I remember talking with our social worker almost four years ago about things that would come up in conversation with our adopted child someday; more specifically – “what will you tell her about how she came to be yours?”
At the time we were 9 months away from receiving her referral, therefore we didn’t know who she was, how old she would be once we brought her home, what her needs would be, or what she would look like.
“That is years down the road,” I said. “I suppose I will tell her she was loved enough to be given a chance. I just want her to know she was loved by her birth family. She was loved enough to be given a chance to live. I want her to know she was sought after and wanted and is loved by us no matter what.”
And, that is a good start. It’s the truth, as I see it. Where Grace is from abortion is rampant. Infanticide is common. The size of one’s family is limited by the government and people become desperate; and when you have one shot at a healthy child and that child is born unhealthy – well, desperate people do desperate things. Medical care is a financial burden not everyone can bear. I imagine it was obvious that Grace was very unhealthy and needed medical care shortly after birth. Her birth parents or her birth family placed her somewhere to be found, and therefore Grace’s birth family are heroes to me and we intend to honor them for the rest of our days.
Except, she has no earthly idea that we aren’t her birth parents, yet. She has no earthly idea that is even a thing, yet. In her small, precious, safe world that we are revealing to her and building for her, for now, only knows things she needs to know. We are her people, her parents, we are Mama and Daddy. If we go away we come back. We are hers forever and ever. She is safe with us.
When she gets scared (and she gets scared often), she knows who to talk to. You see, Grace just recently asked “Jejoe” (Jesus) to come in her heart and help her not be scared, so she knows now that if something is wrong or someone is sick or she feels sick, “Jejoe help me! My pray Jejoe! Jejoe help you!” Bless her heart. Life is as simple as it will ever be for her. Can’t that just be enough for a while? Sigh.
We talk often about our beginning as a family, and I tell her “our story”. At age 4, it goes something like this:
Me: Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived all the way on the other side of the world.
Me: yes, you!
Grace: My live Chi-ah.
Me: Yes, you lived in China. The little girl was called Qiu Min and she lived with lots of other boys and girls who didn’t have a Mama or a Daddy. She was very sick.
Grace: My cry?
Me: Yes, sometimes you cried but sometimes you laughed and played because you had nice ladies who took care of you until I could bring you home.
Grace: You go big airplane and get me?
Me: Daddy, and I, and GeGe and Jiejie flew on a big big airplane all the way to China. We visited the place where you lived, and we saw a big wall, and we bought you presents and then we went on another airplane to meet you. We rode in a van and when the van stopped we saw that you were there and we hurried because we could hardly wait to hold you and tell you that we were your family and how much we loved you.
Grace: My so happy my no cry!
Me: You didn’t cry for a Mama anymore! I became your Mama that day and Daddy became your Daddy. We visited the doctor and we went to the zoo and we played and then we all got on another big airplane and flew all the way home and lots of people who love you were at the airport waiting for us when we got back.
That’s her story as far as she knows, for now. It’s enough, for now. It’s perfectly normal for her to understand that some kids need Mamas and Daddies to come and bring them home on an airplane. We have been on both sides of the airport terminal now as the ones coming home, and the ones waiting for loved ones with their new adopted child. We read books like Shaoey and Dot, and Mama’s Heart Went Pop, and Oh Happy Adoption Day.
She notices that we don’t look alike and sometimes she mentions that I have blue eyes but her eyes are brown. I tell her that Uncle Jason has brown eyes and Auntie Yaya has brown eyes. We talk about how sometimes people in the same family have different color eyes and different color hair. Sometimes people in the same family look different, but the love is the same and the love is what matters.
It is an exciting time in our family because uncle Jason and Auntie Yaya (Mariah) are going to have a baby and for the first time, she knows that babies grow inside their Mamas because there is a baby growing inside Auntie Yaya. I wish I had a camera ready for her face when she took in that news. Not one blessed second passed upon hearing that information before she looked at my tummy and asked if I had a baby too. I diffused that one just as quickly as possible and diverted to a truth she was ready for: “Sometimes babies are born in a hospital and come home with their mommies, and other times they come home on an airplane with their mommies. Remember, you came home on an airplane with Mama and Daddy.”
All of a sudden we went from brainstorming with our social worker to having real conversations with our curious little girl who notices everything, remembers details that I forget, and soon will be asking more questions beginning with the word, “why…” I don’t want to even think about it if I’m being honest. I want her world view to be as it is for a while longer.
I don’t want her to know about things like “birth families” and adoption because they are vocabulary words that are the result of loss and grief. I don’t want her to know yet that sometimes when people can’t keep their babies for a variety of reasons they sometimes for loving reasons they choose to allow other people to raise their children because they know it’s their best choice.
I don’t know the answer to the questions she will have one day about why her birth parents chose to leave her. I can speculate, I can spin it in a positive light and I’m good at that spin because that is what I choose to believe – but the truth is, I don’t know the detailed answers to many of the questions she will have one day. Someday she can know that her birth parents could have chosen abortion or infanticide but they chose life, but for now I want the brief innocence about her world to be protected a little while longer.
I want her to cling to the truth she’s just now clinging to that when she prays, “Jejoe helps me. My not scared.” I want her to believe that this Mama is her forever and her always. This family is hers forever and we will not ever leave her.
So we take it one day at a time. One question at a time. I’m researching and reading other stories about what adoptive parents shared with their child and when they shared it. I’m allowing the natural rhythm of life to provoke questions and begging God, as I did with our first two children, to help me when it’s time for me to answer difficult questions.
I hope I answer her questions well and not too soon or too late. God has been faithful to guide me thus far, I trust He will continue. I don’t have all the answers, none of us parents do whether we are birth parents or adoptive parents, we take one step after another and do the very best we can.
For now, my daily goal as a birth mom to our first two children, and an adoptive mom to our third child is to affirm these abiding truths:
You are so loved, always and forever no matter what.
You are wanted by your family – you make our family whole.
You are safe in our home.
When we leave – we always come back as far as it depends on us.
You are meant to be. You have purpose. You have immeasurable worth.
Jesus is in your heart and mine and He will never leave or forsake you.
And so the story continues to grow and develop. Maybe one day at school a child will ask if I’m her “real Mom”, or if that’s her “real Dad” and another layer of her story will emerge; but I hope that when she is asked those questions her first instinct is to answer: “Of course that’s my real Mom. She crossed the world to find me and brought me home on an airplane. Didn’t your mom cross the world to find you?”
I would cross the world over and over and over again for her. She is worth it all, always. ~ Real Mom.