disclaimer: this is my blog, therefore it is my opinion. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. If you don’t like my opinion, I am okay with that. Just be kind when expressing your opinion here.
Isabelle was born with a hole in her heart.
Abandoned at the gates of an orphanage.
In a very poor, rural town.
She was left with only the clothes on her back. No birth note, no supplies, no mementos. Nothing to tie her to the mother that had carried her. That gave birth to her.
“Of course she loved you.”
“Certainly your birth parents wanted to keep you.”
“I’m sure they were just too poor to be able to care for a child with a heart condition. So they made the best, most loving decision they could under the circumstances.”
These words, these hope-filled words, were the ones I had planned to use on the day that would eventually arrive, unannounced.
The day she would ask the heartbreaking question, “Why?”
But in the almost-five years since Isabelle has been our beloved daughter, we’ve had time to think and rethink. And this long contemplated plan exists no longer.
We plan to share with our daughter, in the most loving way we can, the only things we do know… when and where she was abandoned.
We believe that making any assumptions, with no birth note, no history, no facts, no knowledge of anything remotely related to her birth and her abandonment, would be a total fabrication. With unforeseen and potentially far-reaching consequences.
And we really don’t know anything. Not even her birth date. The day we celebrate her birth, June 26th, is only a guess. A heartbreaking speculation for the day our child was born into this world.
There is a chasm where facts and pictures and smiles and stories and hugs and memories should all be packed away for her. All for her to delve into when she’s big enough to unpack her history. When she’s big enough to ask, “Why?”
And we, as adoptive parents, want to find something to give our children when they come to us looking for answers. The urge is to create a past, or even just a tiny hint of a past to offer as a temporary balm on a gaping wound.
And yet the very people who love her outrageously have nothing for her. And anything we might offer would be even worse than nothing. It would be a lie.
Children who have been abandoned have already lost so much. A family. A history. An integral sense of who they are. I will not be guilty of adding to the list of heartbreaking losses in my daughter’s life by creating a false reality of her birth family.
The truth is that there are an infinite number of scenarios for why my daughter was abandoned. Some fairy tale like. Some grossly implausible. But the only truth we can cling to is that we just don’t know. And that has to be the truth she learns from the beginning.
As Americans, we have the haughty assumption that every one every where must be just like us. Think like us, act like us. But they are most certainly not. The Chinese people couldn’t be more different. Their culture, their ways are so far from what we consider to be ‘typical’ here in America. We wear blinders, created by our lavish and luxurious lives in in the United States. Whoever you are and how ever ‘poor’ you feel, once you’ve spent some time seeing the real China, you’ll feel differently. Women in China face scenarios we could not imagine, even in our worst nightmares.
So speculating based on who we imagine our daughter’s birth mother to be, or what struggles she might have faced, or how she might have loved our daughter, well… I just can’t go there. I can’t assume to know the mind of a woman so unlike me on so many levels. I’m spoiled. I’m rich (relatively speaking, of course). I’m well-educated. I’m an American. And insanely blessed to be living in a country that values women as much as it does men.
The only real way for healing and growth to take place is by sharing the unadulterated, un-‘created’ truth. Allowing a child to build fantasies based on a fabricated tale of love and loss by birth parents is misleading and deceitful. And the ramifications could be enduring.
And when Isabelle pours over the details of her earliest days, when she goes through her pictures from the orphanage, when she rolls the few facts she has over again and again in her mind, I want everything she thinks of to be based on truth. Not based on the shifting sands of half-truths and outright fabrications.
And my prayer is that she will grow from there, into the beautiful child God intended her to be. Seeking answers, asking questions and turning to Him to fill the void that nothing else can.
So when that day arrives, and she comes to us for answers about her beginnings, we will have to be courageous enough to stand before her with empty hands.
And open arms.
Wow, this post is very timely for me. I was talking to a friend just yesterday about how to begin talking to Lucy about her past. You pose a very good, and truthful, point. I think you are right on and I appreciate you writing about it.
Great post. Kiana is 10 years old and she knows that we know nothing before the orphanage. She knows that several of her siblings have birth parents that we know. It's really just accepted around her that what we know is all we know…and we just talk about how God brought them to our family because that was His plan…simple at this point for them to understand.
Excellent! I agree with you wholeheartedly, especially the point of God filling the voids and our open arms.
I must say that I emphatically agree with you!!
As you know, Shea began asking the 'why' question at a very young age….
After we talked at that fabulously delicious Italian restaurant (that I can't seem to remember the name of) on Shamain Island back in January…on this very subject….
I began rethinking what I should say to Shea as she questions her past.
And we have had many conversations in these past few weeks…I am sure because of Avery's arrival…
Even though, I can clearly see that Shea is frustrated and confused by the fact that I simply don't know why she was relinquished by her first momma…I have firmly decided NOT to add any details that may or may not be true!!!
I do tell her that she is greatly loved and treasured by us and by her God.
I do tell her that God has a purpose for her…
I do tell her that I will always be there for her…and will listen to her no matter what!
Oh!My!!!! (deep sigh!)
Thanks for sharing…
I just love this community of support & encouragement!!!
Acceptance with Joy says
Thanks! Very well said. Tears of joy and sadness for the loss these little angels experience and joy for what might be with love and understanding and the truth.
Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free!
I so enjoy your blog and read it often. I always walk away either encouraged or giggling, ha! This post was insightful, timely and beautifully written. Thank you.
