What I Never Knew

I’m writing this as part of the Grown in My Heart Blog Carnival, where they posed the question: What did people forget to tell you about adoption? You can visit the website to see the answers by some other amazing writers. GIMH is a great adoption community – everyone who writes for it is touched by adoption in some way, form, or fashion. I’ve learned a lot from the people who write there, and I think you might, too! Whether I agree or not, it’s always good food for thought.

When I was a little girl, there was a time I was so jealous of my brother because he was adopted. I thought it was the coolest way to build a family, and I’d often proudly announce it to my teachers at the start of a new school year. “I’m Carrie and my brother is Will, and he’s adopted!”

But it wasn’t always so glamorous. Once, when I was upset at him over some minor tiff, I came up with what I thought at the time just might be the ultimate insult. “Yeah! Well, you’re adopted!” He quickly retorted, “Oh yeah?! Well Mom and Dad chose me.” That silenced me, along with the severe punishment from my parents for daring to play such a card.

But more often than not, the adoption of both of my brothers faded into the background of our family’s life, which is probably just as well. One time over dinner, my Dad even caught himself trying to remember the day that he took my Mom to the hospital to deliver Will. We all got a laugh out of that moment of forgetfulness…

Adoption was always a subject of so much joy in our household… the stories of the days my brothers joined our family were some of the happiest memories and most anticipated answered prayers. But what I never knew was how much it hurt, too. I was too young to really understand, and I’m thankful that their adoptions were always such positive stories – not secrets to be kept or things to be forgotten.

But, what I’ve come to understand is that every adoption starts in a loss. Our family’s adoptions happened before social workers really got on their education kicks – no one told us. My parents dealt with it as best as they knew how, and I really think that they did an amazing job. But I’m not sure that there was ever much room for grief.

Like I said – it was a source of joy… and sometimes I wonder if my brothers might have been so swept up in the joy of the whole family that they didn’t think there would be room for their unavoidable sadness. Room for their unanswerable questions. I sometimes wonder if maybe they thought bringing those things up might hurt too much the people they loved most.

Maybe in the quiet conversations between mother and son or father and son, there was room for those things. I wasn’t privy to all the private moments, and I’m certainly not suggesting it didn’t happen. I don’t know. I just know that growing up, as a sister who saw all things as equal between my brothers and myself, I didn’t understood their grief and their loss. And I know that growing up, I certainly didn’t make much room for it.

Since I started working more closely with orphans, I now understand the depth of loss a bit more clearly. I’m sorry for the ways I glossed over it with my brothers, and if I have the honor of adopting someday, I will always do my best to acknowledge that my children come to me with stories both bitter and sweet. And, if you are an adoptive parent, I hope you ask yourself the soul-searching questions: Do I make room for my child to admit that they are sad? To admit that they miss their birth parents? Do I feel threatened by the fact that I might not be all my child needs?

Because when we make room for the grief, a child can heal and grow. That’s what I wish I had known about adoption… but then again, I was only 3 when adoption touched my life for the first time.


8 thoughts on “What I Never Knew

  1. As an adoptee (my family had biological children also), I absolutely love this post! I know that I never felt comfortable with sharing the sad feelings with my family. I am not saying that it was their fault, they were taught to treat me just like a biological child. It would have been so nice to be able to discuss the sadness with my family. I work in the adoption field now, and I am so grateful that so many adoptive parents get the fact that there will be sadness too. Thanks again for the beautiful post.

    BTW, my older adopted brother and I had my younger biological brother in tears once because we were “chosen” and my parents were just stuck with him;o

    Also, I grew up in the Texas panhandle also – in the country near a teeny tiny town.

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  2. This is a great post, Carrie! I think that sadly, a lot of people are naieve about adoption, and fail to take into consideration the view from their child's perspective. Often times it is just padded with a bunch of 'fluff'…but surely that isn't what it's all about. I am so grateful to people like you and organizations like the Grown in My Heart Blog Carnival, that bring light to these areas. It is not an area that should be treated with an “ignorance is bliss” standpoint…because certainly, ignorance is NOT bliss and ultimately can end up hurting the relationship on both sides. I am also very grateful that our adoption agency is wonderful about preparing parents for 'the other side of the story' before they bring their children home. Being educated and having an open heart and open discussions with your child(ren) as they grow, is such an important part of the journey of adoption.

    Thanks again for “keep'in it real!”

    Have a blessed weekend! <><
    ~Tanya

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  3. This post reminds me so much of the conversations I have with my two cousins, who are both TRAs (Korea). I don't know that there was room in their family for loss and sadness… and it greatly impacted one of my cousins.

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  4. I LOVE this post. I'm writing what I learned down right now: You will most likely never be ALL your child needs.

    While I've read about grief and wondered how to prepare for dealing with it, I think just knowing that small piece of information and remembering it will help: there is something you can never be in your child's life and that's ok. It doesn't mean there can't be healing…..you just won't replace what they've lost. We are the “new reality” that comes after loss…..where there can be true joy, true healing, but still scars that mark their lives forever (not always in damaging or disabling ways…..just that they are THERE, and we need to realize that).

    I wonder how we as adoptive parents keep the lines of communication open without putting thoughts in their heads or making more of the loss than we need to…..it's a weird balance. (But, what do I know…..I don't have my child home yet.) Maybe I shoudl start reading books about grief and loss for kids!!!

    Anyway….as you can see your post got me thinking….thanks!!!

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  5. Carrie i dont think that a child has grief about neing adopted unless the knew there biological parents and old enough to realize what they had or didnt have. Yeah there is always the question of why did they not want me but there is no grief because of being adopted. The only way would be to compare biological parents to your adopted parent.

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