Michelle's Front Page

Adoption vs. Biology Part 1

August 7th, 2009

If you’ve been around the adoption blogosphere awhile, you may remember the woman who had both a biological and an adopted child then announced on her blog that her love for them was different.  If her biological child needed a kidney she wouldn’t think twice but that it just wasn’t the same with her adopted child.  Most of the adoption world was angered by this – my husband was enraged.  Now and then, as we sit and marvel at our beautiful Sabrina, he asks if I remember that.  I never thought I would be in a position to have a biological and an adopted child and be able to unequivocally say she was full of shit – but I do and can.  However, this has gotten the wheels in my brain turning.

I love my children with a ferocity that takes my breath away some days.  I love them equally but I love them differently.  I believe this is largely due to their differences as little people and not due to adoption or biology but those things can’t be completely taken out of the equation because it is part of who they are.

I loved the idea of Sabrina before she was born.  I loved her photo when we received her referral.  I loved her cute chubby self when we went to visit.  I fell in love with her when I lived in Guatemala with her.  It wasn’t easy and it was a process – but I became her mom.  I love Sabrina’s joy and her smile.  I love watching her learn new things – she is quite smart.  I love that she giggles over everything.  I love that she charms every person who comes into contact with her.  I love that she has sympathy for real and imagined “owies”.  And I love that she is my walking sunshine – even when she is being obstinate.  She is a beautiful child inside and out.  I also hold her a little tighter when I say good night because I know there is a woman in Guatemala living with a hole in her heart because she wanted to give this amazing child a different path in life.  (Please, not better – different.  It bothers me to hear adoptive parents or strangers assume that we are giving our adopted children a better life.  Who is to say it is better?  It is simply different.)  I want to love Sabrina enough for both of her mothers.

When I found out I was pregnant with Tessa, I was angry.  Angry because I was sure it meant yet another miscarriage and I didn’t want to go through that again.  As the days and then weeks passed, I was still pregnant.  Outwardly, I remained pessimistic but inside the hope was blooming.  Until the day she was born, there was a piece of me that was convinced something horrible was going to happen.  Then she was here and she was perfect.  I wasn’t prepared for the hormone driven tsunami of love and worry that immediately rushed over me.  Even when she made me weep out of exhaustion and frustration, I was overwhelmed by my love for her.  Tessa is very sweet and funny.  She makes the best faces and she makes me laugh every day.  She is smart and beautiful and mischievous.   She is going to be the one giving me gray hairs as she gets older and tests her limits and boundaries.  She is stubborn and becoming more of a giggler every day.  While her sister only has eyes for daddy, Tessa remains a momma’s girl.  She isn’t a big cuddler anymore but when she does snuggle up, I cherish those moments.  I am a little sad as she achieves each milestone because it takes her further from that baby that snuggled under my chin.

I love both of them with all of my heart but yes I love them in different ways for different reasons.

I’ll call this part 1 and  pick this subject up again next week.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 7th, 2009 at 7:16 am and is filed under adoption. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

26 Responses to “Adoption vs. Biology Part 1”

  1. Charity Says:

    Great post. My four children are all biological, so I can’t speak to the adopted vs. biological, but I can agree with loving them all differently. Not more or less; I’d lay down my life for all of them – but they all have different lovable qualities, different things I am drawn to that makes me want to hug and kiss them, different attitudes that make me have hope for their future. They also respond differently to me, and I am still learning how to react and discipline them all in a way that is unique to each of them. Great discussion starter.

  2. Steph Says:

    I had my 3 bio first, then adopted so I have your experience in reverse. And I love them all equally, but differently too. Each of my kids are completely different. They are their own people – and I love them each for their unique-nes – their strengths and their flaws.

    That being said, I do see that I project onto my biological children more than onto my adopted one. Maybe because 2 of my bio kids have very similar temperaments to mine – and I don’t want them to repeat mistakes that I made. Or I want my weaknesses to be different with them- to be worked into strengths? Or maybe it’s because I feel like parenting choices I’ve made (or mistakes) have resulted in some of their weaknesses? I don’t know if that makes any sense.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t have those issues as much with my adopted child. I don’t have as many fears with her and I am totally okay with who she is. She already had a personality when we got her – she was a year old and her personality was distinct and is the same as it is today, 2 1/2 years later. I don’t feel as “responsible” for her flaws so I don’t feel like I’m on the hook as much so I don’t try to “fix” her.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m more relaxed with her and not as obsessive as I am with my bio kids – and maybe that might look to someone (who could read minds b/c most of it is in my own head) like I care about her less. But that’s not it at all.

