Since our big revelation, we’ve been faced with a number of questions. Not just “how could you not know?” or “isn’t that so common!?” No, these questions get more to the heart of what it means to have another child in a blended family.
Some have been raised directly by people we care about. Some have been insinuated more indirectly. Others are just lingering in our minds. While it may or may not matter which is which, I’m not going to attribute to the source. Each has prompted significant discussion in our household, or at least in my head. Some have prompted other reactions, which I feel less free to discuss here, for now. Below are just a few of the more common or persistent questions.
– How will Baby Jaye feel when she realizes she didn’t grow in your belly like her little sibling? Well, I can’t really answer that. I can’t know how she’ll feel. But however Jaye might feel some day about not having grown in my belly is what she’ll feel regardless whether she has a sibling. That is an issue of adoption. All adoptees one day come to the realization that they did not come from their mama’s bellies but were born to another mother. Having a sibling who was born to me might highlight this distinction for Jaye. Each child would have their own unique story of how they came to be our children. In fact, I’m using this experience as a way to deepen Jaye’s birth story. This is one of her first direct connections to a “baby in the belly.” Jaye knows that her little sibling is growing in mama’s belly now, just like she grew in Kaye’s belly. Now maybe that part of her story will begin to make some sense. Will it make her sad one day? Or angry? I don’t know. Maybe. But that’s inevitably part of adoption. I hope if anything it will make her realize how special Kaye really is to us, how she is really part of our extended family.
– Will the sense of “displacement” Jaye may experience be harder or different because she was adopted but this baby was not? I can’t really answer this one either. I was the youngest in my immediate family and I was not adopted. But I can’t see how adoption factors into it. Almost every parent we know has two children. That means one was “displaced” to make room for the second, if not physically (from his/her nursery or room) then figuratively as the “baby” in the family.
Even before I knew I was pregnant, we were already talking to Jaye about being a “little girl” (“not a baby!” she says) and the differences between “babies,” “little girls” and “big girls.” For example, big girls don’t drink out of bottles, they don’t need nonnies (pacifiers), they go in the potty and sleep in big girl beds, etc. Some days Jaye still wants to be a “baby.” But most days she is a “little girl” and I remind her that she’s “getting bigger every day.” Yet we’re not pushing her to grow up. Everything has been at her pace, so far. (Though I admit we are tempted to be a bit more aggressive with potty training while we still have some warm summer days to go bottomless…) And we do realize that there could be some regression when this new baby comes home. That’s all normal.
But Jaye is still our “baby.” She’ll always be our first child, our first baby. She truly is the center of our universe, the light of our lives. And yes, some of that spotlight will inevitably shift as we welcome a new baby into our home. That is hard. But we are committed to ensuring Jaye’s comfort and well being with this big change. We want her to feel as though this new baby is “our” baby — i.e., Jaye’s baby too. In fact, we refer to the baby as her little sibling, not as the treasured “baby.” We are promoting pride in big sisterhood. I tell her every night how lucky her little sibling will be to have Jaye as her big sister. We talk about all of the things Jaye can show her little sibling. We have books. We’re doing everything that parents do to prepare and acclimate their child to the arrival of a newborn.
I just don’t see how it’s any different because Jaye was adopted but this child was not. I’ve said this many times before, but it bears repeating: I could not love Jaye any more if I gave birth to her myself, if we shared the same genes. Anyone who knows me, or who reads these words, can see that. I’m in no way suggesting that having a child by adoption is the same is having a child by birth. Certainly it’s not. But the love is the same. While at some point that may not be enough, it’s everything I have to give. And that won’t change with the arrival of a new baby. In fact I feel entirely grateful to be fortunate enough to give Jaye a sibling.
– Aren’t you worried about showing some sort of preference for your biological child over your adopted child? Um, no. Just no. See above. The love I feel for Jaye is so pure and unconditional that it will in no way be affected by the presence of another child.
We recently heard a very sad story about a family who adopted a son at six months, then went on to have two biological children. The mother had told a friend that, after the birth of her other children, she realized she had never truly bonded with her son. Our friend could actually see how that was playing out in the dynamic of their family. Just awful. Mac and I talked about it for days, how sad it is for that little boy. My heart aches for him.
