My father’s mother, my paternal grandmother, passed away a few years before I was born. She was always an intriguing figure in my life, despite the fact that I had never met her. I can recall staring at her pictures as they sat on a bookshelf in my dad’s home office, and thinking how beautiful she was; in her youth with her dark hair, and in her later years when her hair had turned silky white. She was born to German parents in the country of Ireland, and had later immigrated to the sunny beaches of California where she met and married my grandfather. Her recipe for butter cookies is one we made every year at Christmas time throughout my childhood, and I have continued that tradition with my own children. Though she has been gone for over forty years, her legacy continues on.
My family history is important to me. I love learning the stories of my ancestors. They are the people who created me. Their blood runs through my veins, and in a way, the experiences they had during their vast and varied lives, have culminated in me. I am where I am, in part, because of them.
When we adopted our son in 2012, I knew that he needed to know and feel those same things about himself, his story, and his ancestors. Even though he is my son, his life came from a different path. I felt a deep desire to be able to collect and share stories about those who came before him; his biological family. I knew the best way to go about doing this was to have an open adoption. I wanted him to be able to see pictures of siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I wanted him to be able to have a relationship with as many of those people who were open and willing to connect with him. I wanted him to know and love his roots, just as much as I knew and loved mine. He is the culmination of them. I can’t imagine spending my life wondering who I really was, and I would never want that for him–especially when I have the option to be able to give him that information.
If I could give one bit of advice to any hopeful adoptive parents out there, it would be this: Don’t be afraid to include your child’s biological extended family.
A couple of years ago, we were chosen to adopt a second time. While we developed a relationship with the expectant mother, we were also privileged to get to know her family. Her parents and siblings were wonderful, loving people, who welcomed us with open arms. I couldn’t wait to bring our families together with the birth of this beautiful baby girl. When her grandmother cautiously asked if she could give the baby a book of their family history along with a handmade quilt, I was overjoyed. She was worried about overstepping her “bounds,” but for me the answer was “YES!” Even though we were hoping to bring the baby home to join our family, I did not want to draw a line that excluded her biological family. The plan was to include them, embrace them, and continue to have a relationship with them to the extent that they felt comfortable with. Even though this situation did not work out as we hoped, we were still so thankful for the opportunity we had to get to know and love such a wonderful family.
If I could give one bit of advice to any hopeful adoptive parents out there, it would be this: Don’t be afraid to include your child’s biological extended family. A child cannot have too many people loving them and cheering them on. Being able to have a relationship with people who share your DNA is a wonderful, comforting, confidence-building experience. Your child will be a better person because of it. If you have the opportunity to build relationships with an extended biological family, take it! Learn as much as you can about who they are, what they love, what talents they have, and what traditions they share. Incorporating parts of your child’s biological family into your own family will enrich your lives and allow your child to know, without a doubt, that he/she is loved by many. They will grow up with a security that can only come from understanding who you are and where you came from.
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