One of the aspects of being an adoptive parent that I had given little thought to, before the children came, and yet find one of the hardest, is contact with birth family. We do letterbox contact, which entails annual letters from the children to the birth family. I say we do it, J does it and is very good at it, I just draw a total blank when the time comes to sit and write the letter.
During the adoption training, contact letters, and the merits of doing it, were discussed, and I do feel that it’s the right thing to do. At some point, the children will understand what being adopted means, and will of course have a lot of questions about their birth family, and I think it’s important, during the years that the children are too young to write their own, that J and I keep up this contact. When they are older, I don’t want them to resent us for letting it lapse, and feel that we did this to, in some way, hide the truth from them. I don’t want the children to grow up honestly believing I am like the witch in Rapunzel, and that we stole them away from their birth family. I don’t want them to feel like we have erased pieces of their past that don’t suit us. I also believe that, by keeping up the contact in the long run, it’ll be easier to be honest and open about their history, rather than a letter dropping through the door on their 18th birthdays, whilst J and I stutter out “Oh, yeah, there’s something we should probably tell you…”
But none of this means that it’s an easy thing to do, and as each year passes it doesn’t get any easier. To sit and write a letter to strangers, giving some very general information about your children, is really tough. You don’t want it to sound cold and unfeeling, but you also don’t want to be particularly affectionate. You have to make sure the letter doesn’t really give any identifying information that could cause problems in the future, but at the same time don’t want it to sound guarded and like you’re trying to hide something. You also have to always remember that the people who receive this letter have feelings towards the children that, at the moment, they don’t reciprocate. And this of course, also reminds myself and J, that other people feel that they have a claim over our children, something we’re not particularly comfortable with, although we can of course understand it. For the majority of the time, the fact that they are adopted is often forgotten, it’s not important, it doesn’t change our love for them and they are our children. However, contact time comes around and it makes what to be adopted is, more real, there are other people out there, and whether we like it or not, they have got a connection with our children. A connection we can never deny.
Probably the only other time I get a similar feeling is, when meeting other mums for the first time, and they share birth stories (thankfully this was much more common when they were both younger), and it’s not something I can really take part in. I understand the concept of giving birth, but not really how it all happens, the breathing, the mess, the relief. In fact, giving birth always really freaked me out, pregnancy and the birth bit wasn’t something I was particularly keen on and had always likened to the John Hurt scene in Alien in my head (I do know babies don’t generally burst of the stomach, whilst you sit down for a Chinese meal). But I used to dread people asking me about when I was pregnant, or what the birth was like, and would just mutter something non-committal and change the subject. But these conversations would also make me think about the fact that there was someone else in the background, someone who did the messy bit (well, the first messy bit, all the others, we deal with).
At some point, the children will take over the contact themselves of course, and it will be their decision whether to keep it up or not, but that is their decision to make – not ours. This in itself, will probably throw up a whole host of other worries and fears, as will wherever we are with social media by that point in time. But these are worries for the future, for now we get to watch our children grow and blossom, and annoy, and irritate.