I truly stand by you and believe in my own heart that making up wonderful backgrounds are lies. You don't have the information to share with her. All you know is what you know. But her having a loving family supporting her through some tough times is really awesome. I appreciate your openness. As Americans we don't know what it is like. We want our children to not hurt or be sad, but I think in the long run children need to know the truth..Jesus loves them (TRUTH!) and your family does too (TRUTH!) Just my opinions.
Extremely well said Stefanie! Since bringing home my Aiden in November, my husband and I have discussed multiple scenarios as to the reasons behind our son being abandoned by his birth parents and we absolutely have no more answers now than we did then. We choose not to focus on the reasons unbeknownst to us, but rather the wonderful gift that has been bestowed upon us. We are extremely grateful and humbled by the gift of being able to call him our son. He is an amazing child and we are honored by having him in our life! I wholeheartedly agree with your decision and plan to do the same with my son – he will be told what we do know but to speculate about anything more really would be unrealistic and unfair to him.
I think you are completely right. I've run through the same thought processes as you. Thanks for sharing this!
Miss Anna B says
I cried. I don't usually cry at blogs. Some live in my heart but, not usually tears. My husband and I have mulled over this very thing over and over and over and over (well, you get the idea) and over again. And drew the same conclusions as you. We will be here to give her everything we can now….but we cannot create her reality out of stories and imaginings and theories. Mandi and Sarah's stories are so different. Each with huge holes of 'we don't know' and we want each of them to find their way with truths and acceptance of 'i don't know'.
Thank you! So much.
Team Gilbert says
Ths breaks my heart! The truth can be so empty but full of insight! Yesterday I was talking to Grace's teacher and she was telling me that she shuts down during her Manderian Class. There is something that she is already feeling about all this and she is just packing it away for the moment with her Dad and I. I agree with your feelngs on this. I'm thankful that you wrote about it beacause it is something we are always thinking about. Hugs to you Sista!
I couldn't agree more. I have a 5 yr old daughter from Nanjing and she is just beginning to ask "those" questions. I had always thought we'd take the loving mommy route, but never ever felt comfortable doing that. Thankfully I haven't had to yet and after reading your post, it truly echoes exactly how I feel about it. Thank you for putting in to words something I can't quite grasp yet. Love your blog.
Wendy in Canal Fulton, OH
Thank you for posting this! We, my husband and I, agree 100%.
Perfectly put Stephanie. We are nearing the time for this question to be posed and I am printing this off to remind me to answer as honestly as possible.
Lori Lynn says
As always your words are thoughtfully and beautifully expressed. I am sure that all of us adoptive parents of Chinese daughters have similar thoughts running through our minds.
I agree with you that I should never "suggest" possible scenarios or fabricate situations regarding their birth. "We don't know" is the only truth. The only area where I differ with you (and I suspect you are right and I am wrong), is that I do allow my girls to verbalize their hopes about why their birthmother had to abandon them. I don't want to tell her what to think or how to think. I try not to support any one story, but I also try not to dash her hopes. I figure that as she gets older, she will realize that the only truth is "We don't know". I hope she will see that I never lied to her and we will always speak lovingly of her birthmother regardless of the circumstances of which we are unaware.
Teresa =) says
I haven't read all the comments left for you…should be grading papers, not reading blogs…so I don't know if this has already been addressed.
Your daughter was not abandoned. Abandoned children are left in fields to perish. Your daughter was left where she would be found. That singular fact (which applies to both my son who was left at the orphanage door and my daughter who was left in the doorway to a public restroom) tells me my children WERE loved by their "China mommies"…loved enough to be left where they would be found.
Beautiful ! I have often thought about what I will say to Maggie when she asks. We also don't have anything – no history. Just that she was abandoned the day she was born. nothing else. Tragic and sad but it is the truth. I am praying that God will give me the words to say when the time comes and that Maggie's heart will be healed from all the pain.
Sorry, my comment looks like it was from anonymous. It from me. Kathy
Mike and Barb says
I just had that discussion again with my heart-broken, tear-filled, 6 year old. It's not a topic for a six year old. It's too much, it's brutal, and all in my wants to scream "It's not fair!". But – it needs to be processed, and I for one am not willing either to "make up" stuff. It's a hurt and a pain that only the Lord will be able to heal in our children, but for now, I'm his hands and arms to hold our kids when they struggle with the harsh and difficult reality of their early days.
Thank you for sharing your heart so openly.
I agree with you 100%, trying to come up with an answer is just no answer at all. I've thought of what I would say to my daughter about her mother but I don't know anything about her mother, I can only assume that she acted out of love because women in Guatemala face terrible struggles.
I know 2 people personally that were lied to about their adoptions and the affects of those lies have been devasting for 1 of those persons, the sad thing is she did not know she was adopted and others around her did.
What I do know to tell my daughter is that she is loved deeply and it was the Lord's plan for her to be in our family.
Lots to think about. My daughter was abandoned at the orphanage gate in her poor, rural community, like your daughter. Our adoption agency shared with us that we can ascertain something any time a little one was left somewhere where he/she would be found. The one abandoning had enough compassion for the child to chance being caught abandoning a child, a serious crime with stiff penalties. Whoever does this wants life for that little one, because infantacide is estimated to be common and less risky since parents can just say their baby died. I am so thankful our agency made this point with us because it's one thing we can in good faith tell our daughter about whoever brought her into the world. That element of self-sacrifice is better than nothing.
