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What If?

What if I hadn’t ended up with the children I have?

The thought is an unsettling one.

The adoption road is multi-forked with countless paths not taken. Indeed, all of one’s life is (each time you choose one thing you forgo the other things), but adoption tends to make a family especially aware of untrod paths. Here are some that I wonder about.

What if we had tried another round of IVF? Would I have ended up with a biological child? Would I have been able to buck the astronomical odds and give that child a sibling? Would I have ended up with nothing other than depleted savings and retirement accounts? Would I have shortened my life by the long-term effects of all those hormones?

What if Crystal’s first choice to be parents of her unborn daughter had said “yes”? What if Michele had chosen a different adoption agency through which to place her son, an agency we were not working with?

The implication of each of these simple questions is profound. What if Tessa and Reed hadn’t ended up as my children?

I find it difficult to go there. It is unfathomable. We are so tightly interwoven that it seems there is no way we could have NOT come together in the way we did.

These are some of my What Ifs. But there are others in my home, as well.

My children are beginning to understand they, too, have paths not taken. Tessa, 9,  is in contact with both Joe and Crystal, her birth parents. She sees them parenting (separately) her half-siblings. She’s been to their homes. She wonders aloud, on occasion, what it would be like to live with Joe and/or Crystal. Would she have a dog? Would she have her own room? Would she have fewer chores, a later bedtime, more Dr Pepper? What would it feel like to see her own face in those of the people raising her?

Reed, 7, has not yet vocalized his thoughts about living with either/both of his birth parents. But he did ask the other day:  what if someone else had become his parents? While his sister sees the singular possibility of her biological parents raising her, Reed gets that he could have ended up with, well, just about anyone.

Except that he didn’t. She didn’t. I didn’t and my husband didn’t. All roads converged here.

At the center of my universe.

Image: my family’s portrait by Mary Elizabeth Graff


Bloggers from the ALI (Adoption, Loss, Infertility) community are writing about WhatIfs for National Infertility Awareness Week, April 24 to May 1, 2010. To add your own thoughts, link here.

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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19 Responses

  1. At her recent presentation in Connecticut, BJ Lifton talked about this in terms of the two “ghost” lives of adoptees.  Our children were born into a life they did not live and they live a life to which they were not born.

    Heady stuff.

    After years in the adoption community, I do truly believe that somehow – through chance, through fate, through God (if you believe) – we end up with the children we were meant to parent and our children end up with the parents they were meant to have….for better or worse!

  2. Interesting to think of.  I like what Debbie above said that by some means we all end up where we are supposed to be.  It’s something I want to believe is true. 

  3. Heady, indeed.

    I think that we choose each other and the experiences we can give each other at a soul level, as well.

  4. this is so powerful, to consider the paths not taken. it seems so unfathomable now that this is your life too.

    so interesting the differences between tessa and reed’s approach, too.  you articulate it so well.  lovely post.

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  7. I have those what if moments too- both about Liam and about my own adoption.  I try not to dwell on them, but take them out and examine them in curiosity every now and then.

  8. I think I am like Tessa – I try to sometimes rearrange the past in my mind, so that I have everything I have now, but with a little more.

    Love Debbie and Luna’s thoughts too…

  9. That is a lot of food for thought!  I am not a religious person, but I do tend to believe that the universe has a way of knowing who and what needs to go where and places them accordingly.  I wonder if Reed’s perspective will change as he gets older?

  10. Great post!  🙂   You always make me think and open me up new thoughts and views!  And I gotta check out what’s up w/ my reader!  I keep missing you’ve posted for some reason!

  11. gosh, I hold my breath reading these, yours was so powerful…so deeply personal, and I feel that I need to say THANK YOU For sharing it with us.

    the road less traveled is what this “What IF” is all about isn’t it? I know that your children are where they belong, and I hope that my what if Is answered deep in my heart soon.

    loved this post.

  12. Adoption…there are so many sides to it…not just for us as adoptive parents, but for our children too…

    Thanks for giving them a voice.

  13. Beautiful What IF.  I know that adoption may end up being the road we take…I have friends who are adopted, and know those who have taken your path.  Children end up where they should be, hopefully.  You are giving them opportunities that perhaps no one else could.  Thank you for sharing.

  14. A beautiful post, Lori, and one that has been swirling around in my head/heart since I read it. There is a part of me that resists the idea of karma, or that we are born into the circumstances we need in order to grow spiritually – i struggle with the existence of great suffering. But yet I cannot help but believe that C is the child I was meant to have, and that there are blessings in his story that I cannot even imagine and most likely will never know about, because they are for him to reveal and discover and learn from. So I guess I do believe this – with some ambivalence, but yes, I do.

    I am so glad Tessa and Reed found their way to you – for all your sakes.

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