Is There Really Room for Everyone?
by Lisa Ritter Starr
It must seem strange, maybe even illogical, to say that there is room for everyone in a family that includes both adoptive and birth relatives. Is it true? For that matter, is it fair? And, really, is it all that important?
Let us examine each of these questions. First, is it true that birth and adoptive families can coincide? The answer is: Yes. How would I know? I've lived it. I have been part of my daughter's adoptive family since she spent her first day as their daughter. I've spent almost every Mother's Day with them. Along with her birthfather, I've taken my daughter out on her birthday. I've rolled out of bed on Christmas morning at my daughter's house. I've attended school events and was always introduced as Kelsey's other mother.
Though the doors have always been wide open, it wasn't always easy. Emotions were more potent and sensitive in the beginning for all of us involved. At times, the adoptive parents and I hurt one another's feelings and had to try hard to work out problems.
Yes, there are problems. For example, I was still in a relationship with the birthfather after our daughter was born. I hadn't expected it, but the two of us grew much closer as we went through the pregnancy and adoption process. This was a confusing problem for me after her birth, when I experienced maternal feelings for the first time. I questioned how I could have done such a thing as "giving away" my only child. It wasn't until the birthfather and I split up that I allowed myself to remember all the reasons that made sense out of the adoption again.
One might wonder where the adoptive parents were during all of this, and what they were doing. Was it fair that they had to deal with this while they were trying to take care of a baby? As an adoptive family, you might wonder why you should be any different from families created through blood relations. After all, biologically related families don't have to open their doors to yet another extension of family. With in-laws, ex-spouses, cousins, uncles, and other such relatives around, who has room for more? What about the right to be an exclusive, nuclear family like any other?
The right to a closed adoption may be yours, but there will always be a birth family of your adopted child - whether or not you sever all ties to this family. Because of this, as an adoptive family, you ARE different. Your adopted child has a genetic past that did not come from you, but will be part of your child forever. You probably take your biological history for granted, but your closed-adopted child will never be able to.
The birth family could be compared to a step-family. Nobody plans on creating a step-family when they get married. Nonetheless, you and your spouse may divorce and remarry, and you must deal with each new step-child and ex-spouse the best way you can. You don't shut the door on your spouse's child from a previous marriage. Somehow, you make room.
The same is true for adoption. The birth family, especially the birthmother, has an irrevocable relationship - in the most literal sense - with your adopted child. Why wouldn't you be interested in your child's history, his or her whole picture, especially when you know that your child will be interested in it one day?
To put it in terms even a child would understand: If you don't share with others, others won't share with you. More than that, you can't expect a child to learn sharing, openness, and compassion when you don't live according to these principles.
Imagine what kind of message you would send by sharing your joy in your child with as many other caring people as possible. Or by being open to the people without whom your child would not exist. Or by demonstrating compassion for the birthfamily, who have experienced the loss of a potential child (to which, as adoptive parents, you might relate).
Choosing to adopt a child is just the beginning of a host of opportunities for more choices. You can choose to teach your child that love is finite and limited, or you can teach them that there is always enough to go around. You can teach them everything you might possibly discover about them, and help them do that for themselves, or you can hold back.
If you were the child, grown and looking back on your life, what would you choose?
Return to the Missing Pieces home page.