November 10, 2011

Adoption Doesn't End

I was flipping through a journal the other day, looking for some notes I had taken during a workshop. On an otherwise blank page I came across this single sentence, hastily scribbled on the diagonal: "Someday Marian will likely be pregnant and I won't be able to share that experience with her."

It was jarring, a little strange to see it. I can't recall now why I wrote it or how I felt at the time. It came in the middle of the presentation notes, completely off-topic, apparently a random thought I felt compelled to get out.

At the time Mari was just a few months old. I would have been settling into the idea of raising a daughter. I sound saddened by this thought. Was I troubled by the idea that we wouldn't be able to swap morning sickness stories, that I wouldn't be able to stand by her side during labor and know what it was like? Reading it now, I don't have any emotional reaction (other than to roll my eyes at my self-centeredness and fretting about something decades away). But clearly it once was, at least for a moment, important enough to me to write down.

Back when we adopted Eddie, I had that "positive adoption language" list memorized. One that I really grabbed onto was saying your child "was adopted" instead of "is adopted," to signify adoption as a past event rather than an ongoing descriptor. I liked that idea that adoption was over and done. Completed.

Then I started listening to people who had been living with adoption a whole lot longer than I had, both birth parents and adopted adults and adoptive parents. Over and again I heard that adoption was an ongoing reality for them, not a distant event. Sometimes it was at the forefront of their mind, sometimes deep in the background. It meant different things to different people and at different times. Often it popped up when they didn't expect it. But adoption had never stopped being part of their lives and their identities.

It's been five years since we finalized Eddie's adoption, over three years for Mari's, but adoption is still as present in my mind as the day they were born. It's always going to be part of the warp and weft of our family life, of my life as a mother, of my children's lives. There's nothing negative about that fact, no reason to avoid it by insisting on the past tense. We are an adoptive family. My children were adopted and are adopted, the same way Todd and I were married on our wedding day but are married every day.

Adoption is still here with us because their first families are here, in our conversations and our lives. It's here in the stories they love to hear about themselves. It's here as my kids work out their self-identities and what it means to be part of overlapping families as they grow. It will be here if they have children themselves one day, as we share grandparent-hood not just with their partners' parents but with Kelly and Ray and Beth. (Won't that be a shock to our kids' partners' parents. Although in this age of blended families, perhaps not so much?) And of course the flip side to that random thought I scribbled years ago: it will be there with Mari if she is pregnant one day, in the different ways she might turn to the mom who carried her and the mom who raised her.

I think that random thought I left in my journal is evidence of a little lightbulb moment for me, one more realization that I'm going to be experiencing new aspects of what it means to be an adoptive parent even when I'm 50, 60, 70. We--Eddie, Mari, their first families, Todd, and I--will be discovering new layers of what it means to be part of these adoptions our entire lives. Sometimes it will be challenging. Sometimes it will be a joy. But it is something we will carry with us, always.

11 comments:

meghann said...

I love this post. I have my own issues with "positive adoption language" (and a piece half-written about it that may or may not at some point see the light of day on my blog), but one of my big ones is "was adopted" versus "is adopted." Because we learn, in our pre-parenting classes, that adoption doesn't end, and that we need to be prepared to help our children through the process throughout their lives, and be open to and respectful of their changing feelings about the whole thing, etc. And then we're told that the "correct" way to refer to it all is in the past, as something that has happened and is done with and doesn't define who they are. Contradictory ideas, to say the least… xo

Birth Parent Search said...

You have to keep helping your child all the time. I love this post!

MommySquared said...

So true! Our kids like yours are young, my girls are 5 and 3 years old but you are right there is a lifetime ahead for all of us in our families through Adoption ... thank you for sharing your words and story I feel the same way!

Baggage said...

So true..Adoption is a lifetime event. I think your analogy to marriage is very accurate!

Rebecca Hawkes said...

I agree. I'm 45 years old and I am adopted. It affects me every day.

Monika said...

I LOVE the comment that you made about the fact that you & hubby WERE married and ARE married every day, just like adoption happened in your lives. Adoption will forever affect my life, the life of my daughter, & her parents. It's not a negative thing. It just...is. Beautiful post, as always.

Megan said...

This post definitely resonates with me. It gives me much to ponder. That's what I like in a post. Well said.

Debbie said...

Read the statement and after my first "hmmm" thought I realized that my daughter's birthmom will be there to share in those experiences and I'm happy for that.

Great post. Adoption is a life time.

Delana said...

I really appreciate the depth of what you have shared here. You are so right. I love the analogy of "were married' and "are married." Additionally, using different vocabulary we can say, I chose my child, and every day I choose her!"

--Delana
http://nineyearpregnancy.wordpress.com
http://delanasworld.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/a-season-of-waiting/

Mama's Tantrum said...

Wow. You just completely changed my way of thinking.

msfitparent said...

Beautiful post! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective!

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