Christmas observances have taken center stage and much of the world celebrates the birth of baby Jesus. The religious significance of the Nativity coexists with the universal emotion of joy surrounding the miracle of birth. Except ...
Except in the case of adoption. Certainly, there is great joy but... adoption is so emotionally complicated. Once again we enter the both/and paradigm which permeates adoption. A birth mother certainly experiences joy and sorrow, wonder and fear, awe and heartbreak-- all these emotions and more when her child is born. She also experiences, grief, uncertainty and an inability to undertake the responsibility of raising her child. And thus, she chooses adoption for her baby. (In some unfortunate cases, she is pressured into making this choice. We'll address that appalling practice in another blog.).
As adoptive parents we also experience ambivalence. Regardless of how we came to choose adoption as our pathway to parenting, we rejoice over the prospect of welcoming a child to our families. As Adoption-attuned Parents* we acknowledge that our exquisite joy is rooted in significant loss for our child and his birth parents. This awareness shapes our parenting. Yes, adoption was the event for which we prayed. But for them, adoption exacted a price which we must never deny. (We must not intensify their losses by expecting them to forget birth parents and biological roots which will always be a part of them. Just as we can love all our children, adoptees can love and value all of their relationships. Open adoption mitigates these losses but does not eliminate them.)
If we look at Christmas through our child's eyes, what will we see? belief The dazzle of glitter and glitz? The excitement of splendid gifts, holiday celebrations, and festive foods? The comfort and wonder of religious belief that reveres this birth? Probably all of these. And for an adoptee, there may be more, a lot more.
Whether or not an adoptee is Christian, Christmas may also trigger strong emotions about her own birth and may stir questions about why her birth parents chose adoption. This may awaken intense feelings, e.g., inadequacy, rejection, and perfection. If (when) these emotions arise, kids may find it difficult to discuss them. As Adoption-attuned Parents, we know it is imperative to discuss these thoughts even if we find it awkward to introduce the topic. We must find a way to raise the topic and reassure our children that we welcome ALL of their thoughts and emotions.
Amid the flurry and holiday hubbub, it isn't easy to ask our kiddos if they are wrestling with dark thoughts.
Asking them directly may result in a dead end. Most likely they'd deny it and/or resist the invitation to discuss it. This resolves nothing, only stuffs their confusion and worry about where they can fester and create emotional havoc.
So what is a parent to do? Books can offer the perfect pathway. (They need not be about adoption. In fact, some kids might be more responsive if it isn't.) Consider books about the arrival of "a" new baby. These offer an easy gateway to talking about a child's own birth story. It might also trigger conversations about their adoption story or an interest in revisiting their Life Book* (Read our earlier blog about life books.
Writing to Connect reviewed four books parents can use to recall and celebrate a child's birthday. They celebrate birth with an aura of joy, awe, and delight. Read the reviews.,