Saturday, May 15, 2010

Adoption on His Mind

(This is a post perhaps a little more personal in nature, but one which I want to write to remember and record this growing journey of understanding that is innate to each of our children's adoption experience.)

Owen has recently evidence an awakening of curiosity and understanding regarding his adoption, which began several weeks ago with a conversation between him and Pedro. In the course of conversation, Pedro mentioned that I had a photograph of Owen's birth mother which he could see if he'd like. In fact, we have several pictures and I shared them all with him one afternoon shortly after that conversation.

I had the privilege of meeting Owen's birthmother only once, shortly after he was released from the NICU in Florida and just prior to our return to Michigan. She was unsure about choosing to meet but I am so glad she did: both for the conversation we were able to have and for just such a reason as this, to have tangible photographs and information to share with Owen when he began to have questions about his story. In the photos, she is holding him and it is such a study in contrasts: this very tall, stately Sudanese woman with large hands and very long, red fingernails holding this teeny-tiny baby boy (Owen was born prematurely.) With her voluminous hair piled elegantly on her head and her smooth dark skin, she looks beautiful and strong.

I wondered what Owen's thoughts were as he looked through the photos, but he did so quickly and soon set them aside. It seemed as though he had satisfied his curiosity and was ready to move on to the next thing.

A few days later, the three boys and I happened to be at the second-floor bedroom window when a small group of ladies passed by. What set them apart from other passersby was that they were black women, whom we don't see often in Iquique. Upon seeing the women Owen turned to me and asked, "Is that my grandmother?" and immediately I realized he was actually asking me "Is that my birth mother?" I began to realize that there were wheels turning inside his head despite the little he had spoken about the pictures we had shown him.

Not long afterward, following a long day in which I had seen little of Owen because of school and soccer practice, I joined him in the bathroom where he was getting cleaned up for bed. I sat next to the tub to talk and catch up with his day, and out of the blue he said, "You know that picture you have of my grandmother? Do you know her?" What followed was a warm conversation about what information I do have about his birth mother, her history and details I remember from the afternoon I spent with her. I have often wished for a tape recording of those few hours because I am sure there is much I have forgotten! But Owen seemed satisfied with what I told him at an age-appropriate level on this particular evening.

Our next discussion occurred during a nail-clipping session. As I clicked and clipped, Owen chuckled and announced, "Remember my other mommy? She had long red nails ... my real mommy." Okay ... I'll be honest, that last part was hard for me to swallow. But I knew my son was only speaking out of his limited understanding and not with any intention of hurting me. I said that yes, I remember those long red fingernails from the picture. Then I tried to gently clarify the terms "birth" and "real" mommy, doing my best to insert some humor because the last thing I wanted was for him to feel chastened. We laughed together and all was well, but I again wished I could read all those thoughts churning through his head!

Last night as we watched a children's movie with the kids, a line in the film said something about "delivering clean water to Sudan." Owen was sitting relaxed on Pedro lap and at that point sat straight up and yelled excitedly, "Sudan! Where my birth mother is!" It wasn't the time to explain that she is from Sudan, not in Sudan (which I have explained before) but again I was startled to witness the connections he is constantly making on this subject.

To have so many conversations about his birth mother in such a short period of time tells me this is something he is working hard to assimilate. I am so thankful that Owen is not afraid to talk to us about this. I hope and pray he continues to be so open with us as he grows and matures! We love this special son so much and thank God for the privilege of being his forever Mom and Dad.


Jenn said...

Thanks for sharing about this. It is good to hear others experiences.

ness said...

I've had some similar experiences with Charleigh. I wish I had a photograph, but all I have is a sketch I drew from memory.

Thanks for this sweet post.

Life with Kaishon said...

The thing is, at least in my own limited experience, they always want to know more details. They will always think of the other person as their 'real' mother. They don't mean it in an unkind way, and of course they think we are their mom, but they always know there is someone out there, a real person, that gave them away. I think it is hard for kids. We talk about it all the time. I love that Bekah and Mark are doing such a great job with their open adoption. I truly think that is the best thing for kids when it is possible. Just because they always want to know. Always. No matter who they are and how they are brought up.

You are doing such a great job sharing what you can and making him feel special and wonderful and loved. You are the realest kind of Mommy there is!

Kathy's Korner said...

Sophia had a lot of questions and resulted in a number of conversations shortly after her fifth birthday, as did Jacob...Hannah had a few, then too. It seems to an step developmentally for them around this age I think in the understanding of it all. and its sooo so much to take in and explain.

And even with all our "knowledge" and attempts to educate ourselves, those comments about their "real parents" still sting a bit. Its the nature of it I suppose. Sigh.

Sounds like you did a great job reassuring him and helping him process!