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A Decade of Adoption

It’s been almost 10 years since we first met R’s birth mom. For a decade, we have made all of the decisions, always doing when we think is best. But, if we’re being incredibly honest with ourselves, we have continued to put our ease first; traveling when it makes sense for us, choosing which days, when, and for how long our visits are. And while we always pose these as questions, it’s expected that her answer will be yes. We are the ones driving the ship, perpetuating the narrative that adoptive parents know best and are best. We’re now actively releasing control and shifting our perspective. So here we are, committed to changing and unraveling. I have an incredible partner in all of this. We learn together, we just don’t write together :)


A woman made an adoption plan and choose us. That felt so special almost a decade ago. We were so good that we were chosen to parent!


Of course that’s not the whole story, but that’s the narrative we’re all fed about adoption, right?


“Look at how good we look, how good our lives are, how good your baby will have it.”


So, if we’re so good, does that make birth mom bad? So, we’re the better choice? Why? Do we love more or different?


I don’t think so.


R’s birth mom is an incredible mother. She loves her children so fiercely and is so devoted. This includes her devotion to R. I think that can be incredibly difficult for folks to understand. It’s easier to see her as the two dimensional idea people have of “birth mother”. When she becomes become fully human, fully whole, fully MOTHER, it’s harder to justify adoption, and it becomes harder to see adoptive parents as some better version. When she is fully her beautiful self, who I continue to love in new ways, I see my role in the separation. My role in the damage adoption can cause. My privilege, and the systems that worked in my favor as a white middle class woman who wanted to adopt, and the systems that actively work against vulnerable mothers who aren’t deemed “good enough” to parent.


It is painful to say goodbye to R’s birth family. What must it be like for R? The ignorance when we decided to adopt, with no deep understanding of the birth parent, birth family, or the adoptee experience. No real understanding of family separation. When I see the reverberations of that separation year after year and understand my role in it, it is incredibly sobering and takes the narrative of “giving a child a better life” and crumples it up and throws it out. I think I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to build a new version of this family, and not out of guilt, but because when you bare witness to the connections, the love, the trust, my children surrounded by family, the WORK we all put in to patch what was broken apart, it’s…well, I think it’s what open adoption is.


A car full of family; 3 parents and 5 children. It feels like more. So many BIG voices. Two of which, almost speak their own secret language. R and his brother. Not his younger brother, but his other brother. His older brother. We’ve always called bio siblings “sibbies”. “Brother” was reserved for our dear D. This visit R decided to call his biological siblings his brothers and sisters. A shift. A big beautiful shift.


“So I have two brothers and two sisters?” “Yes”, we said. He glowed. The recognition of having a little brother AND a big brother, plus TWO sisters. It was as if you could see him filling up; his life becoming more full. The shift in language meant so much. The bond between them all strengthening.



It’s a shift for me too. Brothers and sisters brings them closer. They become more “real” to me. Thinking about my children’s brothers and sisters is different than calling them some cute made up word. That word distanced them a bit, didn’t it? “So adorable!”, people would say. It’s an easier pill to swallow; you were separated from your “sibbies”, rather than the truth of saying, you were separated from your brother and sisters.


Seeing him have to separate from his Florida brothers and sisters. To see what was taken from him. The reality of the role we played in it or at least our ignorance when we decided to adopt, with no deep understanding of the birth parent, birth family, or the adoptee experience. No real understanding of family separation. When I see the reverberations of that separation year after year and understand my role in it, it is incredibly sobering and takes the narrative of “giving a child a better life” and crumples it up and throws it out. I think I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to build a new version of this family, and not out of guilt, but because when you bare witness to the connections, the love, the trust, my children surrounded by family, the WORK we all put in to patch what was broken apart, it’s…well, I think it’s what open adoption is.


And so it seems, the torch has been passed to R. He is able to make decisions about his adoption now; My husband I slowly allowing him to be our leader.


  • No more sibbies, only brothers and sisters.


  • Choosing who would sit where in the car. It may seem like a small and slight shift, but it’s not. It’s allowing R to use his voice as an adoptee.


  • Deciding who in his extended birth family he wanted to spend time with. We actually hoped for more. He wasn’t ready. I was in love with the idea of a big family gathering. He was not. He’s in charge now.


  • Defining me and his birth mom on his own terms to the whole car. I chimed in. His birth mom chimed in too. We all worked together to figure it out.


Working together to figure it out. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But you, me, we ALL know that working together can be the hardest thing in the world, right?


There is real damage. And really, it can’t be fixed, but it can be tended to and taken care of, parts can be repaired, and the relationships can be managed with gentleness, intention, commitment and the promise to do better for my family.

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