My son’s love for his birth family doesn’t detract from his love for me.
This is possibly one of the most important things I needed to grasp before we adopted him.
I think the fear of our children loving their biological family casts silent shame onto our children. Our children feel much more than we want to acknowledge or accept. Our children notice and read into us at younger and younger ages.
Adoptee Michelle said, “Children can sense when their parents stiffen or feel uncomfortable; we don’t give them enough credit.”
When we haven’t dealt with our own issues of jealousy or fear regarding our children’s desire or love for their birth family, it can really damage our children’s fragile and precious hearts. The last thing I want to do is have my child feel like he has to protect my feelings.
The thing is, if the world worked the way it should, children wouldn’t be removed from their biological parents.
So to expect our children of adoption or foster care to not desire, wish, wonder, or love their biological family is somewhat…cruel. To expect and wish this fractures souls.
The more I’ve spoken with birth parents and adoptees, the more and more I have believed to my core that we should encourage our children to process their emotions towards their birth family.
I think as their parents, it’s our responsibility to help our children process their grief and loss, their emotions and pain, their wondering about their story. When we take initiative to lead these conversations, we are loving our children so well.
My son is still a toddler. I feel I have little room to speak into this experience-wise. So I reached out to a handful of important voices: adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents. I invited them to share based on their unique experience: Is an adoptee’s desire to reach out to their birth parents a betrayal to their [adoptive] parents? Does it have anything to even do with their [adoptive] parents or everything to do with their identity?
I’m honored to share with you some valuable perspectives.
From birth parents perspective:
“I’ve been privileged to have an open adoption with constant communication and could not imagine anything different. I am overjoyed I have the opportunity to be in my son’s life and am thankful I have that opportunity. I would never see it as a competition, and I have always had the understanding that I am not co-parenting with them; I simply do and will have a relationship with my son. I chose not to parent, but I did not choose to walk away from him.
“I wasn’t sure how much communication I wanted before he was born, but soon after I realized there is no such thing as too much! Seeing that he is healthy, happy and loved has helped my healing process, because I have zero doubt that I made the best decision and that he is exactly where he is meant to be.”
From adoptee’s perspective:
“My need to find my birth parents had nothing to do with my parents… Growing up I had always yearned to know more about where I came from. I remember being in 5th or 6th grade, and we were assigned to do a presentation on our ancestors. My first reaction was to go home and talk to my parents about their family history, and I was so excited about the things I was learning. Then, it hit me. These stories being shared with me weren’t part of my roots. What was my background? What was the past like for my “birth” ancestors? I’d always wanted to one day find my birth parents, but that yearning amplified after that assignment.
“There were missing pieces in my life. There were people out there who shared my identity. I am blessed that I was raised in very loving, supportive family who, when the time was right, embraced my decision to start the search and stood by me every step of the way. I have reunited with some of my birth family, including my birth mom and sisters, and life feels more complete now having them as part of my life.”
—Eryn, read more about Eryn’s story
“After I found my birth family someone approached me and asked if I thought searching for my birth family, and wanting a relationship with them, was a slap in the face to my parents.
“I was so taken back from the question, but at the same time I got it. Because I remember vividly as a child being afraid to ask out loud the why’s, what if’s and if only questions regarding my birth family—I wanted to protect my parents’ feelings. I didn’t know how to separate my need to know my birth family with my allegiance to my beyond-amazing family who I love so much.
“When I reached adulthood, it was my mom who encouraged me to search when I was ready, and my dad who offered to file the paperwork to get my original birth certificate as soon as our state allowed.
“I was so relieved to finally have assurance from both of them that the why’s, the what ifs and the if only’s were important, and I had their support in my journey to find out.”
—Jeanne, read more about Jeanne’s story
“I’ve never searched for my biological parents, but I have desired to do so since I was a child based on reasons that have changed as the years passed. At a young age, I had behavioral issues as an outcome from abandonment. I was angry and felt betrayed by the people I trusted the most, so I pushed away those who tried to love me, including my first adoptive parents who did their best but in the end could not work. In those years of hurt and brokenness, I wanted to find my birth parents to answer the questions I hoped could fix and bring peace to my brokenness. Why did they leave me? Was I not good enough? How could they leave a child? Etc.
“My past and current adoptive parents, I know would support the idea of my searching for them, but for financial and nearly impossible reasons (one being that China has a massive population) it’s something that we’ve given to rest. I used to wonder about my identity, but I’ve found peace in my identity with Christ. I’ve gained wisdom and can understand why my birth parents did what they did, and the memories I have left from that life, those are precious because they give me a glimpse into the life I had. I cherish those. Today, the primary reason I’d want to find them is simply to find out my real birth date. The mystery of my real age is the only thing that drives me crazy from time to time, but it isn’t a life or death matter.”
“The need to know your biological parents does not make you love your [adoptive] parents any less.
If anything, it creates a huge love and respect for them.
But no matter how deeply you love your parents, there is still missing information. Still an instinctual desire to know who you came from, where you came from, why you look like you do, or think like you do, or why your left foot is longer than your right.
I sincerely believe you can equally love two sets of parents, in two totally different ways, and that’s a wonderful thought.
There is more of a betrayal in my mind, when adoptive or biological parents do not support or allow a child to find their biological parents.”
—Samantha, read more about Sam’s story
From adoptive parent’s perspective:
“I pray my children—who were placed in my arms by their own, beautiful, fierce-loving First Mamas through open adoption—grow up knowing the whys, what ifs, and if onlys are ok to ask, and they don’t have to go through their childhood without answers.
“I pray they know their journey is just that: it’s theirs, and does not take one ounce of love away from their love from any of us.”
—Jeanne, read more about Jeanne’s story