I wish I had a memory like John who can see a movie or television show one time and repeat back the dialog verbatim, accents and intonation included. If I had that kind of memory, I’d tell you exactly what Rachelle (Emily’s birth mother) just said to me on the phone as we were discussing whether or not it was possible for the Falcos to visit relatives in Nebraska this month. Emily’s older sister, Sasha, has just given birth to a baby girl. That makes Emily an aunt – for the third time – on that side of the family. But it also makes K.J., Skye, Journey, and Becton uncles and aunts in our broadened definition of family. Rachelle, who has moved to Kentucky, will be in Nebraska for the month of June to be with her daughter and new granddaughter, so we’d like to visit when more of Emily’s birth family is all in the same place. The problem is that K.J. and Emily have summer jobs now. Getting enough time off from work and the distance and money involved in either driving or flying to Nebraska makes scheduling a visit difficult.
I explained these complications to Rachelle, and what she said – in my own words – was, essentially: “If Emily and K.J. can’t come, that’s fine. Bring Journey and Becton. They are family too.” Do you get what she’s saying? The two Falco kids who have biological relatives in Nebraska may not be able to visit, but the other Falcos are just as welcome to come. That is an amazing testimony to this open adoption we have nurtured for 19 years. Everybody counts. Everybody is included – whether they share the same gene pool or not.
There’s a life lesson here and it’s not just about how great open adoption can be. Imagine how different our lives would be if we extended the kind of love we share with our “families” to each person who mattered to someone in our family. Pretty soon we’d all be connected in some way.
I love being part of my family. I love that it gives me a different perspective on relationships. I love that it challenges me to be a better person. I love that it teaches me, again and again, that secrets hurt, that asking for help is okay, that nobody is perfect, and that we can all continue to learn and grow.
Adoption isn’t a first choice for most people. Biological parenthood is. Adoption is hard for the birth parents who relinquish, for the adoptive parents who grieve infertility and then must learn to parent a child who may be very different from them, and for the child who loses his/her first set of parents and may feel some sense of disconnection in his/her new family. Living in a family created through adoption has taught me not to bury these truths by covering with stories of “rescue” or “courage” or other descriptions that treat adoption as a pedestal experience that assumes everyone is healed and better off. But I can honestly say, I am so grateful that my first choice didn’t pan out. I am so grateful that I have been gifted with these heartaches and challenges and amazing blessings – my children and their first families.