what everyone wants to know….

by lisha epperson

big love

Is adoption different from biological parenting?  Only 1 person has openly asked me (her sister just adopted 3 children) but I suspect the question is on everyone’s mind.  Because of my deep committment and utter allegiance to the children who were born in my heart, even I don’t like to think about it.  I dismissed the subject whenever my mind chose to wander and when I talked about it with my children( all of whom know about their adoptions ) I assured them that there was no way I could love another child more…even when I didn’t know what the answer would be or if it would matter.

So….as my youngest begins cruising and babbling I find myself exploring this topic…really letting myself “go there” … no matter what answers I find.

Yes.  There is a difference.  Not in parenting them but in how we connected.  I met LiChai on a sunny day in May of 2001 after struggling to conceive for 5 years.  I walked out of my cute and quaint railroad apartment in Brooklyn and travelled to the city to meet the boy that would save my life.  Hours later I was a Mama.  I was thrilled, overjoyed and frightened.  I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me.  I brought him to a place of unfamiliar sounds and smells and hoped he would one day call  it home.  It took 2 full weeks for him to sleep peacefully at night.  Visions of his 1st mother and subsequent caretakerss dancing in his head?  Perhaps. For me, I was dumbstruck in the fact that a woman had actually handed her baby to me.  Forever.  I was happy but the emotions and beauty behind the “transaction” had me in tears for weeks.

A similar pattern of events followed the arrivals of my two daughters.  By the 3rd time around I sort of had the hang of it.  I could “do” adoption in my sleep.

Ade’.  The only child born from my body was different.  I had carried this child in my womb and had felt and connected with his every movement.  I would stay up at night with my hands on my big balloon belly  watching reality tv – literally feeling him grow and change.  By the time he escaped from my insides I felt I knew him.  His body language was familiar to me.  I brought him home to the familiar voices of his father and siblings. He was at home and he knew it.  I on the other hand needed the 2 weeks to acclimate my “struggling to heal” body to the demands of  a newborn and 3 children under 10.  This was new territory.  I always returned home from my “delivery” feeling no physical difference.  Adoption deliveries are more emotional than physical and this time around my body fought to keep up with my miracle son and his siblings.

Giving birth is also different from adoption because I was amazed to find that I received his birth certificate and social security card within a week of bringing him home.  If you know anything about adoption you know this is almost unbelievable.  Adoption is nothing if not a dance of paperwork…documents to be submitted, signed, checked and rechecked and after all this you must WAIT.  Weeks, months, years…it is a tedious process.  So when you finally receive that birth certificate or social security card it is definitely cause for celebration. I also realized that I did not have to send pictures to the agency to be forwarded to his “birthmother”.  In fact I was the birthmother and no one else in this world could claim this title.  I could parent a baby without paperwork and promises to stay connected.  Still trying to wrap my head around that one…

Relationships are built on what transpires between two people …not the actual number of hours they’ve clocked together.  For Ade and I there was the luxury of a little more time and clearly a physical exercise that we got to perfect over the months that I carried him but there was no difference in the way that my heart opened to welcome each of them.  I, also was a different woman each time I became a Mama.  The unique time and circumstances that brought each of them to me had effected who I was.  LiChai got to be my very first child after a painfully long 5 year process.  He has the special place in my life as the boy who began my healing.  Ila was my surprise baby and very first little girl. What for me seemed to be the biggest bonus after so much grief and Chailah was the baby I knew would be coming because I didn’t feel our family was complete without her.  I felt her presence years before her actual arrival.  With each “birth” I was growing and changing…becoming more of myself.  Filled with more faith and belief in miracles and that is how I believe Ade’ was able to spring forth.  Because of all the love and joy I had experienced as a Mama,  I began to believe again and as the bible says it only takes a mustard seed of faith to set the ground work for a miracle.

I realize too that with adoption bringing the baby home is the beginning of the labor and delivery process.  Just as in a biological birth there is work to be done.   It usually involves blood, sweat, tears and a wonderful whopping dose of euphoria as you look into the face of this amazing new being.  Each time I birthed a child from my heart I had to labor through it.  Bleed, sweat and cry through it.  And then….. ahhhh… and then….the brilliance of first love, the soft kisses and tender skin…the melting of mind and body…literally breathing in their essence.  We bonded… we were in love…but it took time.

I spoke with a new mother the other day.  She shared her amazing, life transforming birth story and how she and her new son were bonding.  But she said that it felt weird because she didn’t understand such feelings of attachment for someone she barely knows.  I mulled this over for awhile and wondered how she could feel this way when she had carried and delivered this child.  Ade’ is everyday revealing more and more of himself to us but from the moment of his birth I felt I knew him.  With LiChai, Ila and Chailah I felt a similar instantaneous connection..not because of anything physical but because I had dreamed them so long that my first glances of them were heart stopping love connections…even if we had to work a little while to secure our relationship, I was clearly smitten and ready for the work that any relationship involves.

As an adoptive parent I have always been greatful for the ability to parent my children without imposing my personality and traits on them.  I felt that adoption allowed me to allow them to fully develop as “themselves”.  Now as a biological parent I hope I can parent Ade’ with that same, even, unbiased love.  I think its a gift to be allowed to grow into your own uniqueness without the shadows of your parents personality traits traipsing alongside you.

Another thing about those adoption “birth certificates”… they are what is termed amended. Meaning they have been falsified to hide the truth.  These documents imply that I gave birth to a  child and its always bothered me.  Being as open as I have been about adoption it annoys me to see this paper that tells a lie about how we came to be a family…something I am extremely proud of.  I wish it could tell the truth…as complicated as that may be.  On February 7th, 2001 a child was born to D.M.  She lovingly chose L.E. to mother this child. These two women have sworn on this day to honor each other and the child that connects them…..like I said its complicated but I wonder how much of this manner of recording information is based on adoption as it exists now or how it was back in the day when it was shrouded in shame and secrecy.   The openness and disclosure that is encouraged now, the freedom and ability to celebrate rather than hide…  I wonder.

Clearly this is a subject that is still being processed and I fully expect that perhaps I will have more to share on a later date but for now this is where I am.  Each of my children is God’s love made manifest to me in the earth.  Each of them has an equally magnificent story to tell about their entry into our family.  Each of them is equally loved and cherished.  Adoption and birth are different, but not in any significant way that would shape the love, devotion and connection I have with my children.  When you mother a child, truly mother and fully embrace a child as your own.  I am happy and yes, relieved to say that it just doesn’t matter.

copyright revision in process 2013