Imagine that the biggest thing to ever happen to you, something that changed the trajectory of your life, and you had no control over it whatsoever. That’s the case with most children who are adopted. In many cases, adults are making the decision for the child.

Not only do the adoptees not have a say in their adoption, but also until recently, infant adoptions were all closed. This meant information could not be exchanged between birth and adoptive families, so the adoptee grew up with no connection to his/her roots at all.

Luckily open adoptions are becoming the norm now, but there are still expectant parents and adoptive parents who are unaware of why a connection to birth family is important to adoptees. I’m writing this from the perspective of an adoptive parent.

–    Here’s an obvious one: medical information. Having contact with birth family will give you (and later on your child) information about hereditary risk factors. My daughter was just in the hospital with some scary symptoms. But, thanks to medical information we got from her birth family, her doctor was able to figure out quickly what was wrong and helped us treat it.

–    Being able to answer other questions is important. I’d imagine most every adoptee asks, “Why was I placed?” at some point. A connection to the birth family can allow for that question, and any others that come up, to be answered.

–    Having a sense of where they came from. Not being an adoptee, this is the most difficult for me to describe. But, my Brazilian heritage is important to me, and I love looking at pictures of my mother and grandmother and seeing myself in their faces. I know my love of horses came from my dad, and my tenacity and stubbornness from my mother. My passion for science and enjoyment of country music are some weird flukes that set me aside from everyone I’m related to and the latter is a family joke. I want my daughters to grow up knowing those things about themselves. I want them to know who shares their nose or their hair, where their ancestors came from, and why they are athletic or hate green beans.

I love my daughters with everything I have. But, I cannot give them these things. Adopting means acknowledging that my motherhood is shared. Maintaining a connection with birth family is not always possible, but it should be something that adoptive parents strive for.