Have you ever avoided having a conversation with someone because you just weren’t sure what to say or you were nervous about how they might react to what you needed to talk to them about? I can think of several times in my life that I have dreaded bringing up a topic in conversation, because I knew deep down the topic needed to be addressed, but I just didn’t know how to approach the situation. I often try to avoid uncomfortable situations and deep conversations, not because I don’t think they need to be experienced and sometimes are necessary, but because I get anxious about hurting someone’s feelings or making them feel sadness. Mostly, though, it’s because I myself don’t want to get hurt.
I don’t always deal well with sadness and hurt. I have dealt with too much grief in my life, and now I’m at a place where I just try to avoid it as much as possible. That’s not always healthy and not always realistic. Sometimes you just have to put a brave face on and dive in headfirst. I had to do that recently–chose to do it, actually. It was a situation that I knew I would someday have to face, and there was no way to avoid it. After three and a half years, it was time to talk to our daughter about her adoption.
Adoption is a loaded topic. Anyone who has experienced adoption from any angle knows that everyone’s situation is different. Each adoption story is special and unique. Most of the time people assume that adoption is this wonderful happy experience, just as it is portrayed often in movies and on TV. Or they think it’s totally negative and heart breaking, as that is often how the news media has portrayed it to be.
It’s no secret to anyone that knows us that our daughter is adopted. It’s not something we’ve ever kept to ourselves. In fact, it’s something that we love to share and are very proud to tell our story when people ask us legitimate questions. But, even though we have been very open about our adoption to the adults in our lives, there was one little person that we had shied away from that topic with.Our daughter has always known her birthmother. If you frequent this blog, you may have read about our journey to becoming parents and our very open adoption. Although our daughter has spent many hours with her birthmother, looks at all of the pictures of her that we have in various places around our home, and talks freely of her in her silly three-year-old conversations, we had never actually used the word “adoption” when talking about our birthmother.
We have always referred to our birthmother as an auntie or just by her actual name. Our daughter adores her and thinks of her as this fun family member that has long, beautiful hair (yes, she is obsessed with her long hair and has been known to compare her to various Disney princesses). We love her and feel like her and her own family are just an extension of our family. Because our birthmother is so important in all of our lives, we knew that we needed to talk to our daughter and tell her the story of her birth.
Every December since our daughter was born, we have celebrated her Adoption Day. It’s the day where we went to the courthouse and her adoption became finalized. We treat it as a special day, sort of like you would a birthday. This past December we chose to get out her baby book and read it to her. The book is more than just your typical baby book. It is a timeline in pictures and words of her entire first year of life. No detail was left out and when I was making it, I knew that we would someday share it with her and show her how she came into the world already loved by so many.
We had just opened a couple of small gifts to celebrate the special day and then sat together on the couch to look at the book. I opened it and began to read it, but soon was overwhelmed with tears. Not because I was sad in particular, but because this conversation was one that I had dreaded since day one. Of course I knew that someday I would have to face my fears and explain what adoption is to our daughter. I wasn’t sure what to say, how to explain it so she would know what a positive experience it was for us, and most of all, I wanted her to know that just because I didn’t carry her in my tummy doesn’t mean in any way that I’m not her mommy.
That was the hardest part for me. We had gone through so much before deciding to adopt. I still sometimes grieve not being able to have a biological child and not being able to experience a pregnancy. I was not ready for our daughter to think anything less than that of me. I wasn’t ready to admit to her and myself that I indeed did not birth her, I did not carry her in my tummy, and I wasn’t the one that took care of her for the nine months before she was born. For all our daughter knew, I was truly, fully her mommy and had done all of those things just as many children’s books, movies, and stories portray.
By telling her that her birthmother was actually the one that had taken care of her for all of those months and had given birth to her at the hospital, my fantasy of me being the one to do all of those things was gone. I felt selfish about that and I knew that it wasn’t fair to our daughter, but that was truly how I was feeling at the time.
My husband ended up reading the remainder of the book and afterwards we talked about adoption in very three-year-old terms. We have several children’s books about adoption and over the next few days and weeks, our daughter chose to read those at night. She even announced to her preschool class that she was adopted, which then turned into this funny story as her teachers thought she was making it up!
Letting her know all about her birth story and how she became a part of our family turned out to be great. I never want our daughter to wonder anything about our journey to becoming the family we are today, so this was the first step in us filling in all of the beautiful moments and details for her. She is extremely proud that she’s adopted and it makes her feel special to know that she has so many people that love her.
Looking back, yes it was a topic I wanted to avoid for a lot longer, but there was no way around it. I knew in my heart that it would all be okay, but it was tough. I know that it won’t be the last tough conversation we have with our daughter about adoption, but I also know there are just as many happy exciting details that we will someday share with her when the time is right.
Just because I didn’t carry her and birth her, doesn’t in any way, shape, or form make me any less of a mother to her. She has always called me mommy, and even though I was scared that her perception of me would change after our conversation, it actually made our bond even tighter. She’s my little peanut, the greatest gift that was ever given to me and for that, I will continue to have the tough talks and conversations for as long as I need to.