Last week, while balancing my three-year-old on one knee, and restraining my four-year-old from pressing the “stop requested” button on the crowded cross-town bus, I caught myself in the middle of a fantasy. That got me thinking about how our fantasies change throughout our lives. I mean, how many of us still fall asleep dreaming of a future as The World Famous Cheerleading Ballerina: Mrs. Shaun Cassidy? Yet I never imagined I’d find myself lost in thought over a woman who lives half a world away.
Long story short, my husband and I endured a combined three years of “trying” and invasive infertility treatments only to be categorized as a couple with “Unexplained Infertility.” Our doctor was eager to move ahead with in vitro fertilization, but by then we strongly believed our children were somewhere out there, and it was time to go find them.
The adoption experts tell us that most adoptees fantasize about their birthparents (the birthmother in particular), but I never expected that of myself.
I think of my children’s birthmother frequently. I imagine her childhood. I wonder what her dreams were, and if she was happy. I try to picture her pregnant, and hope people were kind to her, or at least not cruel. I imagine her getting on with her life. Perhaps going back to school or securing a job where she’d wear smart professional clothes or a stylish uniform like I saw on so many women in Seoul when my husband and I traveled to Korea to meet our son and daughter.
Upon the advice of our adoption agency, we were encouraged to tell our children their birth story from day one. That way (without the pressure of getting it right) we could stumble and search for the appropriate words before they understood exactly what we were saying to them. What appealed to me was that the kids would always have known they were born from another woman and came to be our children through adoption. This openness would keep us all grounded in reality, without putting the birthparents on a pedestal or alternately making the topic taboo. Of course “Aha!” moments will occur as they mature which will warrant discussion, but I’m grateful I don’t have to dread when, where, and how “THE TALK” will take place.
I used to wonder if my desire for my children to know about their birthmother would diminish as they began to truly comprehend the circumstances of their births and early months of life. Was I just being open because I knew they didn’t understand what I was saying? Yet I find myself talking about her now more than ever; the way we talk about any family member we don’t frequently see. I’ve begun to consider this young woman my spiritual sister. I don’t have any biological sisters. Neither does she. Somehow this commonality solidifies my feelings of kinship toward her.
My children have begun to contribute their thoughts to my musings while trying to understand their birth story. Last spring several of our friends gave birth, and my children saw the transition from the “baby in the belly” to an actual baby in our friends’ arms. One night, out of the blue, my son (then three-and-a-half) asked me, “Mama? Did you borned me?”
“No, honey, I didn’t. Lee gave birth to you. You grew in her tummy.”
“Oh. So. You never grew a baby?”
“No. My body can’t make babies.”
“Did that make you sad?”
“Hmmm … I was a little sad at first, but I knew that meant you were someplace else. I wouldn’t have you if my body could grow babies.”
My son then played giving birth to Mister Bear.
I want my children to feel comfortable talking about their birthparents and how they came into the world. Nothing is off limits, although sometimes they don’t get the facts exactly right. For example, even though my son knows his story, and will tell you he got his belly button from Lee, he often refers to his Korean foster mother (who parented him until he was placed with us at six months old) as his birthmother. And while visiting my mother’s grave this summer, my daughter wanted to know where Lee was buried. Which lead to the conversation that she isn’t buried, but still very much alive in Korea.
I want my children to know it’s natural to think about, talk about, and fantasize about their first mother. I mean, I do; why shouldn’t they?
Walking home from my children’s joint birthday party last month, together they were holding one giant red balloon. My daughter was talking about how they would take turns playing with it, when my son turned to me and said, “Mama, I think we should send it to Lee.”
“Honey, I think that’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure she is thinking of you today, and it would be nice for her to know that we’re thinking about her too.”
To my daughter I asked, “What do you think? Should we send the balloon to Lee?”
“You mean in Korea?”
It’s important to note my daughter has a big attachment to balloons, and I didn’t know how well this idea of letting the balloon go would sit with her. But she considered it for a moment, then looked at me and said, “Okay.”
I got out the camera and documented the entire event. I’ll send the photos off to our agency in Seoul for them to put into our file. So that one day, if Lee returns to find out how her babies are doing, she will see that they are beautiful, strong, healthy, loved, and thinking of her on their birthday.
Well anyway … that was my fantasy.