The Other “B” Word

by:  Craig Peterson

birth family2 Before anyone’s imagination runs wild, I’m not talking about that “B” word but the other one we know all too well.

“Birth families.”

For nearly all of us who’ve adopted – whether domestically or internationally, our children will bombard us with questions about their birth families. Probably sooner than later. Maybe they already have.

The conversation may be a once-and-done. Other parents will have a much rougher go that might last for years.

Over the past 17 years, I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum with my six children who come from two birth families. One hardly knew my kids, but the other had almost ten years of experience before termination of parental rights.

I should have seen the handwriting on the wall!

Several years after adopting my first sibling group, I decided to make contact with the birth mother through a mutual acquaintance. We briefly met, took pictures, and briefly met several more times. Although the birth mother followed my ground rules and enjoyed the visits, my four children had their fill.

Thankfully their curiosity was satisfied because the birth mother disappeared for the next decade. Since then, only my oldest daughter – with the most recollection – has expressed any desire for contact. And that’s been minimal.

Today as young adults, they thank me for letting them see her. They thank me for honoring their past. And let tell me you, they love me all the more for everything I’ve done. Case closed.

Unfortunately, my next experience wasn’t as neat and tidy.

Before my final two sons moved into my home for the pre-adoptive placement, their birth mother asked for semi-annual contact. It would come through the child welfare case manager who agreed to be the go-between until the adoption was finalized. Although I was open to the idea, I needed time to think.

Well, that plan went out the window.

Since the birth mother spilled the beans during her “final visit,” my sons assumed the plan was a go. They then meet me to the punch – even telling me about the “gifts” that she promised to send for Christmas and their birthdays.

And their fantasy began.

Still cautious, I allowed my sons to write letters and send school pictures. This resulted in six or seven large envelopes being sent to the case manager who forwarded them to the birth mother. After that, we waited and waited.

Every day for months my sons ran to the mailbox – hoping for a letter or a package. Nothing ever arrived. No letters ever returned as undeliverable. I even considered “mailing gifts for her.”

Then one of my sons accused me of hiding their Christmas presents.

With those hateful words, the damage had been done – even though I wasn’t sure initially of his target.

Shortly thereafter we went to court to finalize my sons’ adoption – more than a year after the initial placement. With the child welfare case closed, the case manager was unable to forward any more letters. And without an address for birth mother, our efforts to communicate stopped. But not the grief of two boys – 10 and 11-years-old.

In hindsight, my sons were re-traumatized – probably more than once.

When both became adults, they found their birth mother on Facebook. The long-awaited reunion began. Yet the fantasy this time around was short-lived.

Within several weeks my sons gave me an update and laughed.

“She lies more than the two of us combined.” And just like that, my credibility increased dramatically.

Lessons learned – wishing I had another chance.

D. Craig Peterson is a retired ATN Board Director. You name it, Craig has a story to share in achieving success and learning from mistakes as he raised six children to adulthood...all while maintaining faith and believing in unconditional love. He understands the ups and downs of learning challenges, special education, psychotropic medications, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, sexual abuse, juvenile justice, residential placement and so much more. In his upcoming book Adopting Faith: A Father's Unconditional Love, Peterson details his journey in raising six children who brought unbelievable challenges from their birth families and the foster care system. His parenting is a combination of typical and unconventional strategies." His blog is here: https://adoptingfaithafathersunconditionallove.org/

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