Last night I was catching up with a friend and fellow embryo adoptive mom when we started discussing our adoptions and how to have the conversations with our children about their beginnings. My friend’s triplets are 4 ½ years old and one recently asked about his “other mommy”. Understandably the question was a bit unnerving; not because of the fact that he does have a different genetic mother, but because of the unanswered questions. She said that she wants to try a different term than “mommy” to describe his genetic mother, but is still working on the “right” term. They, like us, went through anonymous adoption and have limited information on the genetic family. Also, like us, embryo adoption is a part of their normal family conversations and we both understand that our adoptions are still not a “normal” part of the adoption landscape. We didn’t rescue a child from an orphanage or out of poverty or from an unwed teen mom. We rescued children from a freezer that were loved enough to be given a shot at life, but were also a consequence of the brave new world of fertility treatments. Why did their genetic parents decide they were finished having children? Where there medical reasons? Financial reasons? Just no desire to have more children?
Here are some of my questions and thoughts on raising the children that I both gave birth to and adopted:
When and how do you start the conversations about their origin? Our adoption home study taught us that adoption should not be a bad word or a secret; it should be celebrated and openly discussed. I agree. My children are special, but I also don’t want them to feel weird or out of place. I’m trying to find the right balance of talking about their start and letting them be the children born to Jeremy and me.
How do you refer to the donor family? Right now we call them the genetic mother and father. I try to steer away from the term biological, because I feel as though I’m their biological mother. Not biological in terms of DNA, but biological in terms of my body sustaining them through pregnancy and after through breastfeeding. I guess the way in which we talk about them will evolve throughout the years and as Grant and Maria mature. I just wonder what the right term is for when Grant and Maria are able to verbalize and understand that they were adopted.
Have your thoughts on open vs. anonymous adoption changed? I wouldn’t change our decision to go anonymous. I respect their genetic family’s choice to give them up without knowing or wanting to know the birth family. At the time of our adoption, having involvement with a genetic family felt extremely threatening and scary to me. Now, however, as Grant and Maria are older and clearly know Jeremy and me as their dad and mom, the thought of some sort of contact is much less threatening. I know they are both going to come to us for comfort. I’m the one Grant is calling for when I drop him off for childcare at church. His “MUMMY!” is sad, and precious, and comforting to me all at once. I know they will have questions that we can’t answer. I also feel that the fact that Jeremy doesn’t know his biological father and was raised by an adoptive father might be helpful as he might be able to relate to them and some of their questions.
What questions do you have and how do you/think you will respond?