Mother’s Day & The Burden Of The Adopted Child

The times, they are a changing.

In terms of our openness about adoption and all things adoption related. I do believe that we are becoming more and more open about the challenges of being adopted and raising adoptive children. Obviously, with the WWW and the advent of social media, more and more people are having access to relevant and personal experiences and information and I believe this is a good thing.

For far too long, for too many generations, we just assumed that adoption was this beautiful, miraculous thing, without ever acknowledging that adoption is also loss and grief and so many complex emotions. Often times forcing adoptees to hide their true emotions, to live a lie and causing immeasurable additional pain to them. 

Acknowledging another’s pain, doesn’t take it away, but it does lessen the burden. It gives them the freedom to share their pain with you, it gives them the freedom to feel heard and acknowledged. And this is incredibly important to me. 

But I won’t lie, it also hurts me.

My husband and I have worked hard to create a safe environment for our children, where they are free to express the full pendulum of their emotions surrounding their adoptions. But it isn’t always easy and sometimes it’s downright painful.

Last week I came across this video on Facebook and it really spoke to me. The weekend before, Ava and I had been talking about her birth mother and in her 7 year old dialogue, she expressed exactly what Ryan is expressing here as a 30 year old man. 

Children are not stupid.

I think it’s a giant mistake to believe you can shield them or protect them from their adoption story. Because they are intuitive and they will know something is up. We have chosen instead to play open cards with both our daughters and at times it hurts, but it’s such an important part of maintaining our trust relationship and allowing them to feel secure, that they can talk to us about their complex feelings without fear of rejection.

The Tummy Mummy

Two weeks ago, Ava and I were talking one Saturday afternoon about Mother’s Day and what it all means. Of course, the topic of her Birth Mother came up and she told me that she wishes she never had to leave her tummy mummy, she wishes she could have stayed with her tummy mummy forever.

I wont’ lie, it hurt like a biatch to hear that. But at the same time, I understand that this is the complexity and the contradiction of her situation and her emotions. This is her reality. I don’t believe it means she loves me any less, I do believe it means that she feels conflicted and confused. 

On Mother’s Day, my husband overheard our girls talking about their Birth Mother’s and they were telling each other how when they are grown up they are going to go and live with their Birth Mother’s but they want us to come with them.

Adoption is a life long struggle with the complexities of it all.

I think about what my children say and I think about what Ryan shared in his video and there is no doubt in my mind that adoption is very very complicated for everyone in the triad, but most especially for the adopted child. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to live with this lifelong struggle, this two and frowing of emotions, the contradictions of it all.


  • nunu5

    May 17, 2017 at 9:25 am

    We are following up on my dad’s birth mother and are devastated at the SA welfare departments role in preventing us from hearing her story. When he enquired about her they infromed him she had passed away – giving us a misspelt name that stumped us for ages. We have finally found out she remarried and at the time her husband was still alive but they did not share that info with us.

    It leaves a gap in our and my dad’s story but also we just feel so bad that she never knew my dad was well cared for and happy in life.

    I am so glad things are much more open these days. I think it is better for everyone although it hurts there are no empty holes.

    • Sharon

      May 17, 2017 at 9:48 am

      It’s very hard. And yes, I agree, it’s better now that it’s more open. It’s very sad that so many grow up not knowing their story, it has to leave a huge gab in their identity.

  • Tan

    May 17, 2017 at 11:32 am

    It is very hard I got a letter last year from my birthdaughter from her mom asking a lot of hard questions and the one that was the hardest was “if I had the oportuity would I want to keep her now?”

    Now my heart broke because yes I would but I also want her to stay with her parents because they are her parents and I dont want anyone to be hurt more than we have been. Open adoption is better for everyone but its one hard road to walk for everyone in the triad.

    • Sharon

      May 17, 2017 at 11:33 am

      The thing is though…. I really feel in my heart (and I hope I’m not wrong) that a lot of this is curiosity and built up ideas, that if it came down to the crunch, my children would still choose me.

      • Tan

        May 17, 2017 at 11:44 am

        I think they would too 🙂 as would My birthdaughter. She loves her Parents I kow this and respect it hugely. I also think its to know she is wanted and loved which is what we all want to know.

