I pull around in the car line and scan the group of kids for my daughter. Usually, I can find her easily, chatting it up with her friends as she waits for me to pick her up from school. Today, though, I don’t see her.
I look again and I finally spot her. She is slumped on the curb, her head in her hands and her eyes downcast. My momma radar instantly goes off as I watch her slowly get up and drag her feet to the car and I can tell that something is wrong. She slides into the car and I smile at her and ask her how her day was at school.
Big tears instantly spill from her eyes and my heart breaks a little as I see her sadness. She takes a deep breath and then blurts out, “Someone in my class today said that my real mom did not want me since I was adopted.”
I take a deep breath and count to 10. I need those seconds to calm the anger in my heart and to find the right words to say to my daughter. I feared this day would come and seeing the devastation on her face did not make it any easier.
My daughter, who we adopted from Guatemala when she was six months old, is a sweet, sensitive, caring girl who we love and adore. It ripped my heart out to see her so sad.
We have spent the last 10 years telling our daughter that adoption is love. She knows her story and where she comes from and we have told her over and over and over again that her birth mother is a true hero.
With persistence, we have reassured her that her birth mother loved her so much that she wanted a better life for her. So, her birth mother made the selfless decision to put her up for adoption. This was a heartbreaking decision, but she wanted what was best for her.
We told her that our hearts were aching for another baby and God led us straight to her. We fell in love with her at first sight and she was chosen and wanted and cherished. She knows that because of great love, we found each other and became a family.
My daughter has been able to tell you her story since she was two years old. It is a beautiful story of loss and love and she shares it without shame.
But all it took was one careless comment from a classmate to shatter that beautiful image and fill her head with doubt. To make her feel unloved, unworthy and unwanted. To make her heart break and to make her feel as if being adopted was a dirty word. It made her feel ashamed and embarrassed and I could see the confusion in her eyes as she tried to process this new idea . . . that maybe her birth mom did not want her, did not love her, did not care about her and simply gave her away.
I tell my daughter her story again as we drive home and I stress that adoption is all about LOVE. I tell her passionately that she is wanted and loved. I make her repeat it back to me, desperate to erase every doubt from her mind. It is important that she hear this over and over again until it becomes a part of her and she believes it in her heart and soul.
I explain to her that her classmate probably did not understand what it meant to be adopted and did not mean to hurt her feelings. My daughter, she is resilient and strong. She wiped her tears and her radiant smile returned to her face as she declared that she would tell him all about it the next day.
I take a deep breath and am relieved that she is back to her happy self. But my heart is still troubled because I know this won’t be the last time someone will diminish her value and make her feel as if being adopted is shameful.
I wish that adoption was not viewed in such a negative light. Words are powerful and I hate how one innocent question can shatter my daughter’s image of herself and I pray that the power of love will prove to her that she is worthy, she is valuable, she is wanted.
I have learned so much since adopting our daughter. Adoption is a beautiful gift . . . and more complicated and rewarding than I ever thought possible.
Here are 10 truths I have learned about adoption I wish everyone knew:
- Adoption is LOVE. Although everyone’s story is unique, adoption means that a child is loved and wanted and adored and treasured. Always. Repeat after me . . . Adoption is LOVE!
- Adoption also means LOSS. Regardless of how much a child is loved, they have suffered a traumatic loss of their birth mother and birth family. A child may mourn this loss at any time and it is important to validate these feelings. They need to know that this is normal and perfectly okay to be feeling this way. A birth mother is part of their story . . . we talk about her openly and honestly and will support our daughter if and when she ever decides that she wants to find her.
- An adopted child needs to feel connected to their culture. If they were born in another country or are of a different race, it is important to immerse them in their traditions so that they can have a better understanding of who they are and where they come from.
- An adopted child is loved the same as your biological children. My daughter may not have grown in my tummy, but she grew in my heart and I promise you, my heart swelled with so much love for my daughter when they placed her in my arms. This love was no different from when I held my biological children the first time. Love is love . . . There is NO difference.
- I am her “real” mom. This is another phrase I hear a lot . . . “Oh, so you are not her ‘real’ mom.” Hmm . . . I love her more than anything. I take care of her when she is sick. I feed her. I provide clothing for her. I take her to the park and to the movies and to the beach. I play games with her. I read books with her. I wipe her tears when she is sad and kiss her good-night. I pray for her. She holds my heart. I think that qualifies me as her “real” mom. No, I am not her biological mother, but that does not mean I am not her “real” mom.
- I wish people would not call her my “adopted” child . . . she is quite simply my daughter. No need to make her feel as if she is different or branded.
- I wish people would not use the word “adopted” as an insult. How many times have your siblings done something obnoxious and you yell back, criticizing them, “You must be adopted!” Words . . . they are powerful and this insult does not go unnoticed to those who have been adopted. It makes something so beautiful seem as if it is negative and bad. I cringe every time I hear this phrase because I know how it has the power to make my daughter feel different and as if she doesn’t belong.
- Adoption does not mean that the birth mother did not want her child. Every situation is different, but many times a birth mother makes the heart-wrenching decision to give their child up for adoption because of their tremendous love for them. It is a selfless decision to put their child’s needs before their own and it is an act of great LOVE.
- I wish that parents would explain all of this to their children so that they will have a better understanding of what it truly means to be adopted . . . it means love!! So often children make innocent comments because they just don’t understand adoption and they are curious. But these comments, they hurt. Educate your children!
- Adoption is beautiful and a reflection of God’s love for all of us. It is truly one of our greatest blessings. It is such a privilege and honor to love and raise our daughter. People have told us that she is lucky to have us, but they just don’t understand that we are the lucky ones. She has shown us the power of love . . . and love always wins!
“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” Jody Landers
Originally published on the author’s page