When my firstborn went to college and we communicated almost exclusively by chat, I had one frequent typo from my rapid typing (not to be confused with rapid prototyping–but actually similar). I had typed “clam down” so often, instead of “calm down” that it became a joke between us. Now many years later we text “clam down” to each other without even thinking. The directive to be calm (or clam) is a fitting one for the topic of meeting birth mothers. Already I imagine that the very title of this piece has some of you breathing more quickly and feeling anxious about this event. Don’t be. For one if your child pursues this you cannot stop it, and secondly, why should you? As an analyzer of all things rational and not, I have broken down the fear into two distinct categories: insecurity, and protectiveness, which you will see in my narrative.
First let’s talk about the desire to meet one’s birth parents, and for this we unadopted must try and put ourselves into the shoes of our adopted kids. If we were them, wouldn’t we also fantasize about our unknown origins, and be curious about our beginnings? Who wouldn’t want to at least see the people who gave you life? It is a completely natural phenomenon.
My daughter had wanted to meet her birth mother for some time, beginning around middle school, and often asked me questions about her. She was determined to meet her, having convinced herself that this would be the missing piece that would help her understand herself better. And so our strategy, even though we were intimidated by the meeting was if you can’t beat ’em join ’em. We had our own reasons for wanting her to wait a bit, but she was as I said, determined to meet her birth mom as soon as she graduated from high school, and so we did all we could to help her. The initial meeting went well, and later meetings were planned. I will close the door now to this private relationship as it will be up to my daughter to share this part of her story. She (my daughter) is actually an excellent writer, and needs no help from me should she wish to share this part of her life.
If you are a birth mom reading this you may take umbrage at our reluctant participant status, but allow me to explain. It was not that we weren’t grateful for what you did, because we were. And it was not that we did not think our daughter had a perfect right to connect with you, because we did. And finally it was not that we did not think of the benefit it might have for both you and for our child. As you may have figured out by now, our reluctance was a combination seesaw of protection of our daughter from anything that might hurt her, and a basic insecurity that our position as her mom and dad might be threatened, and we might be replaced to some degree. Although we did not experience an alienation of affection as it were, it was still difficult for us to see that some parts of the reunion were painful to our beloved daughter.
For my sons, their case was a bit more complicted (as our Chinese teacher used to say). Being part of a pair, but of course being two distinct individuals, the decision to make contact was more tricky. Having seen their older sister’s experience had the dual effect of making them a bit cautious, (particularly because they were older than she was at the time and had a deeper understanding of how complicated this could be), but still desirous of a meeting. By this time they were graduated from college and asked me to help them. This time, I felt less reluctant, probably because I was older, and hopefully a bit wiser. I had a sense from our daughter’s experience that God was in control, and that He after all had connected all of us in the first place. I felt a bit “clamer” about my place in my kids’ hearts, as they were now independent adults. We had been transitioning to more of a friend relationship, which is so nice (parents of toddlers or angry teens–this will come later–stay clam).
Our modus operandi with the twins was again to assist, and to not get too involved in their business. They were now young men and did not need a lot of mom help with most of their life, and so I tried to be sensitive to that. I was on call as needed if you will. Their meetings needed to be via email due to their military status, but when they are both able, they will probably pursue a face to face meeting as well. Sure, I still have mixed emotions and a touch of insecurity about it. However now as an older mom I can look at things with a broader view, and know once again that God is in charge of our lives, not me. Judy Collins has a beautiful song about changing perspectives called Both Sides Now that I loved long before I understood the meaning, just because of her lovely alto voice. Give it a listen and you will see that the words explain that maybe we missed something earlier, and later on, we can see things differently. Again, I must close the door of this part of the story and let my sons share as they wish to, with whom they wish.
In closing this perhaps unfinished piece that may disappoint some who want to know how it went, let me share what I have learned. As a finite human I perceive and understand so little of all of what God is doing in this world. Mostly, when I don’t understand something, which is often, I go to my default, which you may recall from earlier posts is my most important thing: God is good and He always has our good in mind.
Moreover as an older parent, I have learned that my kids do not belong to us and actually never did; we were merely stewards of their wonderfulness for a very short time. Now as adults we enjoy our transitioned adult relationship with them, with an emphasis on the word adult. They must follow the path that they believe is best for them, and that God has for them (which hopefully coincide). We were blessed stewards, but never owners. And oh, how very blessed we were.
Finally as a very grateful adoptive parent, I cannot justify keeping “my kids” from those who loved them enough to give them a better life. No matter how much emotion flows, it is difficult to come up with a rationale for bringing any pain into the lives of birth parents. I owe them a debt that cannot be repaid.
Next time I will share a poem I wrote for my daughter’s adoptive mother; it does not need any narrative, but it may require a box of tissues. Stay tuned.