Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We All Have a Lot to Lose
Yesterday's Blog Post started a conversation that, if you haven't read the comments, you should go back and check out. The back and forth commenting gave me plenty to think about.
I don't have time this morning to write a perfect blog post (OK, so now you are laughing and thinking "she's NEVER had time to write one, why should she start now?") but I want to throw a few thoughts your way and see what you think.
One of the things that surprises adoptive parents who have been outsiders and are now on the inside, having adopted, is how much of adoption is about grief and loss. It's obvious on the side of the children -- they have lost their birth families, in some cases siblings, former foster parents -- in fact, everyone who has ever been important to them. And they have lots what everyone else takes for granted -- the knowledge of who they really are that it takes them years to discover. Many of them resolve this as they grow up, but that sense of belonging and deep seated confidence of where they fit into the world is not there. I'm not an adoptee, and I can't claim to know how it feels, but I have watched this as my kids enter the teenage years and adult years. The question, "Who am I" becomes much more difficult to answer when you are not raised by the people who genetically formed you and gave you life.
But there is a ton of grief and loss for adoptive parents as well. First, there may be fertility issues which lead to adoption and there is enough loss associated with that to create books and blogs and articles and research.... on and on. Now many of you may have had that question about us secretly burning in the back of your mind -- so I'll answer it for you. We don't know if we can have children by birth or not. What I tell people is by the time we were married 3 months we had at toddler, and by the time we were married 5 years we had 9 kids. We didn't try not to have kids by birth, but we sure didn't have much time to try to have them. And now, if I were to get pregnant.... ew. Don't even go there.
But beyond the grief and loss associated with infertility there is the loss of a dream. Now grant it, many birth families have to go through the loss of a dream sometimes as their kids don't "turn out" the way that they thought they should. But adoptive families, especially those who are adopting older children, have this vision that they are going to save a child. They are going to love them enough to fix whatever is wrong with them and they will all live happily ever after.
And I think that this kind of grief and loss-- the kind that presents itself in a new way every single day -- is what chips away at who we are. We may feel it on the day that we take an 18 month old to the doctor to find out why they still aren't walking. Or when the preschool teacher says, "NO, he can't go to kindergarten and if he wants to come back to special needs preschool next year he has to be on medication." Or when we watch our 4th grader in the school concert and notice that she isn't like everyone else. Or possibly it is in middle school, where suddenly hidden disabilities become very obvious as our child cannot possibly coordinate homework when he has to change classes. Or when a teen goes into residential treatment, or juvenile detention, or when you're told they are pregnant.
And ultimately there is grief when a child simply cannot move out on their own. Our dream for them -- to live independently and be a contributing member of society -- seems unattainable.
And then there is the dream, that we were talking about yesterday, of how our family is "supposed" to be or, more personally, what kind of a parent I always hoped to be. How we envisioned it, how we put it together and what we thought it was going to look like. And regardless of how much we try to maintain that dream, we eventually realize that it can't be done.
And that is where our mind starts to shift from "I'm losing myself" to "I'm becoming a better me." We see how we can change ourselves in order to change our environment. I'm empowered when i realize that my son can sleep on the couch every single night and I'm going to be able to let it go and focus on things that matter more because our relationship is more important than my rules. And as all that happens we begin to find answers and we build on those until we finally become the people we should have been in the first place.
Not that I want to make this blog all about me or anything -- oh wait, my blog IS all about me ;-) -- Lately I have not been on the positive side of things because I've been overwhelmed and exhausted. I know that I need to get back there. And I have found that adoptive parents are all somewhere on that continuum. Hopefully the longer we do this, the more we progress.
Because the bottom line in all of this is we all have a lot to lose -- a lot of things we should lose. And so possibly, in losing ourselves, we actually find the self that we were meant to be.