You know, I had the same plan in mind…until we hosted a Chinese exchange student…and then everything changed. I can not assume anything. We had a VERY difficult time with this girl and the way she treated our girls. So, that being said I have a different plan, more like yours. I will just share what I know and make sure they know that we love them, more than anything.
Well said. I made lifebooks for the kids and a lot of it is speculation…because like you said..we just don't know.
Our second adoption came with birth note, money left in basket, and precious clothing for him to wear. Our girl has NOTHING….I have been thinking of this as well. She has begun (at age 5) to discuss that she was in a "China momma's tummy"…she hasn't gone past that, YET. Thank you so much for giving me a place to start praying to God that I have the courage to have open arms along with my empty hands.
Stefanie, as usual, this is a beautiful post. It is true, we don't know anything. Alaina was left with a note saying her birthday. She was left in front of the hospital..a public place..left to be found. I like what Teresa said. It makes me feel better. 🙂 It is true,we don't know what her feelings were. But she did care/love enough to make sure she was safe. We can say that to her. We can explain the one child policy and that most children that are 'abandoned' are either girls or SN. I, too will tell her that no matter what, she was loved by God and he protected her. And some might not believe, but i believe she was meant to be ours. Before creation, God knew she would be with us. I think that teaching them from an eternal perspective will help heal their hearts…maybe a little quicker. We hope.
I love this post. I love how as parents of these kiddos, we learn a huge lesson about love once they are ours. I thought I knew how I would do a lot of things…until I met my children. Once they were real, in my care, LOVED by me…it became so much more complicated.
Very well said, Stefanie. You do want to make it all better for your child, but the truth is usually the best way. This topic has come up at our house already but Lizzie doesn't want to hear about her birthmom and birthdad yet. Not that I have anything to tell her but she is not ready to even go there in her mind – yet. When she is ready, we will do the same. We will tell her that we simply don't know but that we love her and that she can ask us anything and that we will be there for her, always!!!
A few verses came to mind when I read your post:
An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.
Send out your light and your truth;let them guide me.Let them lead me to your holy mountain,to the place where you live.
I that telling your beautiful little girl the truth is a great decision. It may be painful at first, but God will work in that truth to give her a sense of identity and healing and will ultimately lead her to God.
Shay Ankerich says
I am completely covered in cold chills. Ek will have been with us 4 years on Saturday and this question of WHEN the question will come from has been so on mind lately. Your post is completely God timed!!! I am so thankful to read your wisdom on this issue because you are so right. There are no answers and who are we to make up some 'sweet' story to make things all 'perfect'. I feel so released to have empty hands and complete open arms and heart!!! I believe EK will come to her own thoughts about this from what we DO know and God will fill in all the rest. My job is to love her beyond belief!!! And I'm doing it! Thanks again! Blessings to you!
McNew Family says
Thanks so much for posting this – I, too, believe that we would be doing our children an injustice by fabricating any sort of picture of their beginnings. It is an unknown, but by God. In His infinite wisdom, He will provide the understanding in His timing. Amen!
The Gang's Momma! says
We haven't gotten the "why" questions yet, but in reading this post and the comments following, I think we lean toward the same thought process that you've articulated so amazingly well. (Which, I might add, is yet more evidence as to why you are my bloggy hero. Slobber, slobber!)
One thing that strikes me is the difference btw. kids' stories that one family might have to navigate. And the hard truth that each child will likely have a different set of circumstances leading up to being found, being found, etc. AND that each will have such varying responses and reactions to their stories AND to their sibs' stories. That's a lot for a parent to handle.
Which just scared the doo-doo right out of me as I pray and seek the Lord for the timing and focus of our next adoption. This parenting isn't for sissies, is it?
But anyway, great post. Should be required reading for all AP's. Thanks for your eloquence and your honesty, to us AND to your kids!
Leah Mei says
I love and agree with so much of this post. I think its important that we all are prepared for when the questions arise. My daughter just turned 3 and all she knows is that I am mommy, but I know that the questions will eventually come. She does not look like she was adopted so we have never had questions and don't suspect we will in the future from strangers, but the truth as we know it is all we can give her. However, I was not born in this country, so I know first hand what is is to live in America as an American and remember bits and pieces of my childhood in another country. Yes, it is very different, but in all the important parts, very much the same. The only truth we can give them with certainty is what little we know, to me it is just so important that we don't claim to know how they are feeling. Too many times growing up well intentioned "Americans" in an effort to make me "feel better" just made me feel different, which I was not.
Our youngest daughter just recently started asking about her history and I wrote a post here http://valerie.thestranathans.com/2010/03/without-heritage.html. I know the info from her finding ad and a few things about her life in foster care and the orphanage, but that's it. At this point, she's more fascinated with the fact that she has Chinese birth parents than in why she doesn't live with them anymore. I dread the day when she understands her loss and the pain she will feel. A pain I can't protect her from and that hurts most of all.
I've been thinking this way for awhile and have that book on my reading list. Thanks.
this is so wonderful. thank you for sharing…i appreciate your prespective so much. you are right on.
This is EXACTLY how we've been handling the situation which first came up 2 years ago…there is no sugar-coating going on here, just the truth as we know it…which isn't much, but our children DESERVE the truth, even if that truth is as simple as "we don't know".
Way to go, Stef!
It just sucks not knowing. It's so unfair to our kiddos!!!
