While in the adoption journey and when Lexi was an infant, I was all optimistic and confident about being an adoptive mother. I read all the right books, read Adoption Families magazine cover to cover each month, attended classes, you name it, I did it.
I had all the adoption language down (place for adoption, not put up; adoption plan, not give up the baby, etc).
I told anyone who asked, and some who didn’t how important it was to be open about adoption right from the start.
I bought the kids books-“Tell me About the Night I was Born”, “Tell me about when I was adopted” and “How I was adopted” all geared to the preschool age explaining adoption.
I’ve been reading them to Lexi for about a year.
I occasionally throw in birthmom’s name, Sunarra (not her real name, I mean, I use the real name with Lexi, not here to protect her privacy), into conversation, “You were born in Massachusetts, Sunarra had you in Lowell and Mommy and Daddy got you at the hospital!”
and, “That’s Cambodia (looking at a map of Asia), where Sunarra is from!”
I didn’t really think any of it was sinking in. I thought, maybe when she’s late 3, maybe 4 she’d start asking questions.
I thought, that at just 2 years old, mommy and daddy were all she really processed yet.
About two weeks ago, out of the blue it seems, Lexi started bringing up adoption.
One day, while driving home from the grocery store, she says from her carseat, “mommy and daddy dopt-a-did me” (how she says adopted).
Then, sometimes while playing, again, out of the blue, she says, “mommy and daddy and Lexi dopt-a-did, family!!!” with a happy voice and big smile.
Sometimes, she’ll just say, “Sunarra” and nothing else. The other day, while riding her little bike she, randomly, said, “Cambodia.”
Once when she said, “Sunarra” I stuttered out “Yes, Sunarra is your birthmommy….uhhh…biomommy!” Lexi looked at me very confused, pointed to me and said, “This is mommy!”
And, suddenly, I’m getting nervous about this.
It’s not abstract anymore.
How will I explain the difference between biomommy and mommy? Is she going to get confused? hurt? mad?
How will I explain the lack of info on biodaddy? The lack of info on her other half, biologically, her other biological identity?
How will I explain that biodaddy was not that great a guy, took advantage of biomommy and then took off?
And how will I explain that without letting it affect her and make her think, then, that she is bad or a mistake or has some of biodaddy’s badness in her?
And, honestly, as a mom, I’m suddenly feeling a bit jealous of Sunarra. Crazy, right?
Jealous that Sunarra knew Lexi for 9 months before I did; that they had that intense, intimate bond. I wonder if the name Sunarra is a little bit familiar to Lexi as she probably heard it thousands of times while in the womb, heard other people saying it. I wonder if hearing it triggers some unconscious fetal memory. I wonder the same thing about the Khmer and Cantonese language her bio family spoke; would it trigger something if she ever hears it?
I’m suddenly feeling like I have to defend everything, “me! me! I’M HER REAL MOMMY”
I’m suddenly feeling nervous about when Lexi realizes she and mommy/daddy look entirely different. On a funny note, I thought she was there the other day. From her carseat she said, “mommy is white. Lexi is brown.” I was thinking, “wow, she’s really conscious of this stuff!”, but then she said, “daddy is purple, grandpa is green” so I realized she was just going through colors! LOL!
I want to be there for her. I want to be what she needs as she grows into her adoption story. I want to have answers when she asks about Cambodian culture and language and customs. When she asks about the town in MA where she was born. When she asks about Sunarra’s journey to America from a refugee camp as the Khmer-Chen (Cambodian Chinese) were being pushed out after the Khmer Rouge. I want her to feel proud of being Khmer-Chen. But also proud of being one of us too.
I want to protect her, though, too. I wish I could make it easy and painless. She’s so innocent and happy, everything in her world is as it should be. I want to protect her from learning the painful parts of her story: the biodad’s less than admirable behavior, Sunarra’s distancing herself from Lexi at birth, not even wanting to see her, Sunarra cutting off contact when Lexi was 6 months old. The fact that, while she’s ours, our family, she’s also someone else’s. The fact that another woman carried her. The fact that she’s “different.”
There’s a local adoption support group in my area that meets once a month. I’ve been meaning to go for two years. I think it’s about time I did.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by Jerseyfresh, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Geographic Guide.