Sunday, June 7, 2009

adopted vs biological: can you love as much?

I am the mother of ten children. Seven are biological, and my youngest three are adopted from the foster care system.
As a biological mother, I’ve read many parenting books and even taken some classes. No one seems to doubt that a biological mother loves her child totally and unconditionally.
As an adoptive mother, I still read a lot of books, take classes, and I’ve joined some adoption groups over the internet. This has been invaluable to me, helping me learn issues I didn’t know would exist, as I’ve gotten to know all members of the ‘triad’: adoptive mothers like me, birth mothers who have given up or lost their children, and the adoptees, themselves.

One thing I was not expecting is the statement I hear on a regular basis: “There is no way you can love an adopted child the same way you love a biological child.”  I am taken aback by this statement. It causes the mother bear in me to rise up.

My biological children grew in my body.  I saw them for the first time after giving birth, a time full of blood, pain and much effort. They were placed in my arms, wet and warm, and they were mine from the moment of their conception.

My adopted children came to me differently. My first adopted child was taken from his first mother at birth. He was actually my oldest daughter’s foster child, and came into her foster home to join his older brother and sister, who it seemed would soon be released for adoption, and my husband and I were pursuing out license hoping to adopt. In the end, the mother got the older children back, but relinquished her baby. Although his caseworker planned on our adopting him, there was another social worker who was determined to place him somewhere else, and thus began my ‘labor’ with him. It was also long, hard and painful, and full of tears before God intervened. I still look at this little boy with awe; I can hardly believe he is my son, even now, four years later.

Our second adopted child came to our own foster home at the age of two years and seven months. It was a year before we knew what would happen with her, as her sweet, mentally ill, drug addicted mother struggled and fell. There was no doubt she loved her daughter, but she couldn't keep herself safe, much less a little girl. A year and eight months after she came to live with us, this little girl became our daughter.

About six weeks after her adoption was final, her baby brother entered our foster home. He was one day shy of six months old. He had been in the hospital for two weeks, then in a foster home, then with some family members. But when it was obvious the parents would not make it once again, the family asked if we would adopt him and let him grow up with his sister.  We finalized his adoption a year later, and he is our son now, too.
Do I love these three children as much as I love my seven biological children? That is not a question that crosses my mind.  I am the mommy now. The training of these little lives is in my hands, just like it is for the children I gave birth to.

I have held my little adopted daughter as she grieved for the first mommy she lost. I have spent hours researching, trying to make sure I say the right things, feel the right way, and allow her what she herself needs to feel. I have learned not to be threatened by a mommy that was there first. Just as I have been there for my older children during the love losses in their lives, I am here for this vulnerable little girl.

I have sat up nights during the asthma attacks and RSV of my first adopted son. The fear watching him struggle to breath could not have been greater if I had given birth to him. I have prayed over his head just as I have prayed over the heads of my biological babies.

I have worked through the attachment problems of my second adopted son, who had too many mommies during his first six months of life to learn to trust anyone. I stood strong as he pushed me away, and cried tears of joy as he finally accepted me as his mother.

I know that the big toe of my youngest biological daughter is shorter than her other toes. I know the middle toes of my youngest adopted son are shorter than his other toes. I know where a freckle is that no one else can see on the body of one of my biological children, and I know where a freckle is that no one else can see on the body of one of my adopted children. I know where the birth marks are on the chest and foot of one of my biological sons, and where an almost identical birth mark is on the back of my adopted son’s leg. I know that my adopted daughter’s toenails don’t grow just right, just like I knew where a ‘bump’ was on the foot of my oldest biological daughter.
I know my twelve year old daughter is not ready to stay alone in the house by herself. I know my adopted daughter still cries in her sleep. I know both my biological and adopted daughters love Polly Pockets and American Girl dolls. I know my oldest adopted son wants to be just like his big brothers.

I have held the heads of all ten children as they threw up. I have changed diapers on them all. I have kissed them when their noses were runny. I have watched in terror as they came running to me dripping blood. I have walked the floors with them; I have rolled on the floor in play with them. I am their mommy. They are my children

We are a family. Everyone one of us is different, and yet, we are alike as we live together. The Bible says in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
I know I would die for any of my ten children. I don’t have time for anyone who tries to tell me I couldn’t possibly love my adopted children as much as my biological children. I’m too busy raising and loving them for that!

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