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?



Infertility Advantage?

Last week, I was fortunate to travel to Colorado and interview the most inspirational man I’ve ever met for a magazine story and a short film we’re creating at the nonprofit land conservation org I work for. The interview was with Erik Weihenmayer, an extreme adventurer who has climbed Everest as well as all Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent). 348 other people have also accomplished this feat, but Erik stands out amongst them. Because Erik also happens to be blind. photo-26

On the plane to Colorado I had time to read Erik’s book, Adversity Advantage. It’s all about how the greatest setbacks, difficulties, and adversities you face in life can also be the exact things that, when faced head-on and harnessed, inspire you to “everyday greatness.” This was certainly the case for Erik, who went blind at the age of 13. He also lost his mother to a car accident two years later. That’s enough to crush most people. But instead of succumbing to his adversity and checking out of life, Erik harnessed it and went on to become one of the most inspirational and influential adventurers of our time. He learned to hike and climb–he even whitewater kayaks–without the advantage of sight and now lives a more active, adventurous life than most people can even imagine. He made the impossible possible and motivates people to do the same. Not to mention the incredible things he has done for the disabled community through his No Barriers organization and Wounded Warriors.

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Two Months In: Our 2nd monthly agency update

2-monthsIt’s been a full two months now since we’ve been actively presented to birthmothers and have been waiting for a match. Yesterday we got our second monthly update from our caseworker telling us how many birthmothers we were presented to in November and the status of those presentations.

I look forward to this email all month (even though receiving it means we haven’t yet been chosen). We’re pretty removed from this part of the process, so it’s nice to know what’s been going on behind-the-scenes.

The Update

Our profile was shown to nine birthmothers this month, one every few days in November. That’s one more than last month.  Five of them were matched with other couples, (one already had the baby!) two fell off the radar, and two have not yet chosen a couple.

The cool thing about this month was that out of the five birthmothers who were successfully matched, one actually picked us as their third choice. So if her first and second choice matches said no, we would have gotten the call! She was successfully matched with her first choice, but hey, at least we were chosen as runners-up. Although third is not first, it feels like getting chosen at all is a step in the right direction. It’s a reminder that it could happen any time. Our caseworker told me that she was surprised to hear our names come up so fast and that even a 3rd choice after only two months of waiting is good news. That made us smile.

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Monthly agency update – 8 is great?

adoption searchNow that we are officially active and waiting to be chosen by a birthmother, we will receive monthly updates telling us how many prospective birthmothers were presented with our profile. We got our first one yesterday. We had no idea what to expect, but over the past month our profile was presented to eight birthmothers. I’m not sure if that’s a good number or not. When I see all of the waiting families on the website, eight birthmothers does not seem like very many. And I’m sure our profile was just one of many sent to these eight women.

Of the eight birthmothers we were presented to, three chose another couple and have been matched, two women fell of the radar, one “screened out” of the process (which I’m assuming means our agency discovered something that made her ineligible), one is in the process of matching with another couple, and three have not chosen a family yet. So, I guess we are still in the running with those three women. And if November is anything like October, we will be shown to a new birthmother every few days this month, too.

I’m not going to lie–we were anxiously awaiting the update and knew that we had not been chosen yet, but it was a little disappointing anyway. Just a little bit… kind of felt like not being picked for the A team in gym class or something.

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Heartbreak, hope and healing

Many times in the news we see adoption stories gone bad. But The Today Show has been sharing a lot of happy and successful stories lately. The show has been celebrating National Adoption Month this week and finalized twelve adoptions live on the air yesterday. It’s so great to see adoption in the mainstream spotlight. It’s probably just because I have adoption on the brain right now, but I’m seeing it everywhere. birthmotherstorytoday

I especially love reading stories like this one: Heartbreak, Hope and Healing: A Birthmother Tells Her Adoption Story about a birthmother who documented her journey to adoption. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, as I think most adoptions are. I’m really struck by the depth and beauty of the special relationships I keep seeing between adoptive mothers and birthmothers. It’s really quite special.

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Opening up to open adoption

Things have changed a lot in the world of adoption over the past 20 years. Once shrouded in secrecy and shame, the majority of adoptions are now open and involve some degree of contact with the birthmother, both before and after the adoption is finalized. Having knowledge about things like genetic medical conditions is obviously good for adopted children. And because the biggest source of pain for adopted children in the past was the unknown–not knowing who their birth family was or why they were put up for adoption–having an open adoption helps ease that pain.

But, if you ask people about open adoption, the first reaction of many is something along the lines of, “I don’t think I would want that. Won’t you be worried the birthmother will want her baby back?”


That was actually my first reaction, too. I was intimidated and fearful of open adoption when we first started thinking about it and even as we went through the home study. There was even a point when I had serious second thoughts about whether or not I could handle an open adoption. I felt threatened. With the birthmother still somewhat in the picture, would I ever feel like the “real” mother to my child? Would I just be a substitute mom or a glorified nanny? Could I handle “sharing” my baby with the woman who had actually given birth to him? Would I be jealous of their innate connection and constantly reminded that our child was, in fact, someone else’s? Was I setting myself up for heartache and pain?

These feelings, I think, are probably pretty common among prospective adoptive parents, at least at the beginning of the process. My feelings on open adoption evolved quickly, though, as soon as I realized I was thinking about it in entirely the wrong way.

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The other side of the story

With all of our initial paperwork, home study and profile signed, sealed and delivered, we have nothing to do now but wait. And with waiting, comes a lot of time to think. Unlike a pregnancy, we’re not sure what is going to happen next–or when. But if the typical timeline our agency advised us of rings true, somewhere out there the birthmother who will eventually choose us to parent her child may be finding out she’s pregnant soon. This thought conjures up mixed emotions in me.

At first, I only thought about it from our perspective. So, of course, it is exciting–our baby may actually exist as I write this! That’s something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to say, and it makes Jamie and I so happy to think that in 9 months or less, we could be bringing home our baby.

But this adoption is not just about us and our feelings. There’s another side to the story. Unfortunately, the discovery that our birthmother is pregnant is (most likely) not going to be a happy or positive event for her. In fact, it’s probably going to be terrifying and met with regret, shame, and fear. I can’t help but feel for her and the confusion and pain she is, or will be, feeling in the months ahead. What will be an extremely joyful event for Jamie and I is going to be the most difficult thing she may ever go through. And I can’t help but also feel sadness for our unborn baby, whose life at first will not be welcomed or celebrated by the woman carrying him (or her)adoption-reality.

So, alongside our joy there is also sorrow at the thought of the heartache that will be endured by our birthmother and–who knows–maybe at some primal level, by our baby too. There is nothing I can do but hope she, whoever she is and wherever she may be, finds comfort. I hope she has someone to talk to, someone who will be there for her with a shoulder to cry on and an encouraging word. I hope she does not have to go through this alone and that she finds peace by choosing adoption. I wish I could be a friend to her; to reassure her that her child will be loved and cherished and cared for always and that she’s making the right choice.

I think–I hope–I will eventually get a chance to be that friend to her. But for now all I can do is wait, keep her in my thoughts, and hope that our baby will somehow know that while his biological mother may not be ready for him, his adoptive mother is. And that I have loved and wanted him from the very beginning.