Thursday, February 10, 2011

Do the boys ever wonder why I "kept" them and not their sister?

A comment was left on my last post asking (I hope I paraphrase correctly) if my children who I currently parent question why they are still living in a less than ideal family situation that caused me to choose adoption for their sister.  She wondered if they perceive that they have to live in circumstances that their sister was “spared from”.  I love that she asked that question.
Before I answer that directly, here is the background.
When all of my children were born (with the exception of Brit), I was married to their father.  Our family was intact and our home life was stable.  It was only after they were older that I was divorced, living as a single parent.
Brit was being born into a world where her parents were not married, her mother had just moved 3 times in one year, and I didn't feel like I had enough of me to share with a baby who deserves so much more.
Her birthfather and I are close to 40, and we were trying really hard to juggle being a single parent to the combined 5 boys we already had.
Brit was entering into a situation where she would be at a disadvantage from birth.  Not that we couldn't do it.  Financially we are very stable with a great family support network.  We just weren’t prepared for a baby at this juncture in our lives.
We kept coming back to the idea that when we had out other children we were looking forward to bringing home a baby and all of the responsibility that entailed.  We wanted Brit to have the same great start that her brothers had.  We wanted her to have parents who were anxiously awaiting her arrival. (And I will assure you, her parents were so cute those last few weeks – they were certainly anxious!)
Once we met with her parents (and the other couple we also interviewed), her birthfather and I realized that while we were trying to figure out how we could make it work for us to parent a child without being married, there was a family who was waiting, praying and longing for the chance to make their family complete with a perfect baby. (Yes, we believe she is perfect!)
It almost seemed selfish of us to keep her after we realized how much her parents had to offer and how we were nowhere near ready for the undertaking of another child.
With that said, I still think she would have had a perfectly good life with us. We would have (and still do) loved her and she would have been given all kinds of attention from us and her brothers.  
But I do wonder if me keeping and parenting Brit would have caused so much stress on my relationship with her birthfather that it would have driven us apart?  Let’s just say that our relationship was as new as my pregnancy – if you can catch the inference.  We had not even really gotten to know each other well.  We were definitely not in a position to make decisions about blending our families and committing to forever together.  We had been dating 10 weeks when I found out that I was about 8 weeks pregnant.  (I know how bad that sounds – the good news is we are still together over a year and a half later and I have fallen more in love with him as time has gone on!)
With that in mind, had her birthfather and I tried to quickly pull things together without a strong foundation of a relationship I am afraid Brit would have been destined to the same situation as her brothers.  And I don't wish that on any child.
Yes, we could have done it.  Looking back now, do I think we should have made a different decision?  A case could be made for both choices.  I don't believe there is any one single right answer.  No one really knows what the outcome would have been if we would have chosen to parent.  There is no magic crystal ball to show the future, and definitely no way to know how things might have been different.
As for how her brothers feel about Brit living with a different family, they are sad that they don’t get to see her.  They, like me, assumed they would have a limited relationship with her.  But I don’t think they ever think that I loved Brit more than I love them because I chose a different family for her.  They understand completely how complicated our life is right now.  But it is our complicated life and while it is not ideal, it is certainly not bad. 
My boys do not go without. While being children with divorced parents is not ideal, it is generally stable.  So I don’t think they feel slighted.  It is not as if Brit went to live with a filthy rich couple on the coast.  She lives with a stay at home mom and a dad who is a teacher.  They live in a house like ours, 10 minutes from where we live.  I believe the boys feel like she has the same kind of life, just different parents. 
And for any adoptive couple out there wondering – that is exactly why we chose the parents we did.  We wanted Brit to have the same kind of upbringing that our boys are experiencing.  We hope that they have commonality when they are older.  That is why we chose this couple instead of the other wonderful couple we interviewed (is that the right term?  seems harsh.) They live on a huge ranch out in the country.  While we absolutely loved them as a couple, and we knew our child would be well cared for and loved, they have a completely different lifestyle than what we live.
So I think Brit living with a different set of parents has been similar to how their half brothers live with their other families too.  Obviously the difference is they have a relationship with them because we still get to have them in our lives.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) my boys know what it is like to share a sibling with a different set of parents. 
And to be quite honest, I was very concerned how they would handle the adoption.  But because there was no secret to it even from the beginning, they seemed to just deal with it, as strange as it is. 
They met her parents.  They like them.  They know she is happy, healthy and well cared for.  They see pictures and get updates about her.  We keep her picture on our mantle right next to theirs.  She is a topic of conversation. We laugh at the stories about her funny actions, just like we would a story about a cousin who might not live near us.  Because we only focus on the joy, they seem to see her adoption as a good thing.  They know that it has allowed me more time with them. 
But they do ask when they will get to see her.  They are hopeful that it will be soon.  And when they ask, I just tell them that someday we will.  And that seems to satisfy them for now.  It does make me sad when they say, “Is Brit’s mom ready for us to meet her yet?”  I have explained to them that new parents, especially parents who have adopted a child, like to have time to feel like they are a family.  They seem to accept that as a good reason why they haven’t met her yet.  And honestly it rarely comes up.
So, I hope that her birthfather and I stay together forever and she will have the benefit of knowing us as a couple.  And I have no reason to believe that her parents would ever be divorced. But if they ever do divorce, it would not change whether or not I would have chosen them to be her parents.  We all have to live assuming the best.  Nothing is ever certain.  We make decisions based on the knowledge we have at the time, since no one can predict what the future holds.
So as sad and conflicted as I am, it is not because I chose adoption for my daughter.  It is because I haven't been able to have the openness in my adoption that I thought I would be able to enjoy.
But there is still time for that.  And I will continue to pray for all of our hearts to mend and for our relationship to grow.  And I am thankful that my children have the peace and understanding that they do for the sister they do not get to see yet.
Yes, that is a pained smile on J's face.  Sometimes it is hard to smile when your little brothers are driving you crazy.

1 comment:

birthmothertalks said...

Thanks for blogging about my question. I always wonder how children who were born first handle adoption loss from when a child after them was placed for adoption. I think in someways, it might be more a normal part of their life because there isn't the big surprise moment they learn that they have a sister out there but knew very little about her. I am thinking it makes adoption and the child easier to talk about. Especially when it was a closed adoption. My boys have met their sister and only time will tell what kind of relationship will form from it.