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Processing His Adoptedness: Conversation with My Son, Pt 2

In part one, I told how my still-and-deep-water son was churning some adoption stuff, and how he trusted me to do it with him. I am honored.

“No One Wants To Give Away Their Baby”

Reed and I were running errands the next day. Tessa stayed home with Daddy to build the first fire of the season. Brrrr….it had gotten chilly!

Bedtime and car time are conducive to having conversations about touchy subjects because of the non-confrontational positioning. In the car Reed and I were not face to face, and I knew it was a good time to try to get back into the emotional space we’d been in the night before.

“So remember last night? We were talking about the moment when you became our son. You seemed sad. Do you want to talk about that?”

“I dunno. It’s just that I was sad for Michele. No one wants to give away their baby.”

“That’s so right. It was very hard for Michele to do that. But what about you? What do you suppose that moment felt like for you?”

Feeling the Feels

adoption heart

Some would be content to leave this stone unturned, that not everything has to be dealt with. But my view is that what lies dormant affects us unconsciously. And what is brought to the surface can be felt, examined, and released. My hope is that if my son can become aware of his emotions and motivations at age 8, maybe they won’t get buried over the decades and erupt for him massively later in life. I want to give my children a head start on living mindfully, consciously.

These lofty goals don’t mean, however, that he was ready to feel the emotions from the moment when he was placed in my arms from his birth mother’s.

“I think I had a poopy diaper and I wanted it changed,” he laughed a jittery laugh.

“You’re silly,” I said and laughed with him, giving him space and not filling the silence that followed.

Soon he continued, “I probably wanted milk. I had gotten milk from my mom and now I wanted milk from my new mom.” We both sat with that. A few blocks passed in silence.

“You know,” I resumed, “that moment when I became your mom was such a strange time. Everyone in the room was feeling something very intensely. For Michele, it was one of the saddest and hardest days of her life. For Daddy and Tessa and me, it was one of the happiest. Isn’t that strange?”

“Yeah. I’m sad for Michele. No one wants to give away their baby.” He repeated this, trying on his first mom’s feelings.

“That’s so very true. Especially a baby as wonderful as you, Reed.”

“Would You Adopt Another Baby?”

“Mom, do her children ever ask about me?” Reed has a younger brother and sister who visited us last year.

“I would imagine they ask about you, or they will when they are old enough to understand.”

“But what if they don’t know about me? What if she doesn’t tell them?”

“I’m sure she’s not hiding you. After all, they’ve been to our house once and hopefully they’ll come again. I think she’s very proud of the young man you’re becoming. She keeps up with you on Facebook, you know.”

“Mom. Would you adopt another baby?”

“We don’t have plans to do that. Is that something you’d like?”

“Yeah,” he said, thinking. “I want to know what it felt like for Tessa when I joined the family. And what it’s going to feel like for Dominic [his cousin] when Aunt Tami’s baby is born.”

I suspect this is also because he has missed out on the big brother experience with Michele’s two parented children and AJ’s new baby daughter.

“I’m not sure that’s likely to happen. You’ll get to be the big cousin to Tami’s baby.”

“NOT cousin. I want to be the big brother to a baby.”

“I’m sorry, Reed.”

We had arrived at our destination.

Which was not an adoption agency.

The Memento

Later that night I pulled down a small item from the very top of Reed’s bookshelf. It was a brilliant little present to me, to us, from myself of 2003.

letter from birth mom

Right before I had headed to the Entrustment Ceremony to meet and bring home our son, I had the flash of insight to bring a spiral notebook/journal I’d had lying around. I asked Michele after the ceremony to write a page or so to Reed, to tell her what was in her heart for him that day, what her hopes were for him.

I, too, put my thoughts down in that notebook frequently in those early days, and I recruited Roger, my parents, Grandma Lisa, and everyone who attended his first several birthday parties (we used to do it up big with all our friends — our once a year bash) to write words of love to our son. There are now a couple of dozen pages of people just loving on Reed over the years, until about 2006, when we moved and the book got put away.

At bedtime, Reed was able to read the time-capsule message from his birth mom. He slept with that notebook that night.


Next I’ll add some reflective thought to these two conversations. You are invited to come back for the final part of this series.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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26 Responses

  1. “I think I had a poopy diaper and I wanted it changed”…love that kid.

    There are so many emotions at play here:

    1. He still wonders why his first mum gave him away when she loved him so much.

    2. He still wonders if her family hold a place for him in their family.

    3. He wants to experience being a big brother, as a parallel to what Tessa got to feel. He wants to be in those shoes.

    And all of that exists with him equally loving you and Roger and Tessa. It is a mountainload of thought and emotion for a child to process and find some meaning from.

    I hope he will walk out of this emotional maze undented and happy.

  2. These conversations are so important to have. I too believe that it’s essential to talk things through so emotions don’t get buried and come out in explosions years later. You’re a wonderful mom, Lori!

