who is real in your family?

re·al1  ˈrē(ə)l/ adjective 1.  actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed. 2.  (of a substance or thing) not imitation or artificial; genuine. “the earring was presumably real gold”

It’s Friday, the eve eve of Mother’s Day.  My youngest at school pick up sheepishly shared that in class they made Mother’s Day cards and she made it for her birth mother who will be seeing on Saturday.  She seemed upset that she only made one, and I shared that if she wants to make a card for me she still can on Saturday.

That evening we could hear our girls screaming at each other in our back yard. It turns out our youngest was telling her sister, “You are NOT MY REAL SISTER!” which of course was hurting her sister.  This was a new conversation in our house, our youngest telling her sister they are not real sisters together.

Technically she is right.  Each of our girl’s was born to a different birth mother so they don’t share the same DNA.  It is through our family building of adoption that makes them sisters and that has never been questioned by them to each other until now.

Our younger daughter, now almost 7, has been processing a lot lately, with questions of why she is part of our family and how we came to be her parents… Yes this is Why we have Open Adoptions in our family Our family was built through domestic adoption, both of our girls entrusted to us at birth by their birth parents.

We live in a family with each of our girls and each of their birth families.  This is all our girls have always known. The newest conversation of “REAL” was brought up by our youngest and she seemed to be seeking answers to who is her real family? and who is not?  I was surprised to hear her use this term as it is something I am more accustomed to hear from strangers “do they see their REAL mom?, are they REAL sisters?” and more.

Adoption has been part of an ongoing conversation in our family since our girls were born, they’ve always known that they were born to another and placed with us.  They have relationships with their birth mothers and extended family and know their birth fathers too.

But it is this conversation that upsets me because I cannot fix my daughter’s losses and I cannot fix mine either.  I am here to try and help her process what she is feeling and she has her birth mother to ask these questions of too.    But these questions are a reminder to me that I am different as a mother.  My girls are not yet old enough to understand my loss too.  All of us have experienced loss in making our family. All of us live with this loss either out in the open or tucked away for private moments. The conversations last night brought a twinge to me that I know these will be conversations that we will continue to have as each of our daughter’s figure out who they are.  But sometimes the words hurt my heart.

Infertile Ground …

This post has been simmering just beneath the surface for me over the last 2 weeks.  Well over the last 10 years really.  There was a post on a forum I follow asking will you ever forget your infertility when becoming a parent through adoption?.

Yes I am a mom, twice through adoption! My husband and I became parents for the first time almost 9 years ago when our first daughter was entrusted to us and two years later when our second daughter was entrusted to us.  There are times, however, that the infertility that we experienced still raises itself as a reminder of what life had been.  Some holidays are also still a reminder for me as well.  Mother’s Day is a day I proudly share with each of my daughter’s birth mothers, but sometimes the day is tinged by my sense of loss.

You would think that now that I will be 52 years old and past my child-bearing years that I still wouldn’t be affected by infertility.  Others think it disappeared when we became parents, well it didn’t, not necessarily.  We worked through our feelings and dreams not happening at that time in our past and worked on our new dreams of becoming parents along a different path and journey.

The things that still tweak me are not necessarily ever going to go away.  I will never be able to share with my husband that we became pregnant and have that experience.  I will not be able to share birthing stories, stories of what pregnancy was/is like or any of that which comes with the experience. When I learn a friend or acquaintance is pregnant I am happy for them, but then I think I’ve never been able to feel or share that news and never be a part of that club.  Conversations with friends that turn to talking about their bodies and what pregnancy did to it is something I have to pull myself away from.  You may see me get up and walk away even to get a drink, but it is the conversation that I am getting away from.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thrilled to have been chosen to be Mom for each of our daughters.  My love for them is non-ending and I am full of love for them everyday!  My husband and I see there could not have been any other way our family was meant to be now growing not by just our daughters but by their families as well.

Now that my girls are nearing adolescence our conversations have turned to sharing with them what puberty is like and why and when this happens. In turn it brings on the conversation led by them about their birth stories, and the what ifs? of someday when they are older, will they be able to have babies through their own bodies?.  It is these conversations that tweak me. That I will not be the one to share with them what the feelings of pregnancy and giving birth will be like.  I will not be the one to share my experience having not had one to share with them.  There it is that feeling of loss hitting me again just a reminder of how things came to be.

I think it’s fair to say that infertility does not disappear it will always be a part of who I am.  What has made the difference for me is the understanding that it was not what was meant to be for me and my family.  That we had to relook at what our dreams for a family were and what we wanted them to be.

