Emotional Debt in Adoption

My wife and I have two beautiful children, both of which came to us through the miracle of adoption. What a blessing. What a joy. Still, though, it’s been quite the bumpy road to get to where we are now.

One of the toughest things we’ve had to deal with was the feeling of guilt and debt. I mean, our children’s birth parents gave us the most wonderful gift, the gift of parenthood, which came through a big sacrifice on their part. Our adoptions are very open, and we’ve communicated freely and often all along the journey, which means that we saw the heartbreak in their eyes when they made the hard decisions. Even though they had their minds made up and they had their own internal confirmation that what they were doing was right, the separation they experienced caused a lot of heartbreak.

We felt guilty that we were on the receiving end of their pain. We felt like we needed to do our best to find a way to relieve that heartache, like their happiness was our responsibility. The gift of parenthood is priceless, and we felt like we needed to find a way to repay it. How does someone repay a priceless gift? It’s a feeling of debt that we’ve had to come to terms with.

To give a greater perspective, I tell people about my small business. I began my own business about five years ago, and things are going well now. During those first few years, especially since I started the business just months before the economic downturn, things were really tough. We were scraping by. We had a hard time making our business loan payments for a long time. Things are doing well now, though, and those payments aren’t too tough. And the best thing is that someday we’ll have them all paid off and every penny that comes in will be profit. Hooray!

What do we do when we’re feeling emotionally indebted to someone and there’s no way of paying it off? We can work and work at trying to repay our children’s birth parents for what they’ve given us, but there’s no way to repay a priceless gift.

We’ve come to learn that repayment isn’t what is expected of us. It’s impossible.

What we can do is to give back in the ways we know how. Open adoption is not for everyone, but my wife and I have chosen to open the doors of our home to invite our children’s birth parents in. They’re part of our family. They’re part of our lives. We can’t repay their priceless gift, but allowing them in is also a priceless gift. Apples and oranges– they can’t really be compared because they’re different from one another. Still, we do what we can do. We do our best to keep our hearts and minds open to each other’s needs. It’s not always easy, and it’s not for everyone, but open adoption has taught us a whole new way to love.