It is so tempting to weave a little tale…a maybe or probably such and such happened…that becomes reality to them. That's not fair either. I get it. But waaahhhh. My 4 year old has cried and I have cried with him over the holes in his heart and in the hearts of so many orphans.
Thanks for keepin' it real girl.
So much you have given me to think about and contemplate. Very deep…and so relevant to our particular case down to the estimated birthday. There is so much I want to protect my girl, my beloved daughter, from…and yet I owe her the truth…
Beautiful! We feel the same way. So many questions with no answers. We will allow our daughter to fill in her own gaps. We will not presume to know what really happened. Thank you for this post. I know it will help a lot of people in making the decisions on what they want to tell their children.
Isabelle is one day younger than my Gwen. Actually, that may or may not be true because Gwen was also about a month old when she was found and they had to guess her birth date too. They guessed 6/25/2004.
So far, she doesn't know anyone "abandoned" her. It's just too much information for her little mind to grasp. In time (perhaps even soon), she'll figure out that someone had give her away in order for use to find her and adopt her. Then I'm sure she's going to wonder why.
When young kids ask "why", I think it's mostly because they have fear and want to make sure it's not going to happen again. I, personally, can't imagine not giving my worried child something to help ease her troubled mind. When she's older, she'll be able to read books that explain the political and social climate in China around the time of her birth and then she'll fully understand that we can't ever know for certain why she was given away. We can have a few good hunches but no actual proof. And that's going to have to be good enough.
I do agree that it's not helpful to create a fantasy story about how much she was loved and wanted and how much her birth family mourns her loss. But it is fair to assume that her birth family cared enough about her to feed her for the month before she was left at the orphanage gate. They cared enough to risk being caught and punished when it would have been much easier to simply 'dispose' of her. It's fair to assume that someone who would go to such trouble to make sure she was safe, might watch from a distance to ensure that someone noticed her. I've been to the finding locations of both of my girls and I've looked around to see where I would put a baby and retreat a safe distance and watch her. I see no reason why I shouldn't share this observation with my kids as long as I tell them that it's just speculation. Especially since exploring various scenarios helps them begin to understand why something almost uncomprehendable happened to them. It wasn't for *no* reason. It was just for unknown reasons.
Very interesting post. Thanks for making me think! 🙂
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Gene and Annie says
Thank you for sharing so much!! It makes so much sense!! We have not adopted yet but plan too very soon!! I have always wanted to tell my children (we have 4) the truth and not hide things from them. If they ask me something, I try and tell them age appropriately the most truthful answer possible!! I think kids want to be trusted it the truth!!
But saying that… I could see very easily where I might have wanted to protect my child from hurt and could easily have said that without realizing that I technically assuming these things but not really telling the truth! So thank you for sharing because I could see where it could be so easy to do that without realizing it!!
Wow – what an awesome post. Strikingly honest, but in my mind so very heart felt and true. I will keep this always until I have to tell my children of their "beginnings".
I completely agree, I wish my family would read this post maybe they would start to get it.
We have very little information on the circumstances of our son-to-be and it seems like whenever I say I don't know someone pipes up with their version of what must have happened.
thank you, Stefanie!
Love for Lilly Yin says
I feel our daughter was loved somewhat by her birth mother, through a twist of unusual circumstances… however, even though I feel for several reasons that she was loved, I will not tell HER anything untruthful. Period. I just wrote on my blog a story of what "I" feel the birth mother felt but that is MY thoughts, not the ones that I will share with my daughter when we are talking about TRUTHS of what we know. However, I think that my daughter will one day envision a story too, just like I have. I totally get what you are saying about truth in your statements.
Lost and Found says
I agree with you 100%. I'm saddened by the fact that my daughter has nothing to connect her to her birth family but I also know it's not fair to paint a false picture. I can tell her what I do know. She was chubby and healthy when found which suggests her birth mom took care of herself while pregnant. She was left in a flower garden in a park that was very pretty. Her town of birth while very poor is very beautiful in the mountainous regions of China. She has many people who loved her (and we have record, photos and planned trips back to reunite her with these special people.
Amy Eldridge said a similar thing in an email years ago and it has stuck with me because I would have been tempted to ease my kids' pain with a comforting story. I have come to agree with the 'just the facts' method.
Thank you so much for this post. I have two daughters with no history and I wonder all of the time how I am going to approach this. It will be hard, but you are right.
Great post Stefanie! I completely agree with you. As difficult as it will be to answer those questions with "we don't know" it is the truth and that is what she deserves. I pray that He gives her peace that surpasses all understanding and that she is able to come to terms with her abandonment and lack of information surrounding it. Thanks for writing this!
Colin and Jill Canada says
well said. thank you! I'm going to print this so I can look at it again when I need to.
I agree with what Laura and Theresa posted. My son's mother and/or father gave him life. She could have chosen to abort and/or father could have coerced her to do this. My son's mom gave him life in China when so many women here in US don't even do that, and choose other options.
She didn't choose to end his life after birth either, like many in China still do to their children. She didn't abandon him in a field or ditch, but chose to leave him in a place where he could be found.
Thank you for the beautiful post. I envision creating a box for my daughter for when she is older that contains clips like this that will give her a chance to mull over and form her own realistic opinion or belief about her time in China.
