The Stuff They Don’t Teach You in Adoption Class 101

This blog post was written by Amie Bloom, an Adoption STAR adoptive parent, about speaking to one of her children about their adoption journey and answering his questions. You can read more from Amie at her blog.

I have always had books about people of different skin colors in our house.  As the caucasian mom to 3 children of African American decent, I knew it was important to have skin color be an open topic.  From the time Matthew could sit for a book, I remember reading him the book “Brown Sugar Babies!” The book  has beautiful pictures of babies of all different shades of skin color.  I thought that with books like this and an open forum, we would be smooth sailing through a lot of adoption issues that surrounded race.

Over the past year or so it became obvious that no matter how many books we read, skin color was going to play a role in our family dynamic.  Jacob spoke frequently about not liking his brown skin.  It doesn’t help that he has bad eczema and so we are often talking about his skin and his sores. It is not a far cry to go from my skin hurts to “I wish I had different skin”!  Each time the topic came up we would stop and look at all that makes his skin beautiful and how all 4 of us have different skin color and how beautiful each color is.

Monday night David picked out the book “The Color of Us” for us to read at bedtime.  It is a great book about a child going for a walk through her neighborhood and noticing all of the different skin tones that make up the people of the neighborhood.  There is a page with hands of all different colors and  Jacob immediately started to try to find the picture of the hand that most closely matched his own.  In turn Matthew, David and I also did the same.

As we were looking at our hands, Jacob asked me to tell him the story of his birthmother.  I have always been open with the boys about their birth stories and so I went ahead and told him his story as I would usually do.  Jacob was placed for adoption by a birthmom and was initially adopted by 2 women who live in Conneticut.  After receiving Jacob’s intitial newborn bloodwork back, there was concern that Jacob had sickle cell anemia.  Jacob’s adoptive parents did not feel prepared to care for a sick baby.  They lovingly looked for a new adoptive family, and I was beyond ecstatic to welcome Jacob to ours!  David, Matthew and I met with Jacob’s first adoptive family at my Aunt and Uncle’s house and in December 2006, during Hanukah,  Jacob joined our family.

On Monday night, as Jacob  asked more questions, I got out my bin of all of the adoption paperwork so that I could show him his adoption certificate.  In the box was all of my paperwork, from the notes I made when I was first called about each of the boys, to the signed forms formalizing their adoption.

When I showed Jacob his adoption certificate, he begged me to let him sleep with them that night.  I tried to show him that the adoption certificate is special and therfor not really something to be slept with, but he was persistent. He finally agreed to go to bed under the condition that I formally put his adoption information into his own book, and that I make him  a copy of his adoption certificate that is for sleeping with.

I thought when he woke up in the morning and there was no further discussion of adoption that Jacob had moved forward.  I patted myself on the back for a job well done, and moved on to the next family dilemna.

Tonight, as we were driving home from Temple, Jacob hit me between the eyes with some more powerful questions.  Hard hitting questions.  The kinds of questions that one can only ask in the dark as you are driving.  As the parent you are thankful to have the road to focus on as you answer, and as the child you are thankful to be able to ask these questions without having to look at your mom eye to eye.
It started innocently enough with a statement, “my mom told me that if you are sick you should get some water then run around and then you will feel better.”  And then it tumbled into a long list of questions:

” when you adopt someone, it is supposed to be forever, why wasn’t it forever”
“can I meet my birthmom?”  “why do I have to wait until I am 18 to meet her?”
“why am I in this family?”  “why didn’t they want me forever?”  “can I write to her?”  “can I talk to her?”

I answered as best as I could.  Taking the time to think, but not too much time that he would fear he had upset me.  Pausing to be thoughtful, but answering with certainty so he knew I was being truthful.

Upon arriving home Jacob hurried to get on his pajamas and immediately met me with a piece of paper.  He was ready to write and needed me to be his scribe.  Before writing, I took out his adoption binder, hoping that by showing this to him he would feel secure, ( and maybe I could distract him from the letter he seemed intent on writing).  We looked at his foot prints that were taken in the hospital.  We read through the description of the page that talks about his birthmom- I said how she was tall, 5 feet 9 inches, and we laughed about the fact that she had allergies as he sniffled.

I paused for a few moments and then decided that I had to complete the story for him.  I had to show him the 1 picture I have from his first adoptive family.  I have no pictures for him of his birth mom, but I do have one picture of his brothers from his first adoptive family.  He studied that picture silently, taking it in.

Then he slowly picked up his pencil and started to draw- one person, “is this tall enough?  you said my mom was tall”.  Another person, “what was the boy in the pictures name?  Can you write it?”.  Then ever so slowly, he drew himself.  He asked me to label each person, one was Jacob, one was his first adoptive mom and the other was his first adoptive brother.  He then had me write the following, “Dear             , I love you, you are the best.  I cannot wait to see you.  I love you forever, and I want to see you soon.  I have a joke for you I will tell you when I see you.  I think you are funny, I will see you soon, with a joke.  From Jacob”

He then tenderly took the paper, looked it over, and put it in the front of his adoption binder, “for when I am ready”.  He then grabbed the whole binder, put it under his arm, and turned it over.  On the back was a banana sticker.  He rubbed the sticker and asked me to take it off, saying “I know she loved bananas, even without the sticker”.

We went upstairs and I tucked him in, reminding him to be careful of the binder.

I came back down, and reminded myself that the binder is his.  It tells his story, it is the connection he has to his past, and together he and I will find our way through the story of Jacob.  I am here to guide him and fill in whatever pieces I can.  He is the leader as we walk down this path.  My heart is in his hand, and he struggles through making sense of the adult concept of adoption, which often doesn’t even make sense to adults.