I am the middle child of three adopted girls. My sisters and I were never discouraged from talking about our adoptions or asking questions. Our parents enjoyed telling us our adoption stories. The topic was always open. There was, however, a heavily implied emotional response from our parents, especially our mom. We never wanted to get too far into it because we didn’t want them to feel as if they weren’t enough. Birth parents were never put down in any way, but there was definitely an us vs. them type of mentality going on. We were basically taught that nurture was everything and nature didn’t matter. It was like us sharing our family’s blood meant nothing.
Now, I had a positive adoption experience growing up. I never felt negatively about my adoption or my birth family. I have been in many adoption forums and heard many different thoughts and perspectives from all around the adoption triad. I never wanted to search for my birth family until after I had kids. Later, I reunited with my biological family. If I had known, back when I was little, as much about families and adoption as I do now, I would have told my parents there was nothing to be scared of in regard to our birth parents. There is no reason to fear our connection to them. There is no reason to fear our curiosity. You are our parents. Period. I sometimes wonder though where that fear originated from.
I remember when my parents adopted my little sister in 1993. I was 11 years old. She was born at a hospital in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, but her birth family lived in Crestview. We picked her up at the hospital and took her to visit my grandmother in Crestview. Multiple ultrasounds had shown my sister to be a boy, but they were wrong. When we got to my grandmother’s house, we decided to go pick up a few girl outfits from Walmart. When it dawned on my mother that there was a chance someone from my sister’s birth family might be there, I could see the fear on her face. She was terrified. She had the blankets so far up around my sister I thought she was going to smother her. Mom was scared to death someone would see her and want her back.
There had been a few high-profile adoption custody battles in the news. Most of them were birth fathers coming to claim children after they learned the mother placed them without their consent. There was one particularly terrible case the media referred to as “Baby Jessica.” The birth mom put the wrong dad on the birth certificate and placed the newborn. She came clean with him 5 days later. The adoption proceedings were halted, but the adoptive parents took Jessica home anyway. The birth parents got married and went back to court to take the child. Because the adoption was never finalized, they got her back. By that time Jessica was two and a half years old.
I get it, I do. That must be an adoptive parent’s ultimate fear. Things like that do happen because the system is flawed. Those situations are the exception, not the rule. If I could go back, I would say this: Your child’s birth parents chose you to raise your child. They had already made the decision not to parent. They are confident you will give the child all the things they can’t. Have that faith in yourself so that insecurity doesn’t bleed through in the relationship with your child. You can never be replaced. Even if the birth parents are in the child’s life, they will never take your place. So explore your child’s history with them. Don’t deny their connections. Know that most birth parents aren’t scary at all, but grateful and thankful for you.