What I Wish I’d Known 5 Years Ago…Posted by Kim
Well it’s been entirely too long since I’ve posted here, but that’s entirely because I haven’t known what to say.
The El Salvador adoption? Hasn’t budged an inch since we heard from them last year. And while we understand that, on the one hand, we’re getting close to being done waiting for a process that just isn’t processing. We respect the sovereign right of a country not to select international adoption for its orphans, in theory. I’m not convinced that the best-interest of said orphans is actually WHY we haven’t heard from E.S. But there are kids waiting right here in the U.S. who need familes, and as our own kids get older, more and more of them are becoming possible fits for our family.
But that’s a decision for another day.
Today’s post has more to do with the adoption we completed five years ago. The adoption of the twins who are now totally immersed in our family, our culture, and the U.S. way of life. While still maintaining a loyalty and affection for the birth family and culture they left behind when they became our sons five years ago.
Ours is one of the adoption “Success Stories.” We love them, they love us; they manifest none of the really “scary” traits of traumatized kids.
Anymore. They did. Now they don’t. But still…
We recently celebrated our 5-year “Gotcha Day” with the twins (their choice in terminology), and it was a great day of remembering when the four of us became a family. At the same time, though, it’s one of the stake-in-the-ground days when we all remember that that was Day 1 for “us.” We all had stories before that day. January 2007 was just when our 4 stories all intersected.
What I wish we had known 5 YEARS AGO is:
- Goodbyes are important – It took us 3 1/2 years and one trip back to Guatemala to see the end of the panic attacks associated with the boys’s anxiety of being abandoned again. What were we thinking?! OF COURSE they needed the closure of saying goodbye to the foster mom who took care of them for 8 months prior to our coming! And to their birth mom before that… “Typical procedures” were that the foster mom brought them too us and then slipped away unnoticed. What a trauma! We’ve been paying for that one ever since.
- Any link is a good link – We lost contact with our kids’ foster mom after a year, and I really regret that, even though she’s the one who moved and didn’t give us a forwarding address. We didn’t realize how much it would matter to the boys to have any link to their past, even if it was the transient one of their temporary nanny. She knew them “then.” We should’ve maintained that connection better.
- There is no such thing as “Forget the past; you’re ours now.” – Adoptive parents who think our kids don’t think of their families before, their histories before, however brief… we’d be kidding ourselves. OF COURSE they wonder. Of course they fantasize. Of course they desire that connection. Even if they never mention it. With very few exceptions, they’re thinking about it. Even when they’re REALLY young. Ours were 4 when the questions started.
- We don’t need the birth family – yeah, until we want to know our kids’ medical history, or we want to be able to tell our kids which relative it is, exactly, that they look just like. Where their original names came from. Or else your child just looks you in the eyes and says he wants to be able to call/talk to/visit his “real mom” – not even meaning that he thinks you’re “fake” – he just knows there’s a natural link out there he’s missing.
- Birth Families are NO THREAT to Adoptive Families – for the most part. There are some exceptions in which the child’s safety is really at issue. But for the most part, our kids’ birth families and the loyalty or affection or just visceral connection they feel to them are in no way a cheapening or lessening of the affection, loyalty and love they feel for us. Just like those of us who are blessed to have more than one child feel no less love for one child than his or her sibling. Our kids love two moms and two dads.
- Particularly in International Adoption: There are complexities you just don’t realize you’re getting – For many of us, we are our kids’ parents for reasons of poverty. Do poor parents not deserve to keep their children? Do we think that? Do we deserve to have their children more, because we’re educated, have great homes, can offer them so many possibilities? Something with which Fred and I have been wrestling lately is that international adoption by U.S. citizens very much capitalizes on the weighing of our “Haves” against the “Have-nots” of parents in other countries. There definitely are children in other countries who have no family members taking care of them; but it’s sometimes hard to be sure they are who you’re adopting. Especially when most Americans are looking for infants or, at-oldest, toddlers or preschoolers. Really, are there no family members able to care for them? Or have their families been awed by all we have to offer and then subsequently shamed at their meager resources? In some cases, Internation Adoption (IA) is clearly the best option. For some of us, though, it’s all rather murky.
And so we’ve decided, in our household, at least, to do the only thing we can do to find the answers. Since November, we’ve been looking for the boys’ birth family, so we can ask them. And subsequently (hopefully), we can maintain a relationship with them from here on out.
Because there’s no one else who can give us the real story. And there’s no one else who can give them real contact with their boys – sons, grandsons, nephews…whatever the twins are to them.
And even “only” 5 years in, we’re done with the murkiness. The lines we believed when we began the process of becoming the boys’ parents no longer suffice. We know better, at least in our family’s case. What should have been a quick and easy search already hasn’t been. The threads we should have been able to follow lead to dead ends, so we don’t know what really happened before we accepted the referral of two cute little almost-two-year old boys, not quite 6 years ago.
It’s a little bit scary, making ourselves completely open to the truth, whatever it is. But on the other hand it’s also really freeing: it is what it is, and it is what it always was; but now, God-willing, we’ll know.