Wow..that is so true. We very blessed to have a note. On it they wrote her name, which meant
"the 3rd sister" and her date of birth. It also said "we love her and hope she goes to a very nice family". They kept her for a month. But the hole in her heart caused her to be very weak. We were in awe when we got it. Our Chinese liason couldn't believe it either. She said NEVER had she seen a note like that. I KNOW what a blessing it is..because we can truthfully tell her that her parents loved her.
The Barfield's says
such kind and loving, and very well-thought-out out words. isabelle is so thoroughly blessed to have you as her family. the holes that are left by the unknowns will certainly be filled with the love you are showering on her, and even more importantly, by the Love you are leading her towards and living before her every day.
Morning Stef – let me start with this is an outstanding post – and it covers a topic that all adpotive parents really NEED to think about BEFORE they make the decision to adopt internationally! 99% of us will be in the same boat – no info at all – and how do we cope with that for our kids?
IA is NOT for everybody – and there's no shame in that!!
That much said – we've struggled with this and reached a little different conclusion. The problem is when to make full disclosure to our kids – when will the be old enough to learn some of the realities of life in China?
We do know one thing about our kids – they were abandoned where they would be found….and that means someone cared enough to do at least that much. At least someone was willing to run the risk of arrest and punishment for an unreported birth (however harsh that might be by American standards) – our kids deserve to know that too.
FWIW – thanks for opening your heart and mind to us – and I hope that all potential IA parents give that one a read! This kind of parenting really is NOT for the faint of heart!
hugs – aus and co.
Great job on this post. I totally agree with you and we are planning to tell our girls the same thing. That we know nothing.
We can't pretend that we know anything at all…..we will just tell them what we truly know and that is that God loves them and that He had a plan for their lives! And that He chose us to be their parents! We are the most blessed parents in the world!
Thank you thank you for sharing this very personal circumstance. Understanding your side will most definitely help me be a better aunt to my two beautiful nieces from China.
Heartbreaking thoughts. Not that they're wrong. They just cause me to come to grips with how little I know… My daughter could have been stolen, her finding place and finding person could ALL be lies.
Poverty. I feel very poor in the way of answers for my girl. Thank you for your push in that direction, Stefanie!
And you're right, we know nothing of poverty as we sit behind our computers and have the time freedom and language to speculate.
God, help us love these precious treasure blessings that they might understand their worth in light of Your glorious truths!
Good job, Stef.
Pug Mama says
"We wear blinders, created by our lavish and luxurious lives in in the United States. "
Ash Tray says
Stephanie… you won't know me. But I know you… just a bit from your blog. I founded a ministry called Dark to Dawn…. spotlighting God's mandate to care for the orphan and hoping to inspire His people to care for the orphans. Anyway, I am working with along with a few folks from LifeSong for Orphans and others who are trying to strategize on social media avenues. We would like to invite your input. Can you join us? Let me know if we can invite you also to a con-call working on this. You certainly have expertise in this area. Blessings, Ashlee Harry email@example.com
I have been writing a very similar post to go up soon, and agree with you wholly.
Great, great post…took the words right out of my mouth…
I'm going echo everyone and say amen! This is the best we can offer them. They have to know that we can be trusted to convey the little we know and we have to trust that God can be trusted to care for their hearts as they process that information.
Unrelated but a powerful read is the novel Shanghai Girls. It relates to your reference to the lives of women in China and gives more history to our little ones.
Mrs. S. says
Your post really hit home and made me cry…our daughter, Kate, has a similar "history"-none…we placed her paperwork that we had translated into English in a bank safe deposit box…it will be locked until she is old enough to handle what little we know….abandoned at approx. 3 days of age and placed in a sewage ditch with umbilical cord chewed off..how horrible, unfathomable…Kate, who is 6 1/2 recently asked the same question your daughter asked & it simply killed me inside b/c I COULD NOT describe that she was basically, in my opinion, thrown out to die. I have been struggling with answers so tell her that we don't know much, just that an orphange worker heard her little crys, wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the orphanage…that that woman was her guardian angel who saved her…Kate prays for her birth mom every night and tells her that she is a good and happy little girl that she would be proud of…I can only hope that when she reads that paperwork when she is much, much older, that it will not impact her negatively…thank you for sharing your story….all 15 people in our group had romantic stories….babies found in a basket with clothes, bottles, photos of birth parents, letters, etc….we felt so lonely. Although I don't wish this upon anyone else, your words made me feel/understand that their others like us struggling with the same questions.
Mei Mei s and Mayhem says
Well said!! This is exactly what we plan to do with Ava when the time comes!!
Amanda & Roland says
your thoughtfullness is clear in this post. As an adoptee and adoptive parent I understand both my desire as a parent to help my child have whatever history or story he can about his birth and the circumstances surrounding it as well as the need of the child (both him and me) to accept what cannot be accepted easily and what may remain a mystery. That is tempered by a natural human desire to identify ourselves in our world. As an adoptee I was told a story that I now have accepted may not be true but was the best that could be offered. I want to protect my son but also give him a base on which to start to accept himself as a child of God not broken or discarded. I struggle with this with all my adopted children and will continue to try to find the right words to fufill their needs
You have changed my mind…well I should have been thinking the "truth" route all along! I found out my father wasn't my bio dad when I was 23 & I was so mad that it was a secret for so long! I vowed that when I adopted that it would not be a "secret" but a proud blessing that I would share. We talked about how we would go the "protected" route when the time came, but that would be made up and that is NOT what I would have wanted for me, so why would I do that to my child? I thank you for this awesome post & we will also be telling our son the truth & nothing more!