  3. Oh Lori, these are such powerful posts. You are doing an amazing job with your conversations with Reed on his adoption. The notebook was an inspired idea, and I hope to read more about what he thought about it and what it contained.

  4. I remember listening attentively when my “intimidating” bio sister said after the death of our mother she had gone through her personal belongings. At the time, I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask her, “Was there anything amongst her stuff perhaps revealing she had not just two daughters, but me being the third one?” I needed to know not only my mother’s heart who gave birth to me, but the feelings and emotions my adoptive mother was experiencing when I was born. For me, it would have been so cathartic. I believe having thoughts written down in a notebook like you have done Lori could be such a valuable keepsake as well for those adoptees who don’t get to experience open adoption. ♥

  5. Your son is so truly blessed to have you and his birth mom in his life. He really is. And I have a feeling, from what you’ve written so far, that even at the tender age of 8 he knows this somehow. He seems like a very special little boy.

    Thank you for sharing all of this. It means a lot to me to read it and to understand what it’s like for a family created through open adoption. As someone who’s family was affected by closed adoption I love to hear of the positives that can come from a different arrangement. I wish my sister’s adoption had been open. Very much.

  6. What a great idea to have all those thoughts and feelings written down. I have my stuff written down, but I never thought to have anyone else write things. Also, I think it’s a great idea to get the kids to work through these ideas throughout their whole lives rather than just “when they’re ready.”

    Reed seems to be taking things in stride – and it seems like he has a good sense of humor. That will ease his way through life – laughing at yourself makes you more capable of laughing other things off instead of taking them to heart.

  7. So awesome Lori, just awesome.

    If the birthmom we’re matched with is alright with this, I’d like to do the same. I think it’s a wonderful ‘keepsake’ to help demonstrate all of the emotions around this transitioning time.

    And yes…keep talking about it.

    Funny, I shared this quote with an uncle the other day that you, oh wise one, once shared with me. I’m reminded of it by this post today:

    “That which we resist, persists”.

    So true.

    ….really grateful that you are sharing this. Amazing.

  8. Lori, you are such an incredibly thoughtful and loving mother. The way you handled your son’s questions, the memory book, the mindful way you raise your kids, and most of all, the inclusive, open relationship you have with the children’s first parents. I am just in awe of your mad skillz.

  9. so beautiful it made my eyes a little misty. you have such a beautiful way with words on paper (or computer screen) and in life with your son. he is such a gentle soul, so loving. I bet he loves big and hurts big – cradle that boy’s heart, it’s so precious (which i’m sure you do).

  10. These posts are so important. Thank you for sharing these important and difficult conversations with us. I know they’ll help me when it’s time to have complicated conversations with Sunshine about our family.

    I passed along your URL to someone I met at last weekend’s SMC conference who is starting the adoption process. I gushed a bit about your awesomeness!

  11. I’ve been wanting to read this when I had time…when I could soak it all up, to really hear it. I am admitting to you at this moment, that from the moment Reed said “no one wants to give up their baby” I have been a blubbering idiot. I am sitting here at this desk, in work mode and my heart is just FULL of love and light and understanding and such deep admiration for you for sharing all of this with us.

    I don’t even know what I want to say because I feel so many different feelings at this moment. But I will tell you that this series touches me in places i didn’t think it would. You are raising such amazing people..Lori. You being amazing is implied.

    I am sorry I can’t be more succint or write a better comment, even my writing sounds like it’s blubbering…but that’s how I feel.

    I loved this, I love you..and I wish only love for your family. Always.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. We are in the middle of pursuing open adoption and I often wonder how these conversations will happen and when. I think the questions you asked were great, gently nudging him to express his own feelings. I hope when the time comes I can handle these topics with as much grace as you. Love the idea of the journal too! Happy ICLW 🙂

  13. I’m always stuck with your posts on how you meet parenting and questions from your children head on. You address and and examine all the thoughts and feelings behind it. Like you said, living mindfully. I have so little experience with this in many ways and it always seems so different from what I’m used to but yet so loving and strong. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. I love that you have that notebook for him; that you had the forethought to do that. I think it’s impossibly difficult for kids to put themselves truly in the shoes of another beyond imagining things they have already experienced themselves, so it is a very sensitive child who can do that, who can empathize like that.

  15. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I can just picture your gentle, insightful, compassionate little family. Truly inspiring.

    Happy ICLW.

  16. Before I read any further, I have to share how much I love this part of the beginning of your post:

    “Now some would be content to leave this stone unturned, that not everything has to be dealt with. But my view is that what lies dormant affects us unconsciously. And what is brought to the surface can be felt, examined, and released. My hope is that if my son can become aware of his emotions and motivations at age 8, maybe they won’t get buried over the decades and erupt for him massively later in life. I want to give my children a head start on living mindfully, consciously.”

