Q:My husband and I became parents via adoption after a long struggle with infertility. Our son, now two, is truly the love of our lives. When my best friend recently had a baby, I was surprised to feel sad, and even jealous. How can I get over this?
A:If someone cries at a wedding, it’s not because she wants to marry the bride’s spouse. It’s because she feels the depth of the couple’s love, or she’s flashing back on her own wedding, or simply because people react emotionally to profound life events. Your friend’s giving birth has awakened a series of memories, some recent (and painful), some not so recent—perhaps a memory of yourself as a little girl, imagining becoming a mommy.
It might help you to know that grief does not have to end with complete acceptance. Our losses become a part of us, and they may surface at moments that surprise us. This does not mean that you are jealous and want to become pregnant or that your son is not the love of your life. It means you are human. Try to accept your feelings as normal, and I’m sure you’ll find that you have positive feelings about your friend’s baby, too.
—Joni Mantell, Infertility and Adoption Counseling Center, Pennington, New Jersey
Q: We adopted our daughter in the U.S. Her birth certificate states that she is Caucasian, but she has beautiful brown skin and soft, corkscrew hair. How do we talk with her about her ethnicity, or perhaps investigate her heritage?
A: You might have your child’s DNA tested to learn more about her ethnic background. But the science of such testing is still evolving, and a test may not tell you anything conclusive.
Instead, deal with your uncertainties head on. When your child begins to question—or be questioned about—her heritage, have an honest conversation. Say, "We don’t know much about your background. What we do know is ____." Then invite your child to look in the mirror with you: "What do you see? Pretty brown eyes, nice tan skin, and cute curly hair." Ask her to name friends with whom she shares physical similarities. If she says she looks a lot like her friend, Maria, who’s from Guatemala, look on a map together and find the country. You might add, "Many people who live in this part of the world look like you. I wonder if, a long time ago, some of your ancestors were from here."
You may never discover the full palette of your daughter’s racial makeup. But you can help her understand that identity is made up of many components. It seems that we live in an era where you are what you look like, or how you identify yourself. Help your child decide what she wants to say—and to whom and when.
—Deborah Johnson, Social worker and director of a heritage travel company, Kindred Journeys International, Minneapolis
Q:I’d like to blog to document our adoption process, and keep far-flung families up-to-date, but I’m not tech-savvy.
A:You don’t have to be a high-tech wizard to create a blog. There are several great sites, such as blogger.com and typepad.com, that let you set up a blog for free, or for a small annual fee. Most offer web-only software, so there’s nothing to buy or download. Just work your way through the setup—choose a template and colors, add photos, and so on—and you’ll be blogging in no time. Need ideas or inspiration? Read AF’s favorite adoption blogs at adoptivefamilies.com/blogging.
—the editors of AF
Q:We were told our daughter was conceived by rape. When should we have this conversation, and how would we talk about this? Our daughter is six right now.
A:At age six, your daughter probably hasn’t thought much about her birthfather, and doesn’t fully understand reproduction. If she does ask about him, tell her that you don’t know much about him, and that her birthparents did not know each other well.
The nature of the conversations you’ll have when your child’s older will depend on whether you have documented evidence of the rape, such as a police report. If you do have evidence, and you choose to talk about it, you’ll want to do so when your child is a preteen or teen. Share the information you know in the context of talks you’ll have about birth control, avoiding alcohol or drugs, and generally making safe choices. You can also restate your family’s values: "We believe that sex should be part of a loving, caring relationship." "We believe it’s never OK to pressure someone to do anything against his or her will." If you don’t have documentation, you can say, "Your birthmother has told us that she didn’t want to have sex with your birthfather." Keep discussions focused on the birthfather’s behavior, rather than labeling him, and help her understand that good people sometimes make bad choices.
—Ronny Diamond, Adoption Resource Center, Spence-Chapin, New York City
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