Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adoptee and Mom-by-Adoption Michelle Madrid-Branch Answers Your Burning Adoption Questions

Allow me to gush?

Michelle Madrid-Branch is one of my favorite adoption community members.  She's an advocate for adoption, for adoptees, and for parents-by-adoption.  In addition, she's a book author, blogger, and podcast host.  I've had the honor of guest blogging for her on the subjects of faith + adoption and on saying good-bye to adoption.

Today, Michelle is answering three of my readers' adoption questions:

"What are your thoughts on changing adoptees' names? I almost feel bad wanting to change my kids' names but at the same time I want to gift them some part of our family and our traditions."

Hi, Penelope. Thank you for your question as it is a very important one. I can answer in two parts: first, as an adoptee and second, as a parent-by-adoption.

As a young adoptee, my names were changed—first, middle, and last names—upon the finalization of my adoption. For me, there was always a sense of sadness as a child, just wondering where the “first me” had gone. It caused confusion. With the stroke of a pen, that girl no longer existed, yet I still felt her inside of me. I mourned the little girl who no longer had a name. And, it took some time for me to embrace my new name and to merge those two little girls into one whole and complete woman. 

Shakespeare asked the question, “What’s in a name?” The answer, I believe—as it pertains to adoption—is quite a lot. I think it’s important to keep an adoptee’s name. What exactly that looks like, will differ for every family. A parent might solely keep a child’s name, or add their name to something new…honoring both birth heritage and adoptive heritage.

I am, as I mentioned, a parent-by-adoption. I have two children who were adopted internationally. I chose to keep their names in honor of their birth stories, birth heritages, and birth cultures...and I also added a name to their birth-names that honored their adoptive stories. 

Adoption is a weaving: something that has come before is being woven into something new. In my experience as an adoptee and parent-by-adoption, I have grown to know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that it’s important to honor both.

"Open Adoption is what everyone promotes now. However, that is not an option for some of us for safety reasons especially when it comes to severe domestic violence. How do you explain that to an adopted child?"

Hi, JoEllen.  Thank you for this very important question. 

The safety of our children is always top-priority. Open adoption cannot work if there is risk of violence and abuse. 

As much as we advocate on behalf of open adoption—when all adults involved are showing up responsibly and lovingly—we have to realize that, in some cases, open adoption is not an option. I think being tender and real with our kids (in an age-appropriate way) about why is critically important. 

You might say something like this:

Right now, your birth mom/birth dad are currently going through challenges that have nothing to do with you, who you are, or the amazing person you are growing up to be.

Know that I love you, I will always love you, and I'm always going to be here to protect you.  I'm proud of you.  And, I'm so very happy to be your mom/dad.  I am always here to listen, to hear, to walk with you, and to comfort you.

I hope this helps. 

"I have no idea why our son’s birth mom chose closed adoption, but I have the same the question about how to explain it’s a closed adoption in sensitive ways that hopefully won’t cause anymore pain and confusion to him."

Hi Jessica. I struggled with my own closed adoption my entire childhood and into my adulthood. Closed adoption, for me, is difficult as it denies truth-in-history and truth-in-identity to the adopted person.

I am always in favor of openness in adoption, if it does not cause further trauma for the child/children involved.

Knowing why your son’s birth mom chose a closed adoption may or may not ever be revealed. So, it’s important to be honest in that way. If we don’t know, as parents, it’s okay. It's better to be honest than to try and force answers we don’t have.

You might say:

I don’t know exactly why your birth mom chose a closed adoption. What I do know is this: I love you. I am so very happy to be your mom. I love your birth mom because she gave you life. And, because she did, I get the great honor of knowing you and watching you grow. I am here to support you always. If I ever learn more about your adoption, I promise to come to you and tell you. If you ever have a question or need to talk, please know that you can come to me and I will drop everything to listen to you. We’re on this journey together!

My thanks to Michelle for her loving answers!  You can follow Michelle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, read her writing on her website, and purchase her children's book, The Tummy Mummy, or her adult book, Adoption Means Love.  

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