Today's guest poster in the What I'd Like For You To Know series is Mary, from Owlhaven. Mary is one of my favorite bloggers, and (I'm happy to say) a real-life friend too--we stayed together at BlogHer this summer. AND--I'm so excited about this--she's one of the bloggers going on Compassion's upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic. Mary has a precious, gentle heart, and I asked her to write a little about her family's experience with adoption.
If you're new here, the idea behind this series to is to allow women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.
Here's Mary's story.
Like most folks, John and I didn’t set out to become adoptive parents. We fell in love, got married, and started having babies. Four of them: two boys and two girls. Then we were done. Or so we thought.
Until our baby turned three and I found myself awash in angst over being done with babies. It was 1997 and news stories were all over about the many baby girls in China who needed families. We started talking. Eventually my idea of a baby girl from China became, in 1998, a little boy from Korea. And another little boy from Korea in 2000. By then we were so in love with adoption that between 2004 and 2007 we also adopted four daughters from Ethiopia, two as babies, and two as older girls. Yes, we have ten kids. Yes, it is crazy. But it is also an incredible awe-inspiring blessing.
One of the things adoptive moms wish people understood is that our adopted kids are just our kids. Period. It’s a slap in the face to constantly have people qualify our relationship to each other, to hedge the description with the word ‘adopted’ in every context.
When reporters talk about Angelina Jolie’s children they seem incapable of saying the name Zahara without also saying she was adopted. The same thing happened at the funerals of Bob Hope and Jane Wyman, when mentioning children who themselves were senior citizens and whose adoptions had probably been finalized fifty or more years earlier.
Along those same lines, I feel awkward when people ask me how many of the kids are ‘mine.’ I know darned well that people are asking whether I genetically contributed to their creation. But shouldn’t family just be acknowledged as family, whether blood is involved or not? After all, a family begins from the union of two unrelated people. My husband is ‘mine’. Period. So are my children, adopted and not.
Don’t get me wrong-- the contribution my children’s biological parents made is priceless, essential, and should not be swept under the carpet as if it does not exist. And especially when adopting older children, it takes time for hearts to grow together, for the relationship to be full and strong.
However, my heart does not differentiate between my children born to me and the ones who came after the completion of mountains of paperwork. My interest is just as passionate. My pride is just as fierce. My hopes are just as big. My prayers are just as fervent. My love is just as deep. They’re my kids. Period.
Parenthood is amazing however your children arrive. Adoptive parenthood is neither better now worse than parenting children born to you. Some things are different, yes, but the majority of it is exactly the same. I am humbled to be blessed by the presence of each of my children in my life.
The next time you make introductions involving a friend with adopted children, do everyone the honor of skipping the word ‘adopted’. If your friend and her child don’t look like each other, she fields questions every day, and that will likely be the first question out of the other person’s mouth. But I promise, your friend will appreciate that you chose to honor her very real relationship with her child without making any qualifiers. Family is family, however we come together, and we all would do better to remember that.
Mary blogs at Owlhaven. Her book A Sane Woman’s Guide to Mothering a Large Family will be available for pre-order on Amazon.com in early 2009.