On an adult adoptee's blog, this letter from an adoptive mother:
I enjoy reading your blog and was hoping you wouldn't mind my asking you a question.
According to the laws of our and another country, I am an adoptress of two little girls. Now, I do NOT call myself a parent. I am NOT their mother and they are not allowed to call me "Mama" or "Mom" or "Mommy" or anything like that; I am Miss XXX and I am an adoptress. Likewise, my husband is NOT their father. Our parents are NOT allowed to call themselves grandparents and the girls are not allowed to call them as such. Our siblings are not allowed to call themselves Aunt or Uncle. We are NOT their "forever family".
Their mother is dead; she died giving birth to them. We have continued contact with their father and family, including siblings and uncles, in the country in which they were born; THEY are their forever family. We visit 4 times a year for 2 weeks at a time and are making preparations to move to that country so that they can grow up surrounded by their own culture and so that they can know their family. I am not naive enough to believe that this will, in any way, make up for having been removed from their country originally and it will in no way be the same as if they were growing up as natives, with their parents. I realized too late my mistake in wanting to raise a child (the adoption had been finalized, but we hadn't yet traveled) and will spend the rest of my life attempting to make up for it for these little girls. I wish I could undo the past, but I can't. Before we left the country with the babies, we met secretly with their father with our own interpreter and asked him to please take the babies back, that we would pay for all of the medical care that they needed and support his entire family for the rest of their lives if he would only take them back and raise them (it would have taken so little from us to make this possible, and we are not wealthy by any means). Sadly, he considered them expendable; five children were enough. If they had been boys, I'm sure it would have been a different story. And if their mother had survived, I'm sure she would have gladly brought them back to her bosom.
The problem we are having now is that these little girls, who are now 3 andhave been with us since they were 5 months old (they are twins), are starting to ask why they can't call us "Mommy" and "Daddy". They don't understand why nephews and nieces can call their grandparents "Grandma" and "Grandma", but we won't let them do so. They know they have a Daddy, they know they have brothers and sisters and uncles. We send letters and pictures
and drawings and there are photographs up all over the house. They know that they were "adopted". They know other "adopted" children via cultural events and ask why they call their adopters "Mommy" and "Daddy" but we won't allow them to do the same. They even know a foster child who calls his guardian "Mama".
Needless to say, we are not very popular in the "adoption" community, which is okay with me, but the girls are starting to wonder why they can never go to so-and-so's for a play date. Why some of the children are starting to tell them that their "Mommy and Daddy" don't want them playing with them because their adopters are "crazy". Even though we are only the adopters, we do love them and it hurts us to see them struggle with this. Sometimes, I want to cave and just say "it's just a name", but then I read yours, and others', blogs, and realize that it is NOT just a name and I want to honor that. I want to honor their mother. I want to honor their father. I bought the privilege of raising them (when I was doing it, I didn't think about it this way, as I had bought the story the agency gave us about why fees had to be charged, but I know now that I DID buy them). I bought the privilege of reading bedtime stories, kissing boo-boos, making cookies, doing their hair, teaching them to read. I don't need to be called by a name that I will never know (I've been in menopause since I was 13; I have premature ovarian failure and, instead of going through puberty, I got to have hot flashes). Don't get me wrong, if I COULD be a parent, I would love to be a parent. It just will never happen, and I was okay with that before I even graduated from high school. I did, however, want to raise children and thought that this would be an okay way to do it. I do know that I was wrong, dreadfully, horribly wrong, but I can't fix it. All I can do is try to do better for these girls and work to make sure that other children do not suffer from the naivete of adopters like myself, or even from the adopters who do realize what they are doing and try to pretty it up.
We are also not very popular in our family, who don't seem to understand why they are not allowed to take on names that don't belong to them. But, they are adults and they can deal with it. My only concern is for these girls. How can I help them around this issue? Do you have any ideas for "names" to call adopters that would respect the girls' family while at the same time be palatable to those, like yourself, who were taken/bought/stolen from their parents? They are starting to just want to be like everyone else, and I'm sure this will only become more difficult as they get older. What would have helped you understand this at their age? Am I contributing to the problem without seeing it? (I am only human and while I am trying, I make mistakes and will make plenty more before my time on this earth is through.) These girls didn't ask for this. In fact, they deserve so much better than this. I know I made the mistake, but is there anything I can be doing to help them?
I would be very thankful for any thoughts you may have and I support your work wholeheartedly. I believe that this system IS broken. It doesn't serve the children, and it doesn't serve the mothers. It only serves the adoption industry and adopters like myself. And I tell my girls that it was wrong, that my husband and I were wrong (in an age-appropriate way, of course; theolder they get, the more blunt I will become about what it was that I and my
husband did). I was just so naive. I remember learning from the social worker that their birth certificates would have OUR names on them, and I actually thought I could just ask them not to change the names of their parents, to leave them on there. It made no sense to me! I made color copies of their birth certificates and then changed the copies to put their parents' names back on there. I know that they aren't "legal" birth certificates, but they are the truth.
I am so sorry that anyone has to go through that which you and so many others have been.
OK, if you've read here long, you might think I'm pretty extreme in my insistence that my kids have two real moms, me and their birth moms. You might think we go too far to honor their first families. You might think me a little off plumb on the whole birth certificate thing. You might think we harp too much on heritage/culture/identity, going to the extreme of living in China for a time. But I only have one thing to say about this adoptive mom:
Or am I off plumb with that judgment? I want your take, so I'm putting up a poll. Not cool to have told you my opinion before polling, but I just couldn't hold back! And please comment. I'd especially like to hear from adoptees and birth moms on this one.