Adoption and Gratitude

May 21, 2015

My children are now adults –twenty-eight and thirty years old. (Of course, in my heart, they will always be my babies.) Each is steadily pursuing relationships and careers guided by an inner compass that evolved from a combination of factors: nurture, DNA, personal choices, values and beliefs. I’m relieved to leave the turbulent teens far behind us. Yes, the instructional phase of parenting has ended. (Imagine a huge sigh of relief.) We’ve navigated storm-tossed seas, reached the safety of the shore and celebrate the journey. Those years tested us sorely. But we trusted that our kids would weather the school of hard knocks and utilize the knowledge which they struggled so hard to acquire. We have all been shaped by the challenges we faced as a family. Growth came through painful, exhausting and scary lessons. These made us who we are now and delivered us to this beautiful present moment.

Thank goodness, hubby and I have graduated from being seen as the opposition/authority/captains of the family ship. Our children now relate to us as confidantes, friends, counselors and champions. I’m thrilled to say that in mere weeks, we will enter the world of grand parenting! We await the arrival of our first precious grandchild, amazed at the miracle of conception and birth. Never having been pregnant, I have followed A’s pregnancy with wonder, curiosity and joy.

So close on the heels of Mother’s Day, thoughts of motherhood continue to swirl in my mind.  I recall being a fifteen-year-old girl with ovarian cancer who quite willingly traded my fertility for the chance to live. Part of me could not conceive—literally and metaphorically—of never being a mother. Hysterectomy saved my life but robbed me of an integral part of myself. In an act of utter faith, I chose to believe, motherhood would be a part of my life. How or when remained unknown. I simply trusted that it would happen.

As it turned out, adoption opened the door to motherhood and allowed me to fulfill that essential part of myself. It didn’t happen in a vacuum. My greatest joy—my children’s adoptions—simultaneously was the greatest loss of their birth parents and a primal loss for my children. Conflicting realities coexist. Each is authentic and true. Our grafted family tree is watered with tears of joy (ours) and loss (our birth mothers’). Adoption permanently transformed all our lives. Without doubt, I received the better part of the deal.

I remain confounded about how to express my feelings to my children’s birth moms. I am humbled by their choosing me to parent their children, honored by the vote of confidence and the magnitude of the trust placed on my shoulders. While I am filled with gratitude, “Thank you,” feels inadequate to the measure of the sacrifice they made, the price they paid. The arrangement is too sacred, the anguish too huge for platitudes.

Adoptive parents (myself included.)often talk about our children as gifts  Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with this word choice because identifying my children as a gift feels like it reduces them to a commodity—a most highly treasured collectible one could ever dream about holding.  (And dream of them I did!) I still remember being consumed by baby hunger. But it worries me that seeing my children as gifts exchanged between birth mother and adoptive parent leeches out the emotional toll and reduces it to a transaction. This trivializes the losses to both birth parent and child. That is never my intention.

I hope that these brave women can recognize that we honor their choice and show our appreciation by parenting our children with boundless love, deep commitment and permanent connection. Adoption blessed my life and I am grateful. For me, it has been a gift.

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