It’s so easy, too easy really to slip into thinking I’m telling them their stories when really I’m telling them mine.
Because their stories don’t begin with the moment I heard about them, the moment that first picture made my heart go pitter patter, or the moment I met them. Their story begins with them. With their mother and father and the moment they were created. Their next nine months wrapped inside their mother. As close as two humans can be. Then more months, more changes, more stories that are theirs to have and mind to guard. A foster family, loved and cherished. And then, and only then do my husband and I step into their story. From their perspective.
This is important because it’s too easy to slip into thinking that our story is the one they are living. And it’s not. Adoption isn’t meant to be a rewriting of everything that’s gone before. The family they have now doesn’t erase the family they don’t. And it’s their right to feel whatever they feel for that family. And it’s our duty as their other parents to listen. To be okay. To celebrate what they received from that family. To acknowledge that our children’s feelings are “right” no matter what they are because their feelings are theirs.
I worry sometimes when I see certain catch phrases because yes, these children were born in our hearts, but they were also born in someone’s body. And that someone is incredibly important. And the danger is that if we only tell it from our perspective, if we start each story of their lives with “Mommy made a wish and then she found you” it sends the message that that is the narration we want to hear in return. We want to hear that they were “found” and then there were happy and everything before that moment ceased to exist. That simply isn’t true nor should it be.
And while we have no way of knowing for sure what our children will feel about their story someday, by reading the feelings and thoughts of teen and adult adoptees we can know that most of our children will feel some amount of loss. That has to be okay with us as adoptive parents. And we must send the message to our children that that’s okay. And for me, that begins with telling them their story. Theirs, not mine. That means starting from the beginning, it means starting from brokenness and talking about sad things. It means talking about events that I wish I could change but I can’t. It means talking about things that I didn’t cause (and may we never as adoptive families be the cause of a family being broken) but are painful to discuss. Loss is painful. To sit with someone in that pain and know you can’t fix it is hard. Especially when that someone is a child you love more than life.
And some adoptive parents will know details of those first days and months and years of the child’s life and others won’t. But here’s what everyone knows and what everyone can tell them – the universe became a better place that day, that day their mother gave birth to them and they breathed their first breath. The day that the genetic code that’s been spliced and woven and passed on from parent to child for eons came together in a way never seen before. That moment that I believe the angels sang and the rivers and the grass and even the dirt came together to whisper “you are a unique treasure and we need you here on this planet.”
Who they are has never been and never will be again. That’s their story too. It’s the story I’m determined they will know.