. But of adoption.

Not of adoption itself, but of the way Miles may feel about it when he understands what it means. All too soon, he will become aware of the one thing that I won’t be able to kiss away: the fact that he was not born to me. And I worry about how he will feel when he realizes what that means.

Like every other parent, I want to protect my child from the world. But unlike every other parent, I know that there is major heartbreak in his near future: the loss that he will experience when he becomes conscious of his first family. I have always known this was coming but it has always seemed so far off. The closer it gets, though, the more I’ve begun to think about–and secretly dread–it. The day when he understands will be here sooner than I’m ready for it to be.

Part of me is also a tiny bit scared that his feelings for me could somehow change–or become complicated, at least–when he realizes that our family was formed differently than other families and that he has another mother out there. It’s not that I’m jealous or don’t want to share him or his love. That’s not it at all. I love his birthmother. She gave me the greatest gift that anyone possibly could and she changed my life for the better forever. He is and always will be part of her and vice versa and I will always honor that and do what I can to support that relationship. I know that he will always love me. I’m his mom. I know this.

But I just don’t want the way he feels about me to change at all. Ever. I don’t want anything about our relationship to change.

Will he say mommy differently or settle less comfortably in my arms? Will he feel differently somehow about our little family? Will it be the same? Will he still run to me when he’s hurt and scared, tired or upset? Will he still light up when he sees me after I’ve been away, yelling my name and jumping into my arms? Will he feel as positive about his adoption as I do?

I know that I am being silly. I love the fact that our family was formed through adoption, and I love him more than anything in the world. I am confident in our love. Our bond is as strong as it could be. I know that we will grieve his loss together and that he will be okay because he is strong and resilient. I’m trying to prepare him by telling him his birth story and introducing the concept of adoption long before he understands. I know that I shouldn’t be scared of this.

And I’m usually not. But sometimes… every once and awhile… I am.

I’m sharing this with you because I imagine it’s pretty common for adoptive parents to feel this way. It’s a reality that our children have to deal with big, complicated emotions at a young age and that it won’t always be easy. I think the most we can do is to be strong, love them the best we can, be honest with them, and create a safe space for them to share their feelings with us.

Any other adoptive parents ever feel this way?



24 thoughts on “This Adoptive Mother’s Secret Fear

  1. Jo

    I think about it everyday. I worry about the major bumps he will have along the way and hope that everything i do will be enough to help.

      1. Jo

        He is only 11 months but there isn’t a day that goes by that i don’t think of it. Thank you so much nrp1850 that is something that i love to hear , means a lot :). I really hope the same for my little guy. We love him more then anything 💜.

  2. nrp1850

    I absolutely believe this is a real fear but as an adopted child (but all grown up now) my Mum was always very straight up about how I came to be her child and I love her for it. She is my Mum every single day of the week. There were questions along the way and my life had bumps just like everyone – and some that were more specific to not physically resembling my family, but more than anything, just profound, unconditional love for my Mum, my family, and the life I have had and continue to have. I understand that my Mum loved and loves me. Nothing can or would ever change this.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and feelings with me! It means so much to hear that. It sounds like you and your Mum have a great relationship. I love my little boy more than anything in the world, too, and hope that he will always know how much. Thanks again!

  3. Amy

    Our daughter is from China and is 2 1/2. We also have a biological son and have pictures of me pregnant with him. We talk about me carrying him in my ‘belly’ and her in my ‘heart’. She wimpered and said she wanted to be in my ‘belly’ too. I explained she has a bio mom who had her in her belly. She doesn’t understand yet but I to worry for the day she understands. I don’t want her to feel disappointed or different either. I totally understand!!

      1. Camilla M

        I have this exact fear, dread, and almost a feeling of grief every day. My daughter is now 2.5 and mostly asks about why she doesn’t have a daddy (I am a single mom and we area transracial family as well). I worry that that pure love, the way her eyes twinkle when she looks at me and her having no sense that our family (minus not having a daddy) is any different than anyone else will be lost forever when she begins to understand what adoption means. I also worry about her wanting to know her brith family because they do not want her to know about them until she is an adult. I

  4. Henri

    My son is six, and I have a biological 17 year old daughter. Every day I look at my son, and wonder if he will always, think “you’re the BESTEST mommy in the whole world” Granted, I usually hear this when he wants something, but sometimes its late at night as he falls asleep, and I melt. He’s just now started to ask questions. Like, when I say your teacher is adopted, too. He asks what that means, I remind him he didn’t grow in my tummy like his sister. I see him go into deep thought, and I hold my breath, and he moves on. I think this is the dance we will dance for the next 50 years.

