I remember when we prayed for everything that we have now” is a quote I stumbled across a few months ago. I was reminded of it one evening as we sat down on our younger son’s bed to read a Bible story. As I looked around the room scattered with toys and peppered with the joyful laughter of silly, sleepy children, I realized that we had everything that we had ever dreamed of. Starting a family was not easy for us, but here we were bookended by two little boys and a dog at our feet in a home that we owned. It was a poignant moment for me. I am sure that most mothers have moments like these. In fact, in most ways, being an adoptive mom is no different than being the mom to biological children. I may not have given birth to my child, but I want the very best for my child, just like any other mom. We all sacrifice sleep, time, and money to provide the very best that we can for our children. We have our hearts broken when they cry or when they reject us. We get angry when people hurt our children. We love them fiercely and would die for them. We will do just about anything to hear them laugh those delightfully deep belly laughs. I have never been a biological mother, but I know a thing or two about being an adoptive mama, and I imagine that the basics are quite similar. However, there are some unique aspects of adoption that should not be overlooked.

Thoughts About Bonding

Adoption is an amazing experience. Hard and sometimes frustrating, yes, but amazing all the same. I treasure the way our family was made. God put us together in a way that defies comprehension. Many women fear adoption because they fear that they will not bond with their adopted child in the same way a biological mother bonds with her child. From before time began, God knew that my children would not grow in my womb. He knew that I would fall madly in love with two little boys whom I had never met, but whom my heart claimed as mine. It is true that, for some, the bonding process is very, very hard; but it is also true that some biological mothers struggle to bond with their children as well. Do not let the fear of what may or may not happen keep you from experiencing the joy of your child.

Our first son was a little over three weeks old when we brought him home from his interim care family, who had cared for him since he was a few days old. I treasure the first time I saw and held him, the ride home, and the first time I fed him. He was pure magic, but that evening, he would not settle, as was to be expected. He had left all that was familiar to him and was with new people, with a new scent, in a new home. I remember sitting on the floor crying as my husband lovingly took him from me when I could not get him to settle. My thought was that a mother should be able to comfort her child. I was terrified that I was not enough. I watched in awe as he nestled into his daddy’s chest and fell into a deep sleep. Once we had all settled down, the awe remained. I felt so bad that I had rocked his little world, but I was so grateful that God had brought our family together. We had waited for over 12 years as a couple for this moment, and though my heart was sad to hear him cry, I was incredibly grateful. As it turns out, I need not have worried at all. I had the ability to calm my child and would have many more opportunities throughout his life. 

Thoughts About Appearance

As an adoptive mama, I look at my children, and I do not see myself in their physical features. We do not know what their biological mothers and fathers look like; we have never had the privilege to meet them. When I look at my boys, I only see their mischievous eyes, impish grins, messy hair, and glowing faces instead of somebody else’s eyes, nose, height, and hair color. Sometimes, though, I wonder about the genetics that makes them look like they do. I wonder about the history that makes up the DNA that created our boys. It does not bother me that they are not flesh of my flesh; in fact, I am glad that God grafted them into our family. Even though biological moms and dads enjoy seeing themselves in their faces of their children, I know that l will never see myself in the physical features of my children’s faces. Rather, I see myself, and my husband, in their expressions, their mannerisms, the things they say, and the way they react to situations because we have taught those things to them. Children often mirror their parents. This is true with my friends Zach and Melody and their son Dawson. Dawson was adopted transracially. He is black. His parents are white. However, anyone who knows Dawson and his daddy, Zach, will say that Dawson looks just like his daddy because he has the exact same expressions and mannerisms as his daddy. It is truly awesome to behold.

Thoughts About Talents and Abilities

As an adopted mama you might look at your child and wonder what makes them tick. Maybe he has an interest in robotics or science, but you are musically inclined. Maybe he loves red when you love blue. Adoption brings in a whole new realm of things to consider, but every adopted child is just as unique as every biological child. There is no difference in that. Every child has their own mind and their own preferences. Every child has the right to their own opinion and the ability to grow unencumbered by their past. Their future is only determined by God. They are not limited by their circumstances or how they came to your family. Embrace their uniqueness.

