When an Adoptee Becomes a Parent Herself

May 27, 2018 adoptee perspective, adult adoptee, telling their life story, tracheoesophagel fistula, VACTERL 1 Comments

I can say with certainty that becoming a mother has been the most unique experience that I’ve had in my life thus far. That sentence sounds strange to me as I write it because people becoming parents is maybe the oldest and most common experience known to the human race. We still exist after all.

For me, it is the most unique for two reasons. Firstly, I cannot compare it to anything else and secondly, I would never have understood what it meant to be a mother until I became one myself.

Like anyone, I had ideas and expectations of what early motherhood would look like for me. I am just beginning this journey, as my daughter is only six months old now. I have yet to parent through the toddler stage and, God help me, the teenage years. Many told me that being a mom would be the hardest thing I’d ever do but also the most rewarding. So far, I can generally agree with that statement.

Mary Clare is the greatest joy that both my husband and I have ever known.

There’s a quote that decorates a wall in my obstetrician’s office that reads, “To have a child is to decide forever to let your heart go walking around outside your body.” I read it every time I sat there waiting but it didn’t fully resonate until my brand new, little baby was taken away from me and rushed to another hospital due to breathing difficulties.

Not even 24 hours after she was born, the doctors were concerned that she was coughing quite a bit and producing a lot of mucus. Her heart rate was elevated and her skin had a blue hue. She was transferred to the NICU downtown while I, not even 24 hours post-partum, had to stay at the hospital where I’d given birth to her.

My husband went with her which I was glad for, but I was also afraid of being alone and, even worse, not being with my very sick, new-born daughter. What had gone from being the best day of my life became the worst night of my life.

When she arrived at the NICU, the chief of pediatric surgery quickly diagnosed her with VACTERL syndrome, an acronym for a grouping of defects where three of more medical defects are found together. The “T” stands for tracheo-esophegeal fistula (TEF) and was the most urgent and serious issue found. She had surgery soon after the diagnosis to correct the TEF and has done tremendously well ever since.

Besides the medical drama, the challenges of motherhood come in forms that I didn’t expect. The lack of sleep for one. My college years were actually quite stressful, and having taken on too many difficult classes and extracurriculars, I am happy to be done with that part of life. Living in China was very frustrating at times; language barriers, pollution, miscommunications, etc. I thought “hard” meant things of that nature. What surprised me was that motherhood was difficult in that I was lonelier as a new mom than I’d ever been before. At the same time I absolutely adored my newborn baby. The highs and lows were extreme.

The most significant influence that my becoming a mother has had on my view of adoption is a greater appreciation for both my adoptive parents and my biological parents.

That quote on my OB’s wall is true for parents whether their children are biological or adopted. A little person becomes part of a family and they are forever stitched into the fabric of our lives.

I hear adoptive parents express that they did not “save their adoptive children” and I think that it’s not a bad attitude to have. It speaks of their humility and unconditional love. My parents say the same. At the same time, I do believe that the adoptions of both my sister and me were heroic (in the same way that I think having biological children is heroic) and I’m not afraid to say that in a way they did “save” us. It was God’s plan to bring our family together and they were not afraid to say yes to Him.

A quote that circulates around social media within the adoptive community quite often reads, “A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.” Again, this quote speaks truth to me more now because I personally understand the privilege that motherhood is.

In the same way that I couldn’t imagine losing my daughter because of her health issues, I could not imagine having to give her up for adoption for one reason or another. Maybe the latter would be even more painful knowing that she were still living in the world and I couldn’t be with her.

Regardless of the circumstances that a child was given up for adoption, whether there were loved and wanted by their birth parents or not, the reality that they have lost that relationship of blood truly is a tragedy.

Adoption is so beautiful because it brings healing and redemption not only to children but parents as well. What begins as a tragedy unfolds into a story of love.

When my daughter turned four months old, I faced a heart wrenching reality. I had been caring for this child for four months, spending every moment together, feeding her, bathing her, sleeping next to her, and watching her grow and learn. Four months… sounds like such a short time but felt like an eternity.

At four months old, I had been separated from my birth family. I wonder why I was kept for those four months. What event, what situation changed that? I was left at a train station and I imagine heartbreak, utter despair but I just don’t know for sure.

I know that some adoptive parents worry about over romanticizing birth parents. I think that’s a valid concern. Prudence should be exercised when considering such emotional and sensitive topics.

It’s only natural that we (adoptees) would fill in the gaps of our minds with the best of hopes. I am only now able to think somewhat critically about this issue. There is a need to protect adopted children and safeguard their hearts against over romanticized, self-created ideas about birth parents. At the same time, we must understand that they will wonder and fanaticize about what might have been.

So how to talk to your child about their birth parents? That’s a good question. One that I’m not sure I can answer alone. My parents told my sister and I that we were loved by our birth parents.
Did they know this with certainty? No.
Did we believe it and did it make us feel good? To a degree, yes.
Was it the right thing to say? I don’t know. But I don’t think that it was harmful.

Navigating this topic is different for every adoptee and every family. Maybe you do know the circumstances surrounding your child’s adoption. Maybe they have a tragic story. I think that honesty is a good policy considering that a child is emotionally mature enough to process the truth.

What our children should know with certainty is that they are unconditionally loved by us and wanted by us. I never doubted that those two things were absolutely true coming from my adoptive parents – and that has made all the difference.

Molly Schmiesing was adopted from Wuhan, China when she was 9 months old by an American couple from Cleveland, Ohio. After living in Beijing with her husband Michael, they are now back in the States and recently welcomed their first child. You can read more on her blog, Finding China.

One response to “When an Adoptee Becomes a Parent Herself”

  1. Christine says:

    Congrats to you on the birth of your beautiful baby!

    It is so wonderful and helpful to hear from an adoptee’s perspective. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

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