    I am sure the rest of your post is as awesome, but this in and of itself is such great parenting in action… So proud of you! xoxo

    Okay, back to read the rest and I will return to comment again afterwards. 🙂

  17. What a great post. I too love that you had the presence of mind to bring and ask for contributions to Reed’s notebook back then and over the years. What an incredible gift to be able to give your son, especially as the years pass and he grows to understand and digest his experience of adoption on various levels. How sweet that he slept with his special book that night too.

    As I have shared before, I so appreciate everything you share here about your open adoption experiences with your children and their birth parents. As the sister, sister-in-law and Aunt/Godmother to a family who is part of an open adoption is really helps me to understand and be more supportive of their experience. Thank you.

    I look forward to reading your follow up piece to these last two posts about your conversations with Reed. I like when you do these “series” posts, very interesting and they definitely make me think.

  18. Lori,
    Part 1 and part 2 were two-tissue posts, each. I love that you had the emotional intelligence to encourage your son not only to stand in his birth mothers shoes when she was giving him to you, but to think about his OWN feelings. As an adult adoptee, I say thank you.

  19. A few weeks ago I sold a copy of my adoption memoir, ‘Umbilicus’, to a woman (referred to me by a friend of a friend) who had just become an aunt to an adopted baby boy named Zion. She wanted to gift the book to her brother & sister-in-law, to provide them with insights on some of the issues faced by many closed adoption adoptees, like myself, & Baby Zion, the world over, especially during the difficult teenage years. Baby Zion was just a couple of days old at that stage & his birth mother was still in the hospital. She hadn’t returned home yet, which was a several hour drive away. I asked her [the aunt] to ask the adoptive parents to ask the birth mother to please write her / their son a little ‘love letter’ before she left town, which they could keep somewhere safe, & give to their son when the time was right. Just being able to read a personal letter from the woman who gifted you life, written in her own hand, explaining her love for you, her hopes for you, & her personal circumstances at the time of your birth which resulted in her reasons for relinquishing you, provides an infinite amount more acceptance & healing & closure than a stark adoption agency file or official birth record ever can. I know from personal experience. This is what my own birth mother did for me…

    27th May 1990

    To my darling child, whom I do not know

    Every year when it’s your birthday, not to mention the countless times in between, I sit down to write this letter. Until now, I have been unable to accomplish what I set out to do.

    This year in August you will be sixteen years old, and once again I am putting pen to paper. If you are reading this, then it means I was finally able to make contact with Durban Child Welfare (the first time in person since you were born), and leave this letter on record for you.

    Sixteen is such a wonderful age to be, and I wonder what being sixteen means to you. Maybe one day I will know.

    There are a number of reasons for writing this letter, but mainly:
    — In the event of your wanting to know the reason why you were adopted
    — If I should die or, for whatever reason, not be able to answer questions you may have, questions I can only anticipate
    — If you ever wanted to meet me

    I want you to know that I welcome you with love and understanding. When the time comes, and I pray it does, I hope I will be ready and able to deal with it in such a way that does justice to all of us.

    It is virtually impossible for me to convey my feelings concerning your birth and adoption in this letter. I do, however, feel it is important to let you know that your father and I were married, and loved each other dearly, when you were conceived. It was an unforgettably painful decision to make. Nonetheless, for your sake, I knew it was the best decision at the time. I ask your forgiveness if I caused you hurt or anger or sadness. If you feel that I had no right to make that decision, I am sorry. Forgive me.

    From a purely selfish aspect I regret that I gave you away because it has caused so much pain. Pain in longing for you. Pain in years of uncertainty regarding your happiness. Pain in years of guilt, in case you were emotionally traumatised because of the adoption.

    For ten years there was a bottomless void of not knowing anything about you. When you were ten years old, the adoption laws changed. I immediately contacted Child Welfare. There, they told me that you were very much loved, a happy child, with parents who cared for you deeply, and grandparents who adored you. They told me that you and your mother had a very special and close relationship. My pain eased. But I feel very strongly that I want to hear these things from you. I will accept anything. Be it your anger, your hatred, your love and understanding, or even your indifference. Please let me know about you.

    Your father and I got divorced and parted shortly before your birth. We hold no animosity towards each other, just sadness and some good and loving memories. Six years after that I met a wonderful man and re-married. He was also divorced, and raising two little boys of seven and nine. We went on to have another son of our own. They are all very dear to me, and I love them very, very much.

    My husband knew about you from the beginning. The two older boys were told when they were about sixteen or seventeen. They accepted the circumstances with compassion and understanding. My youngest, who is only eight now, has not been told yet, because I think he is still too young to understand. I will tell him when the time is right. After all, he needs to know that somewhere out there he has a half-sister.

    Maybe one day we will get to know you, and grow to love you too. My darling child, I give you my love — that is all I have and long to give.

    Yours always

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