Christine Rhyner

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You ARE my mother?
Sunday, November 10, 2013 by Christine

   It was a day like any other. My young daughter, about seven years old at the time was hanging out with me in mine and my husband’s bedroom. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but in response to something she said I answered, “Because I’m your mother.”

     That’s when she replied, “You are?”

     I can remember feeling my heart sink, yet a part of me was unsure as to whether she was toying with me.

     When I replied that of course I was her mother, she questioned me again with another “You ARE my mother?”

     There are moments when we are caught off guard by something our adoptive children say. We may be unsure as to how to respond, where a particular question or comment from our child has come from, and we may feel completely rejected or inadequate in our role of adoptive parent. I felt all those things rolled into one in that particular moment.

     And I thought back to a previous incident when my daughter sat at the breakfast table and completely out of the blue exclaimed, “My own mother didn’t even want me!”

     That was a stunner. But in that moment I swooped in with reassurances that her biological mother did in fact want her, loved her and must have gone through a terrible pain to have to give her up. Did it help? I’m not sure. I cannot know exactly what she feels or thinks in the deepest recesses of her mind and her quiet, reserved nature makes it difficult to draw those emotions out of her. I do know that she went through a severe depression when she was handed over to us in China that lasted for days. While the other babies all seemed to be full of energy and bonding with their new moms and dads, Olivia hung in my arms like a wet dishrag and barely ate. She has always preferred my husband and I have to say it has been difficult to be as close to her as I had always hoped.

     At that moment in the bedroom, I decided to make light of her comment. I told her yes, I changed her diapers, prepared her bottles, rocked her to sleep at night and loved her, and all that made me a mom to her. Then I told her to come over to me and pinch me—which she gladly did. Then I exclaimed, “Ouch! See, I’m real, I’m here and I’m your mother.”

     Olivia laughed and the topic was dismissed. But I have to admit there are moments of insecurity that I have as her adoptive mother.

     We have to recognize that the adoption experience, in particular for transracially adopted children is different for each child. While my son has never questioned my role as mother and we share a bit of a stronger bond that do my daughter and I, my understanding from what I have read and heard is that girls tend to have somewhat of a more difficult time with abandonment by birth mothers. And it’s interesting that she has never mentioned her birth father, only the woman who gave her up for reasons she cannot comprehend in her limited understanding.

     While it may be difficult for adoptive parents to accept that we may not be the most worthy, acceptable, unconditionally loved “substitute” parent for the real thing, we have to set our feelings aside, tough as it might be and really clue in to our children that are now part of our forever families. We must be gentle, accepting and communicative with our transracially or domestically adopted children and understand they deal with a hurt that we can never understand.

     We can participate in Adoption Support Groups, Culture Camps, celebrations of our children’s ethnicities and surround ourselves with other families who have interracially adopted. We can make sure our kids have someone with whom they feel safe discussing issues surrounding their abandonment and adoption.

     As to what the future holds for Olivia in terms of her feelings and issues surrounding her adoption, I cannot know. I do know that what she has expressed makes me want to try harder, love her more and give her what she needs to become as emotionally healthy as she can be.

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