      • shirley76

        May 18, 2017 at 6:32 am

        Sharon, You are right. My birthdaughter moved to Cape Town a year ago to stay with my family and now lives in a flat around the corner from us. We see her regularly but she still clearly dotes on her adoptive parents. It must have been incredibly hard for her adoptive mom to let her go and I’m pretty sure my daughter is very mindful to always keep in touch with her parents and show her appreciation of them- as do I.

        One good thing is she had forged very strong bonds with her siblings(my children) which has been a joy to watch. Everyone always remarks on the birthmom triad but remember one day Hanna and Ava could have brothers and sisters too that they will forge meaningful relationships with.

        It’s working out better than I could have hoped for during the 18 years she was away from me. Things are not that complicated anymore and we just go with the flow and take every day as it comes. It’s been quite a journey to reach this point and the adoption is no longer an issue.

        • Sharon

          May 18, 2017 at 7:33 am

          Thanks Shirley. I really believe that there is space for all of us (birth mom and adoptive parents) in our children’s lives.
          P.S. Both Ava and Hannah have siblings already…. we haven’t broached that topic yet, but I’m sure it will come up.

  • melissa javan

    May 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Yoh this video. Sharon the way you handle things, amazes me.
    My husband’s mother sort of gave him up because of family drama. He knew her from a distance as a child- knew it was his mother, but he grew up with a lot of families in his childhood, like eight. He doesn’t know who his father is and he heard that he has other siblings he doesn’t know either. Even if he is 50 years old, he wants to fill that gap in his story- find out who his family members were.

  • Natalie

    May 17, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Goodness, Sharon. I don’t know how you coped with hearing your daughter saying she’d rather live with her birthmother.

    You are a great inspiration as a mother!

    • Sharon

      May 17, 2017 at 1:21 pm

      I think because I know in my heart, if she were given that choice, she’d always choose me because I am her mother, what she feels for her birth mother is natural and a lot of it is curiosity. I still firmly believe there is place in my daughters lives for both me and their birth mother’s.

  • Leann Hampton

    Leann Hampton

    May 17, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. My 2 children are now (just barely) teens, this Mother’s Day was the most painful yet…for all of us. We love each other thru the pain, it’s what a family does.

  • Anon

    May 17, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    As an adult adoptee, with the support of my adoptive mother, I made contact with my birth mom while pregnant with my own daughter. A lovely woman who could have been my twin in looks and personality. Over the past six years we’ve built a beautiful relationship and friendship, and my daughter is now lucky enough to have three grannies (which she loves bragging about). Through it all though I still struggle with the conflicting emotions your daughters are experiencing – emotions that I had throughout my childhood, despite the open and safe relationship my parents provided. Now, at times like Mother’s Day I still struggle…over-analyzing everything, e.g. Should I wish my birth mom happy Mother’s Day? Should I tell my adoptive mom I spoke to my birth mom on Mother’s Day? And and and…But what I can tell you is that my Mom (my adoptive mom) is my best friend, who I love dearly – and even through childhood dreams of what my life could’ve been like with my birth mom, my turbulent teens when my Mom and I often didn’t see eye to eye and many a hurtful comment came out of my mouth, through all of this, and even now knowing my birth mom and understanding the circumstances around my birth and adoption, I would still always choose my adoptive mom. My birth mom is a dear friend who gave me life, who I share a heritage with, who has helped me find a piece of me that was missing and is a wonderful grandmother. BUT my adoptive mom is my MOM, my rock, who I chat with daily on my drive home from work, an amazing grandmother, the person who has shared every high and low in my life and who would move mountains for me, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

  • princessaniegmailcom

    May 18, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    We avoid all celebrations of parenting days (although if the children want to change that it will), but with my daughter’s first mother deceased and her genetic father unknown (and out of the mom’s life before she was born), the idea of celebrating is hard, I imagine as hard as for anyone who has lost a parent.

    The day that was the most painful for me has never been the “you’re not my real. I wish I lived with my mother.” etc., but the time we had to share with her that her mom had died.

    Her pain is so deep and damaging, I often wish that there had been a way to keep her with her family. I know that sounds like I don’t love my daughter (I do, with every inch of my being), but the huge damage that adoption has on the emotional well being of a child means that I wish that it was never needed.

    • Sharon

      May 19, 2017 at 8:47 am

      I am terrified that one of my children’s birth mother’s will pass away before they have a chance to reunite. I cannot imagine how many unanswered questions that must leave them with.


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