Almost two weeks ago my daughter (E1) was punched in the proverbial stomach.
While at a friend's party, another party goer was sharing information about her life. The information shared, we would come to find out, was this child's perception of her own adoption and how she was feeling about being adopted.
E1 knows she and E2 were adopted. She knows that is how they became our daughters. We also say "were adopted" - in the past, as it does not define you. How you treat people is what matters. It does not matter whether you grew in my tummy. What matters is what is right in front of you. We have told them time and time again their birth mothers were brave, strong women who not only gave them life, but took the time to find the most perfect mommy and daddy for them. They know they are loved. E1 knows all of this, but in the end our words were no match for the words coming out of the mouth of someone just like her.
When a fellow adopted 8 year old uses the word selfish to describe a birth mother, and uses the term given away and shares other negative thoughts about adoption, the aftermath for a sensitive, anxious child is unimaginable.
Each day that passed after the party was worse than the day before. My daughter was a mess. She cried all day for three days and even missed school. She asked if her birth mother knew she would be this sensitive and is that why she gave her away. She asked if her birth mother thought she would be a horrible person and is that why she gave her away. She cried because she was crying. E1 slept on average 15 hours a day and barely ate for a week. When she was awake, she questioned everything we told her. She questioned her story, her birth mother's love, her own self worth.
How can you love a baby and give it away? How is that a selfless decision? Giving away your baby means you don't care. All of these questions as tears streamed down her once happy face. As a mother, I was at a loss. I could not do anything, but continue to tell E1 HER story, and tell her how much we loved her.
For days we went round and round. I reminded her that no one and no thing should have this much control over her. That her happiness is in her control. I told her if she made up her mind, she could just move on. Guess what - none of it worked. She is eight! How the hell can an eight year old even process adoption, someone else's adoption, and not all adoptions are the same. There are grown ass adults that to this day don't understand adoption and here was my eight year old trying to believe what we told her with a living example saying the complete opposite. She was torn between her reality and someone else's.
E1 cried at school. She was so upset, the teacher and I were texting daily. I received messages from classmate's mothers asking if she was OK because their children had come home for three days straight saying E1 was upset.
With my help, professional help, and with time E1 cried a little less. She began to tell a few friends she was adopted and was having a hard time because she heard "ugly things" about being adopted. These friends, who could not care less that she was adopted, told her not to worry. It helped, but not really.
After a full week of this, things seemed to be on the up and up. There were barely any tears last weekend and when she had them, she recited what I had told her "I am loved. I am safe. I am in control."
Memorial Day, E1 told us she was finished crying. She told us she knows her birth mother loved her, but was too young to care for her. She told us her story as we have told it to her. I reminded her that we have nothing but respect for her birth mother. We talked about how people stare at people in wheelchairs, or different hair colors, etc and discussed how brave her birth mother was to face those stares and grow a baby in her belly while walking the halls of high school. How courageous and selfless it was to grow a baby in her belly while she missed prom and other activities. How much love one woman has to grow a baby, give her life and give her parents.
E1 then tells us she is grateful that we are her parents and she is alive because after all, some women kill their babies. ( While I acknowledged what she said, we did not discuss abortions. How does she even know this stuff?)
After this discussion, life seemed to fall back in place.
Today, with all the bravery and pride E1 (with the teacher's permission) spoke to her class about her adoption story. Her adoption story filled with hope, prayer, and love. I was not there to witness this. I heard about it from her teacher, then from E1 when she got off the bus. E1 said she felt happy to tell her friends. I told her she was brave. I told her she was courageous. She smiled her smile that fills her whole face.
Today, E1 took back the control she had lost.
I know this will not be the last time E1 gets knocked down. I know children say things without thinking. I know all of this is par for the course.
What I know and how it made us all feel are two very different things.
I am so thankful E1 found peace. I am thankful she trusted us with her emotions. I am thankful for a team of friends and family and professionals that helped hold her hand.
I am also thankful tomorrow is summer - we need a break!