Thoughts About Bio Relationships

As an adoptive mama, I am keenly aware that somebody else gave birth to my child. I wonder if one day my son will connect with his biological mother and if they will have a continuing relationship with them. There may be biological parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, grandparents, and other family relations who may one day function as their extended family. I am all for him having relationships with his roots should he choose. I am not going to force that relationship on him, but I am not threatened. My position as mom is secure. If he chooses to pursue her, I will embrace her with open arms. She is, after all, the reason that I have my son.

Thoughts About Rude Questions

As an adoptive mom, you will face rude questions and comments. People say the stupidest and most unkind things. Sometimes they don’t mean to be offensive. Sometimes they are just speaking before they actually think through what they are saying. I believe if they actually thought first, they would realize what they are saying is not socially correct, and that they would never want someone to ask those questions about their own family. However, facing offensive questions head-on is inevitable. Learning how to deal with those comes with practice and time. Knowing what semantics you use for your family is helpful. Remember that when you are answering questions from people did that you are also obligated to protect the story of your adopted child. The details of their life and how they came to your family is no one else’s business. Some children come to families through hardship. Some children were placed with their families at birth or in infancy like mine were. Regardless of how a child comes to a family, their story is theirs and no one else’s. Remember that your duty is to your child and not to the nosey person asking rude questions just like any mother, and adopted mama is obligated to their child first and not to the person asking the questions.

Thoughts About Their Story

In our house, we love to recount the way that our boys joined our family. My boys ask me to tell it, and I recount it with drama, flair, and joy. I even wrote a little book to tell their stories to them. In our house, it is natural. People often ask if my kids know they are adopted. Though they may not entirely understand what I am saying, they know that they did not grow in my belly. It is not a well-kept secret. We have told them their stories from the beginning. I believe that adopted children should know that they are adopted and have age-appropriate information regarding their story given to them as they grow. As they ask you questions about themselves and their story, answer the questions head-on! Don’t be afraid to tell them their story. Always be truthful and present circumstances in the most positive light possible, even questions regarding a birth mother. How you portray their story and their situation is how they will view themselves and their story. Positivity is the best way. Honesty never hurt anyone.

Thoughts About Your Story

You have a story, adoptive mama. You are not alone on this adoption journey. Along the way, you will find at the mall, or the grocery store, or the park, or the library, or church that there are others who have walked or are walking the same path as you. Ever hear the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together”? The world of adoption provides a unique camaraderie. Everywhere I go, I find other adoptive mothers and families with whom I can fellowship and commiserate, and we form sort of a support group. It is amazing to have this whole new world of people with whom my boys can associate. Not only is it good for my soul, but it is good for my boys to have other children who are adopted just like they are! It makes me realize that they are not alone. I am not saying that you should broadcast your story over a loudspeaker to everyone that you meet, but in the course of life, you will have ample opportunities to share and build lasting friendships with fellow adoptive parents and adoptees.

As I watch my children play with the neighborhood children in our quiet cul-de-sac, I am once again reminded that there is no difference between my children and the other children. In our case, all the kids were born here in America, specifically the state of Virginia. They will attend the same public schools. They share the same love of bicycles, trampolines, plants, sand, and swings. The other kids’ mama watches them play from her porch just like I am watching them from mine, and sometimes we watch them play as we sit together and chat. When any of the kids fall, they bleed. When they jump in puddles, they get wet. If you throw them a ball, they will catch it, or at least try to. No one would ever know that my kids are adopted unless I told them. Most of the time, people are quite shocked if they learn our boys are not biologically related to us. I realize that not every adopted child has the same story as my boys do. For some children, it may be easier to tell they are adopted because of physical attributes. However, the basic need of all children is love, consistency, and a stable home. Those things, adoptive mama, you can provide. And you are not alone.

Being a mom is a priceless gift. Being an adoptive mother is a doubly sweet gift. When I look at my boys, it is true that I only see my sons, but I also remember how they came to be my sons. I remember the way God orchestrated events in our lives so that as just the right time, we could be in the right location to become our boys’ parents. I see how God used the pain of the past to create a beautiful present and future. And just like Jesus’ mother Mary and countless other mothers before me, I ponder these things and hold them dear to my heart.

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Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are parents to two awesome little boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. When she is not playing referee or engaged in tickle wars, Virginia can be found cleaning, reading, or drinking giant mugs of coffee. Virginia is passionate about advocating for life at all ages/stages and educating about adoption.