“Don’t do it! Adoption is the worst!”

His voice echoed through my entire body, his words hitting every unprepared bone, and I clutched the full glass of ice water ready to plunge it in his direction.

There were hundreds of people in the darkened bar room, on dates mostly, sitting in the crowd enjoying the comedy show. My insides twisted and lurched, I heard nothing but the reverberations of laughter, and my mind kept envisioning myself walking over to him and punching his face in.

When the comedian began working adoption into her show, my body began tingling and I was ready to leave before I heard what she had to make fun of.

The loss in adoption for me as an adoptive mother is present. It’s a constant battle against society and culture, hearing the ways in which adoption is less than and not a legitimate way to be a family. The loss in not carrying our children in our wombs and knowing them from conception. The losses are there, but I don’t talk about them much, mainly because everything always tends to be about the adoptive parents.

I can handle and deal with the loss of validation as a real mother to my child by adoption, simply because I am confident in who I am and where I stand in his life. There is no competition between his other mom and I—we are both his mothers, in two different ways.

What makes me sick about situations like this, is knowing there had to be at least one adoptee in the crowd of hundreds of people. At least. Maybe a birth parent who placed a child for adoption, too. And what exactly does this speak to them?

Loss in adoption is something rarely talked about.

I will never understand the loss my son—and his original/other family—carries in regards to me becoming his mom. The very essence of my motherhood to him is another’s loss, tragedy, and brokenness.

We see the cute commercials, like the pretty Facebook photos, support the jaw-dropping fundraisers to assist a family in paying the outrageous legal fees. But we often forget to also carry with us the reality of loss, the severance of one family to a child (or sibling set).

But then again, it’s awkward, right? When you find out your friend was adopted, do you say, “I’m sorry,” or “That’s great!” Both feel inappropriate and hurtful on different levels and for different reasons.  

Isn’t that part of the pain of loss, though? That nothing we can say is quite right or even helpful? We love sharing our thoughts and opinions, the positive pieces we think the person should focus on. But I think the key to loss is listening, not over sharing.

Adoption is infused with and born out of loss, and this we cannot ignore.

I must acknowledge that though his adoption embodies graciousness, it is also a reminder this world is not as it should be. Brokenness permeates our world. Sure, beauty is born from ashes, but the ashes don’t just magically disappear. Suffering and all that is wrong in this world still exists.

This side of heaven, tragedy remains and the moments of her son becoming ours is a representation of joy and suffering deeply intertwined. Our son, the living proof and blessing that love is what makes a family, also reminds us that adoption is born out of undeniable loss. Irrevocable loss of wholeness, of what was meant to be.

To only acknowledge the beauty without giving voice to the tragedy, is to detract from adoption. In diminishing the tragedy of adoption, I decrease my son’s story, along with others a part of the adoption circle. I would be choosing to ignore a massive portion of who he is.

Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she'd love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a wanna-be runner. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her email list.