I know the infertility memories are not part of my everyday life, they only perk up now and again and far and few between the times they do.  But there are times I am reminded about the infertile ground I am part of.

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The birds & bees talk continues

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I did blush, well internally for sure.  You see there was never any talk about our bodies and what they do when I was growing up.  My mother signed the permission slip for first, the film strip in 4th grade, and then the movie in 5th grade about puberty and all that goes along with that.  When I got home after each event, she asked if I had any questions.  Yep that was the extent of my learning about my body and what it could do as a girl and woman.

We have taken a slightly different approach in our home.  We have regular matter of fact conversations and are open to questions about what is this and how does that work.  There may be days you may enter and hear a conversation about penises and vaginas.  I think back to when our oldest was just over 3 years old and asked me how she got into C’s tummy (her birth mother) yep that stumped me not so much the question but the age and it’s not the love and marriage conversation. After checking in with other mom friends who too are mothers through adoption I had a good response that I hoped would help answer her question with age appropriate discussion.  After that she followed up with a “how did I come out of there?” question which I could more easily answer since both my husband and I were at the hospital for her birth on C’s invitation.

We’ve been talking to our girls now 8 and 6 years old about what will be happening for them in the next few years as they reach puberty through some great books – The Care and Keeping of You 2 and It’s not the Stork. Our conversations have been on a question answer system as we read through these books and learn about what’s to come.

Recently we added a new dog to our family.  A 2-1/2 year old male German Short-haired Pointer, Freidmann.  He joins our other dog, Pepper a 19-month old female Weimaraner.  As the two dogs have been bonding, there have been more than playful encounters.  Ones where the male dog has jumped onto the rear of the female and it’s a bit more than fun and our girls have witnessed these moments.  It is now that this brings us to the next discussions about sex and procreation.  We shared age appropriately how a baby can be made.  After sharing what they witnessed and also letting them know humans do this too, they both seemed satisfied with the scientific details of the how since they had just witnessed two dogs trying the act.

Like other discussions in our home and our comfort of allowing questions of any kind, I think we are headed on the right path of knowledge for both our girls.  Giving them the info that will help them better understand themselves and what happens as they grow up.  The birds and bees are a part of our lives and not going away even if we shy away from these discussions.  I really don’t want our girls to learn this from their friends.  I am happy both my husband and I have the same belief about this.  After all he is surrounded by girls and it will be in his face whether he wants it to be or not.  This is the man early on in our relationship had to run to the store for me to get me tampons.  So you see he gets it on some level!

What do you share with your children about the birds and bees?

the last few days

a lot has happened in our family over the last few days/week.  Our beloved Cody Bear passed.  He was nearly 14 years old.  Our girls are sad as we are too. They did find a shiny penny over the weekend and are sure it’s from our Cody up there running around over the rainbow bridge with our Molly.

My oldest daughter’s 3rd grade teacher shared that she too is an adoptee. This turned into a wonderful discussion learning about her life, her reunion with birth family and how an adult adoptee feels.  I love that she shared this knowing our two girls were adopted as well.  My daughter was there in the room during this conversation at the end of the school day.  It was one that I followed up with her in our car as she, her sister and I headed home.  How did they feel knowing a beloved teacher was like them, adopted at birth?  Hearing her life and love for the family that raised her and the relationships she now has later in her life with her birth family.  Without over prodding my girls, I wanted to see what they understood, heard and thought about learning this information about an adult they know. I think we will need a few more days or weeks to process.

Adoption seems to be the “it” subject of our week.  Yesterday we learned a classmate of my older daughter’s was adopted as well.  She from China.  I again followed up the conversation with my daughters in the car on the way home from school.  Wasn’t it interesting to learn a classmate came to her family in a similar way?  This girl’s mom recently became a friend of mine on facebook and had read my posted links of this blog learning about our family’s story.  I don’t want to overdue the conversation with my girls, but how great is it to learn more about the people in our lives through school that have similar family stories!

Adoption is a part of our lives and it is our family story.  It’s something that comes up in conversation within our family often, sometimes just our two girls talking with each other about their families and our family.  Sometimes it’s their planning out their future lives.  They’ve shared with me they too want to adopt a baby into their lives when they are older.  I think is wonderful and shows me how normal our family lives are that they want to have a family in a similar way.

Time and again I realize you never know when or who you will meet that will have a similar story and share it with you.  I appreciate the honesty of people sharing their stories with us. It give us more to talk about and appreciate the life we have and for our girls to have others in their lives with families just like ours.