Tuesday, March 5, 2019

When Your Adoptee Asks You the Hard Adoption Questions

"Why can't I see my birth mom?"

This was the moment.  The moment when your child looks at you with large, brown eyes and wants to know, right then and there, the answer to a soul-sinking question.

And you, the mom-by-adoption, are the one responsible for answering it.  And you know, you KNOW, that you how respond matters.  It matters a lot.  

In this moment, your heart is pounding, your breath becomes shallow, and your mind races.  

What will you say?  What will you do?

Have you been here before?  

Your question may have been different:  Why didn't my birth dad want me?  How much was my adoption?  Why did my birth mom keep my sister but not me?  There might be questions about rape or abortion or drugs or special needs. 

The question itself carries so much weight.  And behind it, you know there is so much, starting with the precious human being who didn't have a choice in being adopted.  

You might want to sugarcoat your response.  Maybe "pretty it up."  But you know that's not right or healthy.  Yet you want to spare the feelings of the precious child who is asking something big and important.  Perhaps the answer is beyond the child's maturity and understanding, yet the child was intuitive enough to ask. 

First, please know, you should be thankful.  Yes, I said thankful.

Your child trusted you enough to ask.  Your child was brave enough to ask.  These count for something.  These might count for everything.  

Second, you have the honor of being your child's chosen parent.  Someone chose you:  a birth parent or a social worker or a judge.  Someone decided you were worthy of carrying the title of Mom.  

So what should you do in this precious moment where time both stands still and speeds up?   When your child is looking at you with imploring, hopeful eyes?  

You tell the truth, steeped in empathy.  

Perhaps you don't know the answer.  Say so.  But offer to help your child search, when the time is right, for the answer.  If possible.

Perhaps the answer is beyond your child's ability to comprehend.  Then tell your child, I have the answer, and I will give it to you when you're older.

Perhaps the answer is OK to give now.  Do so.  

Put a gentle hand on your baby, look into his or her eyes, and respond.  Ask how the child feels about what you said.  And then respond with empathy:

-Yes, that's sad, isn't it?

-Yes, that's really difficult to hear.

-Yes, this is hurtful.

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

However your child feels, that is the right way.  And you empathize with that.

Don't make excuses.  Don't avoid.  Don't tamper.  Don't stutter.  Don't embellish. 

Just speak the truth.  

And then be there for your child.  Be the mommy.  Be the steady, secure, serene figure on whom your child can lean upon, continue to trust, and return to time and time again. 

You can do this.  It's not only your job, mama.  It's your sacred honor. 

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