There’s something I’ve been mulling over and tossing around and wanting to write about, but I know that it’s potentially a ticking time bomb. It’s a sensitive matter. It’s one that I know most people would feel uncomfortable talking about, and so I think we don’t. I might be wrong about that, but I’ve yet to really have the conversation with anyone but my husband.
I’m talking about adoption and biological kids, and the dangling question that I’m sure most people have for families like ours, but are too scared to ask…
“Do you love them differently?”
When Chris and I were first dating and things were getting serious we had the “kid” talk. You know, the one where you share your dreams about future family and hope that you’re both on the same page. Well, we weren’t. In fact, it was almost a deal breaker for us. Chris was ALL about adoption. He would have been satisfied to just adopt. I had thought about adoption and fostering and in my heart the bug was there, but I had always also dreamed of having birth children. We talked, and talked and finally came to terms with it. If we got married we wanted one of each, but we decided that we’d start with adoption.
Now, this adds a whole other dynamic to the mix. Because, when you adopt first, people assume you are unable to have birth children. For the record, this is not always the case, and I think in todays times as people are becoming more aware of the need for adoption, it’s becoming less the case. Many families are adopting out of choice and a lot are starting their families that way.
We believe in birth control and so we planned our family out. We went through the adoption process with Olivia, and when we knew that was coming to a close we opened ourselves up for another baby, this time one that had our genetic markers. A month after we got back to Canada I was pregnant (for the record, it didn’t happen immediately, it took a few months). We weren’t a situation where we were desperately trying and couldn’t get pregnant, so we adopted, then BAM! Along comes number two. Sorry if that’s what you were thinking. We DO feel completely blessed that God honored the desires of our hearts and gave us our sweet kids in the way we had hoped they would come along, and at the time that we felt was good for our family.
So that finds us here. We have our amazing fireball of a daughter, and our sweet, smiling little boy.
And so the question is hanging there. Do we love them differently? Does the fact that one came from my womb affect things?
The short answer is yes. But it’s complicated.
I think like any parents with more than one child you realize that you have this crazy amount of love for your kids. Period. You can’t explain it. It’s just there. And it’s deep. But, because your kids personalities are different, you do love them differently. You love different qualities about each one. And you connect with each one differently.
I think Chris summed it up well when we were first talking about this. When Olivia came home to our family, her situation was one where she needed a family. We felt a need to protect her. As we went through her adoption process, we had to literally fight for her, to advocate for her. We had to be her champions because she could not do that for herself. She was vulnerable and helpless. She needed a family to go to bat for her. We were it.
Alex, on the other hand, came to us under different circumstances. He came into this world already having a place in a family that could provide for him in every way he would need. We didn’t have to fight for him, but rather got to go through the process of watching him grow and become part of us. We didn’t have to convince anyone that he should be ours, he just was. He still needs us to be his advocates, to do what is best for him, but it’s in a different way than Olivia needed.
It was different and so we have different types of feelings for our kids. Their circumstances surrounding their becoming part of our family were as different as night and day, so it’s only natural that those circumstances bring a lot of different feelings along with them. BUT, neither is greater or lesser than the other. Just different.
We love our kids desperately. I’m so grateful that we had 3 1/2 years with Olivia before Alex came along. We’ve gotten to know her intimately. We’ve gotten to enjoy watching her go through all the early development milestones. We got to experience her firsts. We’ve watched her take the world in around her and figure out what it is and how to do life in it. We’ve had countless moments where we look at her and thank God that he trusted us enough to be her parents. We are so blessed by her sweet heart. She is so compassionate. She is so funny. She is so smart. She is so energetic. She is so many things. And we LOVE all of it. Endlessly. Unconditionally.
We’ve got some great books about adoption, and others that just talk about a parents love for their child. One is called I Love You So Much, and one of the parts says, “I love you so much. How much is so? Way, way more than you know!” Olivia knows we love her more than she will ever understand.
Having gone through the process of carrying Alex in my body was an entirely different experience of becoming a parent than I went through with Olivia. With Olivia, I remember sitting in her room that was all ready and wondering when we would get the call and who that little baby would be. With Alex, I got to feel him moving inside me. I got to see him on the ultrasound screen. I got to get to know his movements and hiccups and quiet times before I ever met him. After having gone through a miscarriage, carrying a baby had a whole different meaning to me as well. To see that heartbeat on the first ultra sound had me in tears. There was a life inside me. Until the time that I delivered him and heard him cry, I think there was still part of me that thought something would go wrong, that it wasn’t going to be real. When I heard him cry for the first time, and they put him on my chest, I became a blubbering, laughing ball of goo. Just ask my husband.
I love that every day I’m falling more in love with him. That I see things that are like Chris in him, like shared birth marks, or chin dimples. I love that I see myself in him, in his chill nature and his sunny disposition. I love that he is a blend of who we are, but also a whole person unto himself that we will get to discover and learn in the same way we did with Olivia. It’s already been so fun. And it’s fun to see how different our kids are from each other, how different the stages are between them. What we experience with Olivia is not and won’t be the same with Alex. He’s his own little person.
Do I love Alex any more than I love Olivia?
No. The experiences of opening my heart up to them have just been so very different.
I am so grateful that we’ve been entrusted with Olivia, and I’m so grateful that we’ve been entrusted with Alex. When we look at our kids, we see and feel very deeply the responsibility of being their parents. It’s scary. It’s HUGE. Sometimes I think God is crazy for trusting us so much. Sometimes I feel very ill equipped. Many times I feel very honored. God picked each of our kids specifically for us. They just came to us in different ways. And, through those journeys we’ve learned so much about so many different things.
One thing that has been interesting for me, as a mom, having one adopted child, and now a birth child is how I view adoption. When we adopted Olivia, because of what we know about her birth story, we know that her mom made a decision that she thought was best. I have always respected that deeply. In my mind I think I thought I understood. Now that I’ve gone through the process of carrying a child and looking into his sweet face every day, I have to face the reality of just how hard her decision must have been. Even if she was believing it was the best thing, I can’t imagine how hard it was for her. I don’t personally know exactly what it was like, but I can imagine a bit of it. Could I do it? I honestly don’t know. It would kill me to know that I couldn’t give him what he needed. In the first two weeks of his life my milk hadn’t come in and he wasn’t getting enough to eat. It almost did me in emotionally to know that I couldn’t give him what he needed, or that no matter how hard I tried in those first weeks it wasn’t enough. And that was just a small thing in the big picture. Having a birth child after adopting has broken my heart in a new way for adoption. Not something I expected.
Our kids are individuals. We love things about them, and we have a hard time with certain things, just like we do with anyone. How they became part of our family has no bearing on that. They ARE our family, and we love them with the same amount of ourselves, we care for them the same way, and we simply see them as ours. I hope that as people learn and know our family they see that, and that it speaks to them about the love that our heavenly Father has for us. I know I’ve been challenged that way.