Mac and I both came from families where preference was clearly shown, in some cases is still clearly demonstrated. Let’s just say it’s a very negative and harmful dynamic and we’ve seen the effects firsthand. We are both hyper aware of this and would go to any length to ensure that it never happens in our family. Neither of our children will ever feel as if one has any standing over the other with either one of us.
Yet of course there is going to be a tough adjustment period. Even now on restricted activity, there is less I can do with Jaye without risk of harm to myself or the baby. Then I’ll be in the hospital for at least 4-5 days, possibly longer, which will disrupt our normal routine. My recovery will be challenging. I won’t even be able to lift Jaye for weeks. She will inevitably have less “mama” time as I heal and tend to a new baby. Dada will be stepping up, of course. And I will make special time just for her, reading and playing as I can. I know this is critical as we adjust to a new family. And yes, I realize this part will be different than if we had adopted another child. But none of this indicates “preference” for a new baby over Jaye; rather it is just a necessary part of new life with a newborn, and healing after surgery.
– Are you worried about others showing some sort of preference for your biological child, or calling attention to distinctions among your children? This one concerns me. I’m not so worried about others showing preference, as Jaye is clearly beloved by all of our family and friends. If that were to happen, Mac and I would be vigilant and speak our minds, or disengage if needed. I’m more concerned about people drawing comparisons between our biological child and genetic relatives, or distinctions between the two children. I already see this now, when we get together with cousins. Someone always has so-and-so’s eyes or laugh or gestures. When this talk emerges, I get protective for our daughter and fear that she may one day feel left out of those discussions, so I divert them. But they happen. That’s what people do. And it’s not just family. Even friends and strangers often look for commonalities. (We even do it in looking at our daughter’s birth family and identifying whose features she has.) When we’re among people who know us, I might share that Jaye has the same gorgeous golden locks as Kaye did as a child, or her strength, or that she shares the same unique green eyes as her uncle. But what about when others make comments and ask questions? I suppose we will have to find more creative ways to respond to such comments.
– What was Kaye’s reaction to the news? How will Kaye feel about you having a biological child after placing her daughter with you? Well I can’t really answer this one either, as Kaye’s reaction is not mine to share. Plus I may not be privy to her true thoughts and feelings, even if I felt free to share them here.
At the heart of the question though, particularly part b, are other underlying questions — e.g., how do you think Kaye will feel if she intended to place her baby with a family that wasn’t able to have biological children? or, will Kaye question your love and loyalty to her daughter now that you will have another child? or, do you think Kaye will want her daughter back now that you will have “one of your own?”
Those are some pretty heavy questions. I may never know the real answers. We have always been very honest and clear with Kaye about our history and our intentions. Certainly this scenario was never part of the equation; it just wasn’t within the realm of options. The surprise affects us all. Yet Kaye knew that we always wanted two children. In fact we were worried she might be disappointed if we were unable to provide a sibling for Jaye by adopting again.
The reality is, life changes. We never thought it would change like this. We never could have anticipated this. It’s not like we were still trying to conceive when we adopted and withheld information. It’s not like we’re moving thousands of miles away. We’ve been honest and we’ve maintained our commitment as parents in a very open adoption. But does that matter? Does that address the heart of the question?
In all honesty, I can’t possibly know how Kaye feels right now, or how she will feel tomorrow. She does seem genuinely happy that Jaye will get to be a big sister. But I can’t know how she’s truly processing this. As much as I love Kaye as family, I also can’t take responsibility for her thoughts and feelings. They are hers and hers alone. I want her to feel free to share with me, to know I will always listen and try to understand. I want her to feel comfortable trying to work through the hard parts with us, to the extent she feels appropriate. I want her to know we’re in this for the long haul and that means communication is key. But ultimately, Kaye is going to feel what she feels, and do what she needs to do. She is working through her own life issues. How she will respond still remains to be seen.
Like life, this is all still a work in progress.