I first met Emma Beck in my son’s home following the birth of his first baby a little over four years ago. She had brought in a meal to help out while my daughter-in-law recuperated from the delivery. Emma was a very generous woman, willing to give help in any way necessary. She proceeded to share a bit of her life story, including the fact that she had four children—two of whom are adopted. I immediately felt a connection and assumed we would become friends. Soon there were other opportunities for us to get together and briefly share our experiences. We didn’t see each other often but we always said hello when given the chance.
I knew her life had been challenging but also witnessed the beauty of what she made it. She herself is a biological daughter from a family of 10 siblings (seven of whom had been adopted). Emma and her husband struggled to have children. She was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease which caused her infertility. She also had endometriosis and a tilted uterus. She went through reconstructive surgery to correct these issues. Because of these complications, the couple decided to adopt.
The Beck’s: Building A Forever Family
The couple adopted through, what was then, LDS Family Services with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their oldest adopted son, Isaac, was the oldest biological son of eight children. The Beck’s wanted to adopt three of his younger siblings but were denied the opportunity by the agency due to guidelines and restrictions that were in place.The birth mother kept four of the other children. Isaac has met his birth mother, but they do not have a relationship. Emma and the adoptive mother of the other children became a support system for each other. However, when the Beck’s adopted their daughter a short time later, the communication discontinued for reasons unknown to them. Isaac finds transitional changes difficult. In order to avoid these issues, the Beck’s have chosen to homeschool all of their children. He also has some other physical and emotional struggles he is fighting to overcome. As he gets older and prepares to go out on his own, he is learning self mastering skills to adjust to society as an adult.
Eliza was adopted through the same agency a couple of years later. She was the oldest of four biological children. She also met her birth mother but does not have a relationship with her. Eliza was very small at birth, due to what they believe was exposure to smoke in utero. As an infant she would scream for hours as if for no reason. After careful study, they discovered she was in extreme pain due to a lactose allergy. She is now a healthy, thriving teenager. Before the adoption was final, Emma received a confirmation that she was to be their daughter. She felt the words, ”your body could not make her.”
Emma says all children, whether biological or adopted, are born with strengths and weaknesses. No amount of parenting books can fix whatever internal, genetic issue a child is born with. Her motto has always been that she cannot change what happened before these children were placed in her arms, but she will do everything in her power to make sure they reach the best potential of who they are.
After the adoption of the two children, Emma miraculously became pregnant within just a few months. Ultimately, she would have three children under the age of three years old in addition to Isaac. After the birth of their daughter, Rachel, Emma became pregnant again . At 15 weeks, she became paralyzed and was bedridden for the entire pregnancy unable to take care of her other children. Their son, Andrew, was born healthy.
When Eliza was about three years old, Emma had three distinct imressions that Eliza was to play the violin. Thinking she was too young, she ignored them. She was watching a music competition and saw a very young girl playing the violin and it changed her mind. Emma enrolled three of her children, ages 7,4 and 3, in violin lessons. The children also learned to play the piano. Emma has a music background and used it to encourage her children. Eventually, all of them would play and perform as a family band. They chose to play violins and fiddles as it was hard to travel with six pianos and to have six pianos on a stage.They are known as Fiddle Express and began making Youtube videos and recording albums. Individually and as a family, the children have earned numerous awards for their talents. Rachel is also an accomplished vocalist as are some of the others.
Each of the Beck children was asked the question, “what is the best thing about being in your family?” Isaac is grateful to have a family home to live in. He has been working in construction building houses and has a deeper understanding of the blessings of a home. Eliza is grateful that she is homeschooled. Rachel loves being part of a musical family. Andrew likes that they do not play video games so that he can spend his time doing more important things.
.At times when their family is struggling, they hold what they refer to as simulation exercises. They reenact whatever is going on and try to find a solution to the problem through their music. They realized that when the family relationship wasn’t working, they struggled to come together with their music as well. Bluegrass music pulled their family together. Emma says that when your relationships are not in harmony, your music cannot be in harmony.
The Beck’s have a busy and chaotic life, but they have found ways to appreciate the time they spend together as a family making cherished memories.
