November 24, 2014

Losses Yet to be Mourned

I have worked hard to educate myself and M about the unique experiences we will have with adoption, the losses we are and will experience. I don't want to be blindsided by some unexplored grief when I should be busy encouraging attachment with my new little one. Here is a list of a few losses I've thought of that may cause us pain even in our joy of adoption:

A child who looks like M and I - Since we started trying to get pregnant almost 4 years ago, I have asked myself how I would feel raising a child that bore no resemblance to us. Did I want a child so I could see M's eyes and my hair? Was that my main motivation for having a baby? I have spent a lot of time over the past year doing soul searching and making sure I am comfortable with our child looking nothing like us, but I know in my heart of hearts that I can't truly mourn that loss until it is made manifest in whatever child we end up adopting. I hope, though, that I have prepared myself as much as possible.

Breastfeeding - I feel very conflicted about this topic. On one hand, I would be very sad to not be able to breastfeed my child because I do feel it is best for them and is an opportunity for so much comfort and attachment. On the other hand, it is possible to breastfeed your adopted child- but I don't know if I could go through the artificial stimulation and then the social reaction to me breastfeeding my trans-racially adopted child (if that ended up being our situation). Am I allowed to be sad about something that I did sort of have a choice over and chose not to pursue?

Naming rights - "Alice Clara Belle". I have never told a soul that name. That is the name that I chose for our now never-to-be biological daughter. I had that name picked out for about 2 years, back when I was so sure we could still have a baby. It is a first name of Germanic origin (both M and I have German heritage, among others) and a middle name from my maternal grandmother's first name. I never told my grandma that I had wanted to use her name - I was afraid to raise her hopes when we might not get pregnant. Now she has died and I can never tell her, though I guess it hardly matters since I won't ever have a biological daughter. I thought briefly about hanging onto this name for an adopted daughter, but it feels wrong somehow. This was a name specially chosen for a child that would share our heritage. With an adopted child, we will have so many new considerations: the wishes of the birth family, the heritage of the birth family, and just the way a name can "fit" a child. And I feel wrong about saddling a trans-racially adopted child with such a "white" name, if that makes any sense at all. Still, I'm sad over the loss of this choice. The loss of heritage. The loss of carrying on a family name. I mourn these things now and I will continue to grieve when a baby is placed in my arms.

A purely joyful beginning of life - I will write on this more in another post, but there is sadness and loss in the very first days of an adopted person's life. Loss of their biological connection. Loss of the only familiar person. Our child's homecoming will be bittersweet and there is nothing I can do but accept it and grieve with them. This is something no biological family need do, but is critical for an adopted family. The loss is real, even for a tiny infant. *I* am a stranger and "mother" is the woman they are not with. With time, that will change, but it is still something I will have to grieve right along side my baby.

Adoption is such an emotional journey - one that lasts for the lifetime of the adopted person. I am trying to learn and adjust, and to stretch my heart to make room for all the feelings, good and bad, which are to come. I pray that by doing this, I can see with clear eyes and do what is right by my child, and not just what I think is best for myself and M.


  1. I'm so glad that you are bringing up each of these issues now and recognizing the need to mourn them. You HAVE to mourn certain aspects of this process because as wonderful as adoption is, there are things that it takes away from you. I faced every single one of the issues you mentioned. Take the time to really think about each one of them and grieve their loss.

    "A child who looks like M and I". This one was hard for me. For so long I imagined what our child would look like and it pained me to think I'd never get find out. I also felt a sense of guilt that I was depriving my husband a child that looked like him. But surprisingly, once she was here, this issue melted away. I have even been told more than once that she looks like me (what?!?!?).

    "Breastfeeding" Like you I thought about breastfeeding as an adoptive mom but ended up ruling it out. I just didn't feel right about it. Sometimes I still wish I knew what that experience would be like but then I read stories about how hard it can be and I'm all good. Heh. But you are completely valid in feeling sad about this one. I imagine it is similar to a mom who does not produce enough milk, therefore can not breast feed.

    "Naming rights" This is a tricky one. I felt very strongly from the beginning of our adoption process that I had to name the child. It was mandatory. I also had wanted to use my great grandmother's name since I was 12 years old. I think you do have to be somewhat aware of racially fitting names, but you also need to feel comfortable about the name fitting into your family. After all, naming someone after a relative is a show of admiration and love, not necessarily lineage. In the end we chose Muppet's first name (not my grandma's name as I wanted it to be the middle name) and allowed our Bmom to choose her middle name. My agency stressed to us that we did not have to use her name, and honestly up until the birth I wasn't going to. But in the end I couldn't deny her that. I still don't love her middle name but I got over it a long time ago. If any agency tells you that you won't be able to name your child then that is a red flag to me. Because truly they will be YOUR child. It is your right to give them the name that you want to.

    "A purely joyful beginning of life" Everything you said about this is 100% true. I also tell people that Muppet's birth was the happiest and saddest day of my life. J and I were overjoyed with our new baby but we watched as her bmom was clearly in agony. It was horrible. And wonderful. This is something that no one can tell you how to handle. But by recognizing it you are already so much more prepared than most. Some adoptive parents want to erase their childs past and only allow them to be apart of their family. But they aren't, they are forever a child with two families, regardless if it is an open adoption or not. And it is hard as an adoptive parent to face that and to know that your child is going to have questions, insecurities, and maybe anger about their adoption at some point.

    Watching you go through this process fills me with pride and joy though. Because you are doing SO well preparing for it. You know what you are facing and are able to talk about the scary stuff. That is amazing. You and M are going to be great.

    P.S. if you ever wanna talk hair when the time comes let me know ;)

    1. Trisha, reading your extensive, thoughtful comment this morning was like getting a big hug - I am so thankful that infertility caused us to meet. We are *totally* gonna talk hair (to death) when the time comes! Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I feel like M and I are capable of taking this journey because there are people like you who serve as such good examples :-)