9th November ….. is World Adoption Day. It’s a day for celebrating family and for raising awareness around adoption. It’s a day I have embraced and celebrated over the years. But this year has been a little different for me. I feel conflicted about how we celebrate it. On the one hand, I am both a proud mother via adoption and an adoption advocate, but on the other hand, I feel like there are important voices missing in this dialogue in this celebration of family.
I have written and shared extensively about my own adoption experience over the years. When I go back to the very beginning of our adoption story and read my words now, I’m stunned by how naive I was. Adoption is a beautiful thing. Adoption is love. But adoption is also pain, loss, grief and sadness. And it took some maturing of my emotions through our own adoption journey for me to be able to recognize this flip side to adoption.
I think about birth/first mother’s today and I wonder how they are celebrating? I think about the conflict and complicated emotions our adopted children need to deal with and there is no joy in that.
I’ve seen all the calls across the interwebs to share “positive” adoption stories on World Adoption Day and I can’t help feeling that that is a very singular view. There is no positive without a negative. We cannot know joy if we haven’t known sorrow.
As an adoptive mother, I don’t feel I can honor our birth mother’s if I don’t acknowledge that my gain was there life altering loss.
That my joy is their pain. Adoption is complex and ironic on so many levels. I went into this journey just wanting to be a mother, to love a child, I had stars in my eyes and a song in my heart. And while that is very much my reality still to this day, I feel I do the other two halves of our adoption triad a major disservice by not acknowledging their complicated feelings and their pain too.
That’s why I’ve decided to participate in the #HeartMamaJoy photo challenge on Instagram, to show people the complexities of adoption.
I wasn’t always a fan of #WorldAdoptionDay, but have realised that it’s a good platform for us to talk adoption and share the good, the bad (& the ugly) with each other. I’d love you to consider joining me on this 30 day photo challenge for #adoptionawarenessmonth (for some or all of them!), using these prompts as inspiration for you to share part of your adoption story. Stories are important, it’s the way we can learn & encourage each other. Please use the hashtag #heartmamajoy so we can keep track of the conversations, dads please join us too! *I know it’s already 11.30pm on day 1, but it’s an easy prompt & you can play catch up tomorrow too. Comment below if you’d like to join in! . . #heartmamajoy #worldadoptionday #adoptionmadeusafamily #photochallenge #30dayphotochallenge #motherhood #mommyblogger #southafricanblogger #ABMlifeissweet #livethelittlethings #solovelysofree #mommyblogger #flashesofdelight #thatsdarling
I feel the same as Jules. My feelings are complex and so I decided to join in the challenge too. To add my voice, to show you the good, the bad, the ugly, the joy, the love, the grief and the sadness. Because adoption is a smorgasbord of emotions and thoughts.
Day 4 prompt for #heartmamajoy was attach. I had 2 completely different experiences when bonding with my girls. Ava I loved fiercely & instantly but with Hannah it was much more complicated. She’d been in a place of safety for 2 months prior to placement & as a result, she was extremely stressed. You know that expression that goes something like: children who need the most love, ask for it in the most impossible way? That was Hannah. It took a months of OT & patience before she started to settle & had a huge impact on our bonding. Like @heartmamablog I also believe children should be placed in an environment where they have a primary caregiver to attach to. I don’t believe the current child act, which requires children go into places of safety for the duration of the consent period, is acting in the best interests of the child, it only protects birth parents & adoptive parents. #worldadoptionday #internationaladoptionmonth #adoption
Day 5 of the #heartmamajoy challenge is IDENTITY Both our children are mixed race & at a young age, in a child’s mind this is a difficult concept to grasp. They understand black, white & brown but struggle with the concept that a person can be a combination of two or even all three, especially when physically they may look a way that identifies with one race more than another. This is why I’m so grateful that through our adoption journey, we’ve surrounded ourselves with close friends in similar situations. It helps our children to grasp & understand their mixed race heritage & identity. #mixedraceadoption #worldadoptionday #internationaladoptionmonth #adoption #parenting
