I realize as I look around my little (ok BIG) family that we don’t in many ways fit the picture of a typical family. And while I am mom to all 5 of them, this weekend I plan to stop and honor all the moms of their short lives so far.
3 of them have birth moms on the other side of the world. Or Tummy Moms as we tend to call it because it’s easier to understand in little minds for now. Despite trials and rejection those women carried, nourished, and brought forth and gave life to my children despite the pain and separation and hurt that it caused and causes them to this day. And then 4 of them have the NICU nurses that cared for them during the first critical days of their lives and were the first to hold them before anyone else…they swaddled and cared for 4 of my babies either because I was 1/2 way around the world or because those nurses told me to take a step away and go for a walk and leave my little one in their care. For 3 of my littles there are also the countless volunteers in the babies homes where they spent their first few months. And then there are the three sweet and dear foster families that fed, rocked, wiped tears and little butts, held close and taught and showed and lived out love and trust and connection. And the sweet social workers who worked long hours and then spent many sleepless nights hoping and praying for families for each little one in their care. And the adoption agencies on this side of the world who answered multiple emails and phone calls and answered questions and encouraged and supported each step of the way. And so it is because each of these women that I have the awesome (and often overwhelming) title of mom in each of their 5 little worlds. And I am humbled and constantly going to my knees to ask for the strength and wisdom that I need to make it each moment of the day. Although I am pretty sure chocolate was invented by a mother dealing with an ornery 4 year old…I’m sure she (like I have been known to do this past week) instead of going first to whatever the new issue is….(i.e. Playing in the fish tank, hanging from the railings on the stairs, destroying yet something else of one of his brothers, etc etc etc) she instead went to the closest and closed the door and ate a handful of chocolate.
And as all of their mom, I’m going to go a little Mama-Bear here if you don’t mind. I know my family doesn’t look like most families….5 kids in 6 years is enough to raise questions and then add in the obvious physical differences there are even more questions and statements that I get. And to be honest, none of these are ok to ask or say to me, and more than that in front of my children. And I so wish I was quicker on my feet with answers or statements or some way to reply back but I’m just awkward and not.
Just to start, know that of my children that did not come from my womb, their stories of their adoptions, birth families, etc etc are theirs to tell. I’m trying to honor that, and while I have probably shared more than I should have in the past, I regret that and are going to not say anything further. So rule of thumb, don’t ask. Instead say something like “what a beautiful family, or I bet your heart and hands are full, or do you need a hand, or I bet you sleep well at night”. And to fill you in on a secrete….I think any other adoptive/mixed/foster/special needs or “typical” family would prefer if we all just quite being nosey and said the same thing to them.
Ok, so here’s some things I’ve been told/asked/etc. And many of these have come up more than once…and often by people we know, not strangers.
“So how’s that orphanage you have?”- So I’m not in charge of an orphanage here, this is a family and I’m the mom. While 4 of us (myself included for those of you that didn’t know) were all orphans at some point in our lives, we no longer are, we are a family, please refer to us that way.
“So were their moms sex workers?” Really? Since when is that ok to ask, and yet this is one I’ve gotten many times. I’m pretty sure there are far more “oops” babies born to non sex-workers in the world than to those in that industry. And I’m pretty sure if your family doesn’t have at least one “surprise” child then you know a family that does….These are my children’s mothers you are talking about (and my birth mom as well by the way). I don’t recall asking you “what position were you in and describe in detail the night you conceived your child”…not appropriate…also not appropriate to ask anything about my children’s birth moms.
“So are they real siblings?” Yep all 5 of them are real siblings. Just come by any meal time, play time, bath time, bedtime….pretty much any time and you will see that they are real siblings, even though Coppelia has only been home a couple of weeks. They are as real as real is. Trust me, I think I’d eat far less chocolate if any of them were fake.
“He/She/They are so lucky”. Ummmm no not really. They have each lost everything. Their first families, culture, heritage, language, food, initial bonding and building of trust in the first few months of life…all that has been taken away. And yes, they may grow up and return to their birth country, (I’ll fully support them if they do) but they will never be fully American despite having all the paperwork….and they also won’t ever be fully Korean. They formed real bonds with their birth mothers as any child does, and that was stripped and taken away before they were even days old. And then they formed real bonds with their foster families, and that too was taken away….and while we know that they are now with their forever family, they don’t, and trust me, seeing a young toddler grieve will totally tear your heart out time and time again. So no, they are not lucky. And just to throw this out there, America is not the best place to grow up or live in the world….millions and even billions live in other countries and do far better than any of us.
“They are so young, they won’t remember any of this”. So the broken bond of motherhood and lack of ability to build trust with one care giver in the first few days/weeks/months of life is not something that just goes away when they turn some magical age. Research has shown the damage that it does to young brains….and that goes with them the rest of their lives. It’s our role to help them figure out how to navigate those waters. Stats show that children who are adopted have higher rates of suicide in adolescent and adult life….so really, they will ALWAYS remember this and it will be a part of their lives forever.
To kind of piggy back “You guys are so wonderful/great/amazing….etc”. Nope, I promise you, there is nothing special about Clint and I. I wake up every morning and put my jeans on the same way you do. Although usually it’s either running shorts or yoga pants because I honestly don’t recall the last time I actually wore jeans. We aren’t anything special. Adopting doesn’t make us any more wonderful than anyone else and we are just us (and most of the time it’s far from wonderful). This is the way we decided to grow our family, that’s all.
“So does the government pay women in Korea to have babies for people to adopt?” Ummm, seriously? I think my jaw hit the ground with this one and I’m still not sure I’ve ever been able to pick it back up….
“So adopted children aren’t like real children to their parents, they are just charity cases”. Uh yeah, this was told to me by a pastor’s wife at our former church….which we left shortly thereafter. REALLY? REALLY? Pretty sure my brothers and I were very real to my parents growing up and remain “REAL” children today. And again, I have 5 very REAL children in my household….no charity cases….well except maybe for the barn cats….I feed them/water them/clean out their litter boxes but my caring doesn’t extend any farther….not so with any of my 5 human children. Like I said if I had more fake children I’d eat less chocolate. I will go to the moon and back for any of them, again and again. (Even if I have to put one in timeout before I go). No charity cases here….just real life parenting/loving/caring/laughing/tickling/goofing off/and making those hard decisions day in and day out.
There’s probably more…I’ve had friends get asked “how much did they cost?” (Umm again totally inappropriate and none of your business, these are children and not patio furniture we are talking about here…if you are interested in adoption then say so and I’ll gladly point you to my favorite agency…otherwise this is just rude). And I know I’ll get more statements and such as we grow and navigate this world. I didn’t write this to point fingers or make anyone feel bad, I’ve said a number of wrong things in my life time and often not even known it. And so hopefully this helps a little.
In the meantime, enjoy this weekend, celebrate the moms in your life. And maybe I might be able to capture a photo with all 5 actually looking at the camera…..or not.