I am in complete agreement with how you handle this situation…and it has shed much light on how I will handle my own children's questions-there are a couple of things that come to mind. One is that the mothers of my children carried them to term and they were both born extremely healthy (7 pounds and 9 pounds at their findings when they were a few days old- huge for Chinese children)other than their sn (CHD & clubbed feet). That tells me something about their regard for human life…and the other is that I will never tell my children that it was God's plan for them to be abandoned. I just don't believe that God planned that–I DO believe that he knew it would happen and brought us into the picture to turn a sad situation into a brighter one. But I want my children to know that their God is a loving God who cared so much for them as to bring them away from that lonely life to this crazy, loud, family where everyone is on their side. I am growing more conscious of my God and what He looks like to my kidlets in every situation.
Thanks for your insight and wisdom in bringing this topic to the forefront for conversation. Very timely for our little crew.
This is very difficult for me to post, but I'll give it a go, although it appears I'm going against the grain. I've had this discussion on the Holt board in the past. I am a Korean Adoptee who came home when I was 7 mos. old. I have no information other than the fact that I was abandoned at birth. I have grown up with the facts, ie. NO INFORMATION at all, but was also told that my birth mother must have loved me to SOME degree to carry me in her stomach for 9 months and endure the pains of labor to bring me into this world. She then left me at a place where she knew I had high chances of being found. She did not wrap me up in a trash bag and throw me away, like we hear about here in the U.S. It may be "fabricated" as we can't prove it, but I choose to believe that my birth mom made the ultimate sacrifice to give me up and seek a better future for me. Without this to hold on to and to believe in, I don't think I would have made it this far in my life. As an adult, with children of my own, I know that "my birth mother loved me and chose a better life for me" is not FACT, but it is what I choose to believe in my heart and I thank my parents for presenting that idea to me as I was growing up. It's very hard to feel abandoned and unwanted, even with the support of a loving family. Just another opinion from the opposite side of the triad. Love your blog and love seeing pics of your gorgeous family.
Mandy Park says
Sorry, I left the last post as anon.
I am in such agreement with you on this post. While we prepared to bring our sweet Kylie home back in 2007 I rehearsed all the "your mother loved you enough to leave you at the gate of the orphanage where she knew you'd be found" and "you were nearly two months old so she must have held on to you as long as she could" stories. And over time I've come to realize that telling her such is simply a fairy tale. This side of heaven I have no idea what brought my precious kids to their respective finding spots. But what I do know is that the love of our Heavenly Father can transcend the loss and help them to heal. And I will be here as the physical hands to hold them as they grow into their stories.
Mandy Park: Well said. This is the approach I want to use with our daughter. I will tell her what I know. She was born in a Chinese province which has the highest abortion rates. Her finding area was extremely poor… I can give her these things. I can also give her a prayer journal I kept as we waited for her. She is the answer to so many prayers and clearly our daughter. I will trust God to sow peace in her heart as she sees His loving hand was always right there.
Thank you Mandy!
I certainly don't want to embellish or make up truths but I have to agree with what Mandy Park said (and thanks so much for sharing, Mandy because you've made me feel that we're on the right path with what we plan to discuss).
Of course I don't know the whys as to the reason she was not able to stay with her birth family but I know that her birth mom carried her for 9 months (ish) rather than choosing abortion. I know that she was a healthy weight when born so her birth mom took care of herself and her baby, I know that she was left in a place to be found – a place that would definitely put whoever left her in serious danger of being discovered – so they risked discovery to ensure she would be found quickly, and I know that she was dressed very, very warmly so someone took care to make sure she was protected from the elements on a cool, Spring morning.
I think I'm okay in telling her that someone loved her enough to do those things without lying to her. I just feel that in my heart these are things I can honestly say to her without glossing over the many missing pieces I don't have to give her.
I LOVE this post and I thank you from the very core of my being…there are a host of folks who don't get choices that we have made regarding Hannah, some of them beautiful Christian women who are my sisters and friends, but they pass judgement, make faces, without knowing give way to doubt that doesn't need to be there. Hannah has already at her tender age asked, "Where were you? Where are my born pictures?" Ugh. The truth. We tell her the truth. Sometimes the truth is harder for Emily than for Hannah, she is sure of her story, knows it by heart, it burdens her that she cannot retell the details of Hannah's birth. But, I know and God has promised that He will number our very steps that our children may walk in the truth. So, we tell the truth and pray. A lot. 🙂
SO thankful for you, for this community and for the gift of our children…all of them, no matter how they came to us or what their history is. Precious, precious gifts and we have been blessed.
Love & Hugs,
There is nothing like the TRUTH, Stefanie.
In our case, I know all about my son's birth and first few months of life.
With the exception of a few very adult issues pertaining to his bio mom and her situation back then and now…I chose to share the REAL truth about his past with him from the very begining.
He knows how we came to be a family and he respects my honesty. One day I will share with him the details that are over his head right now…because its HIS story and he has every right to know it all…no hold barred.
Because I have been open with him, our discussions of his begining whenever it comes up continues to be an ongoing discussion that does not cause me worry or him confusion…rather a part of history and a stepping stone for him to understanding how he came to be part of the wonderful family we are today.
Your post was heartfelt, honest and so perfectly Stefanie!
