“Can I look at my baby Norah pictures?” she asks, pointing at the bookshelf out of reach.
Visible behind the glass cabinet are two photo albums, each full of four by six prints from both our young children’s births. One album for each child sits on the shelf safely away from little hands. She knows that all she needs to do is ask.
She’s four years old, and she excitedly settles in at the kitchen table with her album. Her commentary begins.
“There’s baby Norah!” she excitedly exclaims, pointing. “Look, there’s *Rose [birth mom]! She’s holding me! They’re giving me a bottle. Mommy, what’s on my tummy?” she wonders out loud, pointing at her umbilical cord, freshly tied off.
She knows the answer, but I give her the four-year-old-version again: “That’s your belly button, where you were connected to Rose while you were in her tummy! That’s how you could breathe and eat while you were in there. She took such great care of you, didn’t she?”
We’ve flipped through this photo album together many times. I remind her how excited we were to take her home, but how sad Rose must have been having to say goodbye.
When people ask me if open adoption is confusing, I tell them no. It is normal. There never will be some big reveal where we break the news to her that she was adopted, because there is no news to break.
As soon as she came home from the hospital we started whispering in her ear bits of the story of when she joined our family. She recognizes the people in the photos, because she sees them regularly.
Sometimes adults make confusing what children readily accept.
“Will they know who their real mom is?”
“What if they’re confused?”
As a parent, there are not many things I feel absolutely certain about. If you regularly worry, “Am I completely messing this up?” Well, you probably aren’t. You’re normal, at least.
But this I feel relatively confident in: our kids benefit from having more people in their life who love them.
We are planning a joint birthday party this year, and party plans are currently a frequent topic of conversation in our home.
We’re in the car when I casually ask Norah, our almost five-year-old in the back seat, “So who do you want to invite to your birthday party?”
I expect to hear the names of some friends, but she answers, “Daddy! And Grandma. And my birth mom.”
To her, it is normal.
I know that adoption is hard and complicated.
Our children are still young and only one is verbal, so our two-way conversations on the topic have only just begun. Questions about “why” haven’t been asked yet, but I know they are coming. I say a prayer for wisdom, and remember the advice from friends who have gone before me.
My hope for both of my children is that they will grow up feeling whole, and that they will be able to find answers to all of their hard questions. I hope that I remain unthreatened and able to provide them with honest answers at the appropriate time. We foster relationships with their birth families, not only because they are now all our family and we care for them, but also to facilitate a relationship while they are young that they can one day take ownership of, too.