Day 2 of the #heartmamajoy Sorry, I know I’m out of order, just playing catch up. Day 2’s prompt was WELCOME This was Hannah’s placement day. I remember it like it was yesterday, such a bittersweet day as one family got broken while another family got created. Ava was beyond herself with excitement & her first words when she first saw Hannah were: She’s perfect! #mixedraceadoption #worldadoptionday #internationaladoptionmonth #adoption #parenting #motherhood #heartmama
Day 3’s prompt of #heartmamajoy is NATURAL Nothing about Ava’s placement was natural or “normal”. I was still bleeding from my 7th miscarriage when we got THE CALL informing us we’d been chosen by a birth/first mother. 6 days later, I’d be a mom. But first I’d go through all the excitement, fear, elation, grief & trauma of meeting our birth mother. What an incredible woman she is, I’m privileged to call her my soul sister. I was privileged to be her birth partner. I was privileged to watch our daughter, Ava (which means life) Grace ( by God’s favour) take her first breath. Nothing about my journey to motherhood had been natural, except the fierce & unwavering love I had for her from the moment I laid my eyes on her. The day after she was born, I woke up & looked at her sleeping next to me & was so overcome with the powerful knowledge that I loved her so much, I’d willingly & unquestioningly, lay down my life for her. While everything else about our journey to her was extraordinary, my love be for her was natural & pure & 100% mother’s love & instinct. Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still, miraculously my own. #motherhood #parenting #adoption #internationaladoptionmonth #mixedraceadoption #worldadoptionday #mommybloggersa #mommybloggersa #parentingblogger #parentingbloggersa
Day 6’s prompt of #heartmamajoy is PARENTING This photo was taken the weekend before Ava was born. We were at The Killers concert on the Friday night, having a blast, after deciding that 2009 was not the year we would finally beat our infertility odds. It was December & we’d decided to put all thoughts, treatments & plans on hold until 2010 & just enjoy the festive season! On the Sunday we spoiled ourselves with a ridiculously over priced big screen TV! We never spent money on ourselves, every cent we earned went into fertility treatment. On the Monday, we got THE CALL & tried to return the big screen TV! 😂 Our journey to parenting was full of ironies! But it was all worth it in the end! #motherhood #parenting #adoption #internationaladoptionmonth #worldadoptionday #mommyblogger #mommybloggersa #parentingblogger #parentingbloggersa
The prompt for day 8 of #heartmamajoy is BITTERSWEET Everything about adoption is bittersweet! Sometimes I feel like as adoptive parents we focus a lot on the sweet & we have to acknowledge the bitter. Leaving the hospital with Ava was bittersweet! Our joy versus her first mother’s pain is very difficult to balance in my mind. Watching Ava’s first/birth mother say goodbye to her, the day we went to court was devastating for me. It was one of the most joyful moments of my life but my joy was tempered by her grief. Hearing her sobs will haunt me forever. Loving her & loving Ava, means that I am very aware that there is so much pain balancing our our joy. It’s been difficult for me to come to terms with. It is truly bittersweet! #worldadoptionday #adoptionawareness #adoptionawarenessmonth #adoption #motherhood #mommyblogger #mommybloggersa #parenting #parentingblogger #parentingbloggersa
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If you’d like to see more, I’ll be posting for the rest of the month and sharing the complexities of our experience.
I want to make it clear, I am pro adoption. I want to make it clear, I have no regrets. But I also want to make it clear that adoption is not just about finding babies for infertile couples. We are not the heroes in these stories. I want people to stop saying that my children are blessed to have me and to rather acknowledge that, most certainly in our case, our children and our birth mothers are the true blessings, the real heroes. We didn’t set out to save a child, we set out with a purely selfish motive, to be parents.
Adoption is about finding families for children, adoption is about giving alternatives to women who may be in what’s considered a crisis pregnancy. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be necessary. In a perfect world, a woman would never need to make this heartbreaking decision.
But we don’t live in a perfect world, we live in a complex one and and this is a complex issue that can’t just be neatly sealed with a pretty bow and a smiley face drawn on a hand.