Well said!!! So very timely as I struggle with the realization that we do not know Darci's actual birth date. It's an assumption based on her intake when found and taken to the hospital. This is all so fresh as we just came back from China in June 09 and coming up on her 2nd birthday (1st with us). I too will stand before my daughhter empty handed but with loving arms and years of prayers that have gone beforehand preparing her heart for what she hears when she asks!!! We already have started to talk about her being adopted and that she is from China and in her 2 year old mind she does not understand but we will never be quilty of not sharing her story everyday as she grows that she is adopted, is from China and is very much loved by her mom, dad, big sisters, family and friends!! Thanks again for sharing for those words were words I needed to hear!!!
I am completely agree with your post, and am so glad to see you speaking about this somewhere where many people will see it. With my daughter's story, the closest to inserting my opinion I go is "They put you where you could be found quickly and dressed you warmly and made sure there was food left with you" because I don't think it's just coincidence that she was put in a populated area with good clothes and a bottle — her family could have left her elsewhere if they didn't want her found. But even that I sometimes feel guilty about.
Mandy Park says
I felt as though I should add some background to my story so as to be more clear on why I feel this way. (I also think that being able to write about this and not be judged is therapeutic for me, so thanks) I am a 32 year old KAD who came home at 7 mos. I have struggled with abandonment issues my entire life. I have no information in regards to my adoption except for the fact that I was abandoned. I have no idea if my birthdate is accurate and correct. I do know that I have 2 amazing and loving parents. I love them more than words could ever express and to me they are my "REAL" parents. They have always done the best they could in dealing with my adoption issues, but resources were limited for them, as I was the last part of the first generation of KAD's. There weren't a lot of post placement services offered as I was growing up. Even though I know that my parents love me and are always there for me, there is a woman somewhere in this world who gave me away. That in itself just kills a part of me from the inside out. Someone on the other side of the world gave birth to me and gave me away/left me. Logically I know that it wasn't my fault, I was a baby and I did nothing wrong. That doesn't diminish the pain, hurt, and shame that comes from being abandoned. I know that it's not a "fact" that my birth mother loved me. I know it can't be proven, unless I were to find her and ask her. I do know that "more than likely" she did love me to some degree. She cared enough to do all the things that led me to my forever family, starting with carrying me to term, ending with letting me go. If all I had were the "facts", ie. there was a woman, she gave birth to you, she left you, we know nothing else about it, BUT WE as your parents love you very much, I honestly think that I would have had an even harder time dealing with it all. I do see your point about not lying to your children and fabricating "fairy tales", but I don't think it's wrong to suggest that their birth mother must have loved/cared about them in some way. I just can't imagine asking my parents if my birth mother at least loved me, and having them look me in the eye and tell me that they're not sure, they don't know..or just a flat out no. I've had some very dark days in my life (in regards to my adoption/abandonment issues) and I will say that I leaned heavily on the thought that my birth mom did the best she could and acted out of love for me. I realize that each family is different and you all have to do what works best for your family. I do not judge your choices on how you approach these issues with your children. I just wanted to provide my perspective as an adoptee who has dealt with these issues first hand. Thanks for letting me share.
Mei Mei Journal says
Do thoughts like this make you consider trying to found out more about your children's histories and families in China? I feel that I owe it to my girls to try and am actively doing so.
I enjoyed this post and all of the comments. Thanks to Mandy for sharing her insight.
This is just beautiful!!!! I hung on every word!
Courtney Kay says
I just got back from a Guatemalan orphanage where i witnessed the arrival of an abandoned newborn, nameless and so tiny… I got to name her… Not knowing about your Isabella's story I named her Isabella Esperanza (due to a mix up the infant staff at the orphanage called her Maria for a day so she became Isabella Esperanza Maria which means "God is my oath and Hope in this sea of bitterness"
Name: The Bryant Family says
Thanks Mandy for taking the time to respond. Truly insightful!
Wow, so many opinions. I haven't had time to read through all of them, but I'll chime in and say that we have resisted using the term "birth mother" with our daughter who is now 5. We instead use the language of "the wonderful lady that carried you in her tummy until China said it was OK and time for Mommy and Daddy to come get you".
We want our daughter to be totally grounded in who Mommy and Daddy are, ie, US…and IMHO a very young child can't understand about the "2 Mommies" thus our language of the very nice lady whose tummy you grew in until you were born..
One family we know of has made a fairly big deal and almost in a way seems to worship the unknown Chinese birth mother. Their 3 year old daughter has now started to scream that she wants her "real" mommy in China when she has to have a time out or be punished for behavioral issues.
I do believe as your Korean adoptive young lady commented that there is something important to be said for a child being given a glimpse of the sacrifice it was just to carry a child to term and placing them in a safe place to be "found". Tragically so many babies never even reach that point.
Thanks very much for bringing up the 'ugly, beautiful truth. There is always so much to learn and consider as our girls grow. I guess we will never really know which way is the "right" way to explain– or if a 'right' way even exists.
Table for Six says
Hi all. Stef, thanks for the post- glad to see you are getting families to think before the deer in the head lights look ;o)
one thing – if I may add… someone mentioned that (commentor posted 3/25 @ 10:55) "She didn't abandon him in a field or ditch, but chose to leave him in a place where he could be found"
while I loved the rest of your post- I believe we should all be a little careful to judge when, how and where these/our children are left.
Sometimes the 'ditch' might just be the most public place there is in the country…
I know- my son was found in a ditch. And I stood in it last year. It was a very active road that led into his neighbor hood (if you will – I use the word neighborhood loosley).