There are multiple singing icons and actors and actresses who have been adopted: Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Simone Biles and Lee Majors, to name a few. All of these people had positive adoption experiences and are who they are today in part due to their adoption journeys. Although genetic traits played a factor in their natural abilities, their talents were nurtured by their adoptive parents. They received encouragement and daily support from them. The multiple hours of practice and financial responsibility fell upon the adoptive parents as well. Without that positive reinforcement, they may not have experienced the success that they have achieved.
Nature vs. Nurture
Children are born with their own set of unique talents and characteristics. This is the natural part of an adopted child. Whether or not these talents are used and developed is the nurture part of the equation. My biological children were not gifted in the athletic department. They all tried different sports and often played on teams for fun. One of our daughters did well in track and two of the boys enjoyed basketball, track, and baseball as a social outlet and form of exercise. However, our two adopted children had very different genes and seemed to excel at almost any sport they attempted. Although our oldest son was encouraged to compete in sports due to his stature and natural abilities, he didn’t have the required drive needed to push through what was often painful and difficult. Once he would reach a goal in a certain event, he would move on to something else and conquer it. Doing something once seemed enough to satisfy him even though we encouraged him to pursue further possibilities. As his parents, we saw the potential he had, but we could not do the required work for him. Because most physical things came easy to him, it was hard for him to progress when it became more difficult. It was easier to just choose a different path and start over. Over the course of his high school career, he ran track and cross country, played basketball, baseball, and football. He did not complete all four years in any one sport. He could have been a phenomenal athlete with his genetic gifts, but he chose to do it his way. No matter what sport he chose, we were by his side as his biggest fans and are proud of the man he has become.
Our adopted daughter was also blessed with great physical abilities. As a young girl her passion was dance. At first we weren’t sure it was really her thing as she wasn’t sure which foot was right and which arm was left, but as she grew and developed more, it was clear that she was good at it. She participated in all genres of dance and was on competition teams. She enjoyed the friendships she made outside of her circle of church and school acquaintances. However, when she started middle school, her interests changed. She decided to pursue volleyball and basketball. Secretly hoping she wouldn’t succeed in these sports, we let her try them. But of course, she excelled in them as well. During her early years of high school, she participated in the dance team as well as the other sports, but it eventually became too much. She chose to focus on volleyball. She was a great asset to her team and together they accomplished great things. Again, we saw her potential and wanted her to pursue possible scholarships and continue her volleyball career, but it was not what she wanted.We did our part as her parents and attended all of her games and were her biggest cheerleaders in whatever she was doing.
“They know that they are supported by loving parents”
As parents, whether biological or adopted, we want what is best for our children. That doesn’t mean we get to make their decisions for them. We can encourage and give guidance but ultimately it is their choices that matter. When a new baby is placed in our arms we have dreams of what they can become. Often what we see and what actually happens are very different. Sometimes we want to see them become what we want them to be instead of who they truly are. It took me a lot of years to realize that my daughters were unique individuals and, no matter what I did , they would not become me! What a blessing that is that they have the abilities to make choices and choose their own path. Heather Hepler said, “At some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening.”
The family unit can be complex. In her book, What I Want My Adopted Child to Know, author Sally Bacchetta, says, “Adopted families navigate emotional terrain that fully biological families don’t have to .I know adoption is painful, unsettling, joyous and affirming. It’s that way for me too. More than anything, adoption is the way we came together, and I’ll always be grateful for that.” Recognizing the differences in our biological and adopted children is crucial to the survival of the family unit. My father explained it to me this way. When we are single, we are like a solo musical number. Then we add a spouse and make a duet. When each child comes we make our own choir. It is up to each of us to make the music and family work in harmony with each other.
Occasionally, as in the case of the Beck family, the impressions received as a young mother served her children well. At least for now, they are happy and content making music as a family in their home. Who knows what the future will bring, but we do know that they are loved and given the opportunity to develop those gifts and talents they were born with. Every day they wake up, they know that they are supported by loving parents who will be by their side no matter what choices they make. That is what true harmony in a family is all about.