  5. My son is almost 11, adopted 4 years ago. He was older so we came to our relationship from a different perspective. But he is finding a great way to love two mothers in his life and allowing that space has made us super close. I am so glad to have found your blog today! ~Jenni from

    1. Hi Jenni, Thank you so much for your comment! I’m interested in possibly pursuing older child adoption at some point – I will definitely check out your blog. There is more than enough love to go around, and I’m so happy that you and your son have gotten super close. Love it!

    1. Hi Melissa! I feel the same way. All of the comments I’ve received today, here and on Facebook, have made me feel so much better. I assumed it was normal to feel scared like this, but I didn’t know for sure and it means so much to hear others’ stories and perspective. Thank you for commenting!

  6. linda miller

    there were many days that i felt the same exact feelings that you have expressed. my little lily is 8 years old now and we talk all the time about everything in life…my worries seem to be lost within the openness that i am welcoming in my home. she has had moments that she questioned things and even felt sad or confused about….. i choose honesty and hope. i openly talk to her about who she is and what a blessing she is to me. “different is beautiful” is one of our family’s mottos…we look for that all over our world and celebrate the sweetness of it. i have no doubt that times may be hard…so i spend my days preparing me to be a receiver of whatever she throws my way….responding with love and giving her complete permission to say whatever she is feeling. i can’t imagine my life without her…. that is more painful to feel than fear. so..begone fear…i don’t have time for you. it is time to love with all i am.

  7. Joanne

    Thanks for this post! My son is 22 months and I have been having the exact same feelings lately. I could not have said it any better. So glad to know I am not alone.

  8. Gretchen M.

    Our son is 6 and knows he didn’t come from my belly, but from his birth mom’s. He is still processing all that it means and occasionally asks questions, but overall has never seemed upset by the conversation. He knows we love him and loves us back! Just recently I really began to struggle with this same question. I like control and knowing what’s to come, but this is an area I can not control. I can only love him and be there for him no matter what. Some days are easier than others and some days the insecurity sets in and it’s hard. But, our story is amazing and so is our family! We will take it one day at a time.

  9. Kara

    We recently adopted our daughters after fostering them for 2 years, the oldest will be 4 in a couple months and the youngest is 2. They also have 2 sisters, 6 and 5, that were adopted by another family. I feel that our oldest will retain some of the horrible memories of her biological parents and the trauma and may never ask about them. However, the youngest may get curious. We talk openly about them being adopted, growing in our hearts, choosing them to be our girls. I too fear the day they ask more probing questions. Their situation is a little different with their abuse, and there are several things that we do not want to tell them about later in life (molest mainly). We don’t ever want to tell them their parents were bad people, because they are a part of them. If we say your bio parents are bad it’s like saying a part of them is bad too. I make my self ill over thinking about the gravity of that conversation. We can just pray that they also know that they can tell us anything and ask us anything without question or consequences.

  10. Kris

    Hi! I experienced similar thoughts/feelings also as an adoptive mom… remembering when I was “just mommy” and then sharing about adoption with my young children and wondering when my children truly understand about adoption, will they feel the same about me? I think it is a normal fear that adoptive moms can have and the most that we can do is try to be the best moms to our adopted child as we can be…giving love and care as any mom does and also giving help/support in the areas that our child needs as an adoptee and KOC. (I wanted to write and share as an adoptive mom who is also an adoptee and who was blessed by God to have had a very loving, caring adoptive mom and also a loving birthmom that I have been in reunion with for over 15 years)

  11. Gretchen L

    My son is four in June and I struggle with these same thoughts. I wonder how to bring up the subject but don’t want to wait too long. I’m sure all will be fine but not the bridge I’m looking forward to crossing.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Gretchen. I think just making it part of everyday conversation is a good approach. I’ve been talking about adoption and telling him his story for a long time. I needed the practice – the first few times I was stumbling over my words. He doesn’t understand any of it yet but he will soon. I think normalizing adoption as much as possible is a good strategy. We’re reading books about adoption and different ways families come together. Hopefully that will be a good foundation. Best of luck to you!

  12. Mary Stewart

    My biggest fear is a little different. I have 2 adopted kids, a boy who is caucasian and 4 years old, and a girl who is almost 2 and african american. My biggest fear is of the day when one of my kids will get really mad at me about something and yell at me that I’m not their real mother anyway and so they don’t have to do what I say. I know there will be loads of my tears on the day that happens. Hopefully it is far in the future.

    1. I have that fear, too, Mary – I think every adoptive parent probably does. And there’s a very good chance that we will experience that one day when they’re teenagers and mad at us for whatever reason. And I’m sure we will cry. I read an article that said the best response to that is to just steel yourself and say, “I’m sorry you feel that way but you still have to do _______.” Of course, those words will sting but hopefully we will have to keep in mind that they don’t mean it. I told my mom I hated her plenty of times when I was a teenager and didn’t mean it… I hope I can remember that when I hear it from my son. (But I’m sure tears will follow). Best of luck to you!! It’s quite an incredible journey we’re on, isn’t it?

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