Please know that I don't take your comment personally- I just realized last year that you just never know…
Stef.. I am working on that other project/paper for you.. it is hard.. but God has pressed He wants it done.
As an Asian adoptee who was abandoned and is now a mother of a child from my body and soon to adopt one from outside my body, please know that the children may never ask about it. From as early as I can remember, the fact was relayed that I was abandoned. Not all children will ask why or even care. You are their parents. They may never see you as anything but their parents. My parents are white. no big whoop. They are not my white adoptive parents who don't look like me and where are my real parents and who am I (?), they are my parents. And I don't care and have never cared about the rest.
As a 35-year old Korean adoptee, I appreciate this post. The truth, and nothing but the truth is always the best policy. As an adoptee, I would rather know the painful, gut-wrenching truth than to be lied to or misled. I can deal with the pain, the loss, the grief, but for what I have no tolerance is lies.
Thank you for fighting for the truth and for being willing to educate yourself to understand better the adoptee experience…
Unlike "Anonymous" I have asked every question possible, but it wasn't until my late twenties that I began to want to know more.
She is right that not all adoptees ask or dig for the truth, but many do. My questions and need to know the truth sent me on a 7-year journey in search of my biological origins. What I found has been tragic, redemptive, crushing, startling, confusing, wonderful, and awful, all at the same time.
And in many ways, being in reunion has only brought me even more in touch with all the loss and grief that has always been there but was simply dormant or latent…
It is true that every adoptee is different. But to me, it is absolutely normal and natural to want to know from where you come and how you began. It is completely normal to want to know what the heck happened and why.
Unfortunately, for so many adoptees, such answers elude them. For some, they can move on. For others, it can be tormenting and incredibly painful. One is not better or worse than the other, but simply different, and always valid.
To comment on the post itself first: I LOVED it! Like Melissa above said "the truth and nothing but the truth".
I don't think doing what you say you'll do and what Mandy Park (and others) talk about is necessarily different. You can tell your child you have no information but that she chose to give birth etc. and that you as a parent can't imagine any parent giving their child away lightly.
What I hear you say you will not do is make up some "romantic" notion about Isabelle's birth parents and their motivation for abandoning her. You can't answer her "why?", but you can still tell her the few facts you have and also from a human point of view and just stress that you don't know if it's true.
The anonymous comment above Melissa could have been written by me 4 years ago. Minus the children, but I knew nothing and didn't care much about it either. Have a great adoptive family and never needed anything more.
My APs have always been very open and truthful with both me and my sister about what they knew and didn't, and I think they've found it a little perculiar that we never seemed that interested in our birth parents. We've always talked a lot about Korea and being adopted and how family is about love, not genes and so on, and my parents have several times during our teen-years asked us (not pressured) if we would like to search for our birth families. We've never wanted to until in 2007 when sis was 27 and I was 29.
Emotions can be burried to a degree where the person would never expect there to be anything going on. But because my parents have always provided an enviroment that was open to any kind of discussion, it wasn't difficult for me to come to them and say "Hey, I know it's kinda out of the blue because I've always been indifferent, but I'd love to find my birth parents".
So to me it's not only important what you say, but also when you start saying it. You can never start too early. Of course the language and concept should be age appropriate, but I believe it's the parents responsability to take the lead in opening up for that topic to show the child, that it's okay to talk about and that the child should be free to talk about all and any emtions regarding it's adoption. Many people only emphasize the happy side of it, but most likely the child will also experience some difficult emotions, that can be very confusing. APs shouldn't wait until the child start asking questions, because many may not feel comfortable to do so because the subject have been silenced.
I'm rambling on. Sorry. Like Melissa, I just wanted to let you know, that as an adult adoptee myself, I would much rather know the truth and know that I am not alone in the "wanting to know the answers" boat, but that my parents are right there with me.
I just started reading yoru blog this morning for the first time and this entry touched me personally. I’m a korean adoptee and while I grew up with a korean adoptive mother and an Italian-American father, I have often asked myself those same questions. But unlike you, my mother was not open to discussing our “situation” especially in public. i’m sad that she and I never got to have those discussions growing up. I understand that her reluctance is attached to the stigma in the Korean culture to adopt (as it is true in other Asian cultures where bloodline is so important). Your children (all of them) are so beautiful and blessed to be a part of your family.
I am humbled to the point of tears, your faith in our Lord, your love, everything is so amazing to me. I honestly feel blessed simply having read your comments and postings.
My husband and I have adopted 2 children domestically,one being our niece and the other being a family friend.The daughter who was our niece was 7 at the time so she had a more understanding but our son who is now 6 has been w/us since 5 mos old only knows us as mom and dad.We have had a few encounters w/other ppl trying to tell our son details of his biological parents but we as parents struggle w/the fact of him being old enough to fully comprehend his complicated family history.We have let him know when he asked about being in my tummy that he was a special gift from God that he was delivered to us and chosen for us to be our son and that seems to suffice his curiosities but we know over time more details will need to be given.We really feel there is such a fine line in what to tell a young child that is not gonna cause them mixed emotions and a sense of instability.We battle w/what is the appropriate content that is w/in his mental ability to fully grasp and not have a sense of being rejected.We pray for all families to be able to have strength when facing these hard topics and just rest assured knowing that the one thing we can assure our kids of is that God knew his plan for them before we did and that are where God knew they needed to be.
Bham Beck says
Wow. I’m late to the party here, but this is one powerful conversation.