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World Adoption Day: Family is more than blood

Bronwen Stead

I have tried to sit down and write this article literally six times.

This is the seventh and will be the one, regardless. Why so many versions? That at least is easy to tell you, and it is because I don’t know what to say or how I feel. This is a complicated topic for me to write about this year, because my mind is in a thousand pieces about it, and that’s often when I don’t like to talk about it at all. I felt like I had somewhat pulled together my ideas around my own adoption, but becoming a mother myself has definitely changed that, and now I am not sure where I am.

But this is an important day for many of us so I commit that this will be published. Please be patient with me as we delve into this topic and also note – I do not claim to speak for all who are touched by adoption. Our community is vast and varied and as I have experienced this last year, we can even vary greatly within ourselves over time. These are my own jumbled thoughts.

A lot has happened in my world since I last posted on this topic (December 9 2014).

Two years ago I felt secure enough in myself and my life to publicly identify myself as an adopted person and to support World Adoption Day.

While it was scary at the time I also felt relieved. While some mates have never spoken to me about it, others talk to me openly about it and I value their support and their frankness. It truly helps to reduce the feeling of being different, that sense of “otherness”.

Last year I didn’t really stop to reflect on World Adoption Day. I had my own new baby boy at home with me, and found it was easier to have my mind wrapped up in his newborn needs than to pause and reflect. This year I have a bit more space to capture my thoughts and share with you.

Family is more than blood

If there is one message I can depart to you it is this. Blood and genetics and cells are nothing. Family is who shows up for you, who supports you, who celebrates you at your best and forgives you at your worst. Families come in all sorts of combinations, adoption is merely one of them. But all types of families are valuable.

Language can be tricky

Often in discussing my own adoption, people clarify that when I say mum and dad I mean my adopted parents. This always puzzles me, and even stings a little, but I appreciate that they are engaging in discussion rather than ignoring it. Yes, for me Mum and Dad are my parents that raised me. Language is a difficult issue for many who are adopted, we don’t have words to capture the range of different relationships and to add to the complexity many develop their own language or titles. For myself, on the rare occasion it comes up I refer to the woman who gave birth to me as my “birth mother”. She is no longer actively present in my life, though in a way she is always here.

Looks can also be tricky

I say it is rare that she comes up, but since the arrival of my beautiful red headed boy it comes up somewhat regularly as people ask where his red hair comes from. We could easily attribute this to George’s uncle also having red hair, but that would not be the whole truth. So my husband and I also say that my birthmother has red hair. This might not seem that significant but for me this is a step towards living authentically and not hiding this part of myself. And some days it is hard and I want to avoid it, but I challenge myself not to.

I remember as a child, people who didn’t know our background would often comment that I look more like Dad than Mum, with his darker hair and skin tone. I guess having this similarity made it easier in a way, as it was not immediately obvious we were not genetically related. I imagine this could be quite different for those who look quite different or are adopted from a different country. I wonder whether it makes it easier or harder, but of course it is different for everyone.

It’s still complicated

Before I had my own child, I think I was more understanding of my birth mother’s choice. Now that I have my own, I feel that understanding has reduced, or at least changed. I just can not conceive of not having my son in my life. I don’t think less of her, I don’t judge her, its just that I don’t understand it, I can’t relate. But that is where I see all I have to be grateful for in my world. I am in a position that I feel I am the best person to care for my son. I can not even conceive of the complexity of feeling that someone else would be in a better position to love and care for your child. My heart just can’t let me go there.

I can not imagine the burden of having a child that you do not get to see grow up. I hope it does not weight too heavily on her. We have met and she was in my life for a while. This is no longer the case, and that’s another story for another day. Some days I wish things were different, and as I watch my son learn and grow I am sad she does not get to witness it. I don’t know when or how I will explain this all to George. My own parents were always honest with me, which I think was the best way to be. All I can do is try and follow their example.

There are many different adoption stories and many different perspectives on the topic. This is just my own and I in no way claim to speak for anyone else who has been touched by adoption. All I can ask is that you take a moment to appreciate the complexity involved, and if you know someone who has been involved with adoption, from whatever angle, that you take the time to support them and understand that how they feel about it today may be different tomorrow. The kindest thing you can do is to ask them how they are going with it. If they want to talk they will, and if they don’t that’s ok too.

If you need help or support, you can contact Adoptive Families Association of the ACT on (02) 6247 0562, Office for Children, Youth and Family Support on 6207 1335, Adoption Mosaic – (02) 62919908 or Canberra Independent Adoption Support Group – (02) 6258 4420. 

Bronwen Stead

Bronwen loves to celebrate life and all things Canberra, which is why she is passionate about writing for HerCanberra and promoting the amazing people and activities that Canberra contains. She is a mother, wife and a creative with a passion for wellbeing and health. More about the Author

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