From the outside, our house probably appears loud and chaotic—we do have a lot of kids, after all. But inside our home and our hearts, we are experiencing the blessings of building our family through adoption and all of the joy and complexity that comes with it. And if I’m honest, things can get a little crazy from time to time, especially as we manage multiple birth family relationships on top of it all. But what may seem like chaos to others is actually lots of little hearts overflowing with people who care for and value them and one another.
It is a gift and privilege to be able to share some of the ways our family has navigated relationships with multiple birth families. Here is a snapshot of our family—my husband and I along with 6 amazing children who all came to us in different ways. One is biological, four are adopted (from 3 different birth families, I might add) and one has been placed with us through kinship care. We are a big, beautiful mix and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
With every child coming into our home in their own unique way, we have become really well-versed in navigating the differing needs and dynamics. However, it certainly didn’t start out that way. Our first adoption was of two-year-old twin girls who came to us with a history and memory of their birth family. Because our girls spent the first two years of their life with their birth mom, it was really important for them that we maintain a relationship with her. She did raise them for two whole years, after all, and there was a major attachment that had already taken place. I’ll admit that in the beginning, I didn’t fully understand the significance of their relationship. But after witnessing them all together on multiple occasions, I quickly realized the unbreakable love and bond they shared together. And if I’m honest, there have been times when I felt threatened by this bond; however, my love for my girls has allowed me to embrace their whole life story (even the parts that happened before I was in it). The people who are significant to them have become significant to me. And it is because of their birth mom’s sacrifice that we get to be their parents and I will forever be grateful to her for that.
And since they knew her as their mom, it just made sense that they would continue to refer to her as “Mommy Tabatha” even though I was now their mom too. Calling and referring to her as mommy and birth mom, most accurately describes her role as their first mom and the important place she has in their life. And I believe those titles has helped them to understand how we all fit together in their life story. This experience with the twins really helped pave the way for us to learn to embrace and celebrate our children’s birth families and see the value and importance of maintaining an ongoing relationship with them.
In adopting our youngest son, I had the opportunity to meet his birth mom and start building a relationship with her from early on in her pregnancy. It was a privilege that she welcomed me in and shared her pregnancy journey with me. As a woman that has given birth and left the hospital without my baby (due to late term miscarriage), I had a deep level of respect for what she was choosing to endure for the sake of her baby. So, in adopting our youngest son, it was only natural to also refer to his birth mom as “Mama Bri”. Even though he couldn’t quite comprehend what having a birth mom meant, he never questioned or doubted that name for her. Someday, he will fully understand her significance and the special place she has in his life. Having a title that accurately describes her will make sense to him eventually and I truly hope he will appreciate it. And as his mom, it gives me peace of mind knowing that we’ve been honest with him and his adoption story right from the start.
Another cool result of using the names “mommy”, “mama” and “birth mom” for our children’s birth moms is that it has really helped all of the kids in the family to understand each other’s unique stories. They can see how all adoptions look a little different and it also gives them all something to bond over, even if they don’t all share a biological connection to one another. They can all relate and understand each other on a deeper level, which I’m sure will be very significant to them in the years to come. Even if kids at school don’t have second families or birth families, this is a fact that ties all of our children together with a special bond.
To Be Continued…