By An Adopt4Life Parent
I’m about to share something very personal. Shameful, in fact.
My husband and I were about a year in to our fertility treatments when my mom said that if we weren’t successful, she thought we should find a surrogate. “Whatever you do, don’t adopt. Adopted kids all have problems.”
Yup. It’s hard to even admit my mom said that.
Apparently my mom’s mom had said that if she had never had kids herself, she would not have adopted, “because adopted kids are all troubled.” Of course, my grandmother lived in a different country in a different time. Or maybe I’m trying to make excuses.
My mom has one adopted cousin. When this cousin was in her teens and getting in to trouble for sneaking out at night to meet boys and other “inappropriate, unladylike” behaviour, my grandmother and her sisters said it was because she wasn’t “really a [insert family name].” I suppose distancing themselves from what they considered unacceptable behaviour made them feel better.
Beliefs often get passed down through the generations. In my case, the message silently swirled around us, invisibly present but never spoken. Those implicit messages are often the ones that we absorb the most deeply, that penetrate our subconscious and hibernate deep within us, sometimes lurking there many years before revealing themselves to us at unexpected times.
I was very hurt to hear my mom say that we shouldn’t adopt yet I wasn’t surprised. I also (somewhere, in some small way) had this idea, that all adopted kids are troubled, defective, broken goods. Of course this is not rational. My own family knows well the heartache and challenges that a biological child can face and the stress that can wreak on a family: my older brother committed suicide at age 16 following a lifetime of mental health issues. At this point, my husband and I were not considering adoption, pursuing instead fertility treatments. There were many reasons for this, among them my fear that my mom would love my brother’s kids, her biological grandchildren, more than my adopted child, and that my child would, of course, perceive this and be greatly affected by it.
I had some very stern words with my mom and thought it was settled (at least, outwardly). To my surprise, then, some time later, my mom again suggested we seek a surrogate instead of adoption. Argh…! Clearly, I was not getting through. Her own bias was so firmly established inside her that it would take a lot more than a few words to change her perspective.
Several of our friends have adopted children. These friends have paved the way for us in our own journey, not only in sharing their process to become adoptive parents, but in showing us what happy, loving, successful families can be formed through adoption. We love their children and how heartbreaking to think that these amazing, bright, fun, sweet kids may never have found their forever families and instead, maybe lived out their youth in foster homes?
This is now several years behind us. We have recently become the adoptive parents of a gorgeous two-and-a-half-year-old boy, who has quickly captured our hearts. Do I find myself looking for signs of problems that I know may eventualize, given his background? Yes. But I know that if I had had my own biological child, I would have inevitably worried that he, like my brother, would struggle with mental health issues. And my mom? She is very smitten with her newest grandson. But of course she is! He is adorable, and smart, and outgoing, and full of beans and smiles and giggles. My family has welcomed our son into its arms with great joy and celebration and love. That message is now swirling around us invisibly, penetrating deeply into out psyches, and passing on through time. Hopefully my grandchildren will hear how I formed a family and will understand where their own intrinsic openness and acceptance comes from.