    Okay I need a therapist after I read all of that back! lol!

  3. PisecoMom Says:

    Wow. I was going to comment and say I agreed with you, Michelle, that there are so many factors that go into how I love each of my kids (biological son, adopted daughter) – not ~only~ the details of their births but also their genders, their ages, and their very different personalities.

    Then I read Steph’s comment and it really clicked with me – I realized I’m much more nervous about my son and seeing my own flaws in him, but I can relax more about who my daughter is becoming because any differences in her nature are not “my fault.” (Even though I try to tell myself that’s silly… but I can see that it does play a part.)

    A thought-provoking post, can’t wait to see what else you have to say on the topic.

  4. Burgh Baby Says:

    These lines: “Please, not better – different. It bothers me to hear adoptive parents or strangers assume that we are giving our adopted children a better life. Who is to say it is better? It is simply different.” are perfect. Absolutely perfect. They exemplify one of the many reasons I adore you, and prove just how insanely wonderful of a human being you are.

  5. mama k Says:

    Interesting topic! Looking fwd to the next part.

  6. Nicole Says:

    Thank you for a thought provoking post. We adopted from Colombia first, then surprisingly got pregnant. (I held my breath the entire pregnancy fearing something would go wrong too) I love both my children so passionately ~ probably differently ~ because of their personality differences. We are amazed each day at the little things each one of our sons do…they make us laugh and keep us on our toes. I appreciate you discussing this topic and look forward to reading more!
    I would also love to hear your thoughts about discussing adoption with your children. We will be introducing our son’s Lifebook to him soon, although our youngest is only 10 1/2 mos, we want to be sure to approach the subject in a family oriented way.

    Nicole

  7. Kim Says:

    I also TOTALLY agree with the different – not better – life. So many people told us that Baby Alex (our foster son) would have a better life if he was able to stay with us. I didn’t agree at all. He’s very happy at home with his family – I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Now, he would have an EASIER life if he lived in the states – but who’s to say that it would be better or that he would be happier. Just my thoughts since I can’t weigh in on the bio vs. adoptive thing.

  8. Jennifer Says:

    While I love all three of my biological children, I will admit some are more “lovable” than others, or “easier” to love (due to temperment, etc.) I struggle with parenting them due to their differences and get accused of playing favorites! But I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything!!

  9. Rachael Says:

    “Different” as opposed to “better.” I like that. I always cringe a little inside when someone praises me for giving my adopted daughter a better life. Granted, she does have it pretty great with us (I like to think :)) and a whole new world of opportunities were opened up for her when she was taken from the orphanage to be our daughter. I guess the real tragedy to me is that someone had to give her those opportunities in the first place, as if family/home/love/freedom/choices was a lottery prize or some benevolent gift and not a basic human right that all children deserve.

    She’s a resourceful and bright little girl. And, who knows what great things she’d have done in her life or what life she would have made for herself without us, but unfortunately, the statistics would not have been on her side. (Sadly, the future is pretty dismal for most of the “older” kids left in the orphanage system in Russia.)

    Oh, and as a mom to 4: 1 adopted, 3 bio, I can agree with you emphatically that it absolutely IS possible to love an adopted child with the same ferocity and intensity as a biological child. I second your vote – that woman is FOS.

  10. dena Says:

    Our adoptive son was older when he came to us. We were his 6th and final placement. Our birth son was almost 4.

    And, until recently, we only had our 2 older boys, one biological and one adoptive. Our biological is a mini me. Even though I want him to grow through his weaknesses, I understand him and can help him through those. Our adoptive son couldn’t be any more opposite from me. So, we not only had a late start bonding, but we also are completely different. It’s a challenge for me to try to see things through his eyes.

    Since we only had one of each (bio & adopt), it was easy to wonder if the difference in the children (personality, obedience, interests) was due to the adoption or just due to them being different kids. I think that’s where the rub comes in sometimes. We expect our love to look the same and/or feel the same, at least I did (and sometimes still do). But, I kept remembering my boys’ personalities could’ve easily been swapped….adoptive been a mini me and the bio been so different. At this point, I’ve chosen to think less about where the differences come from and more about how to allow them to grow in their own strengths.

    I do have to say (and I may be about to be lynched here), that I’ve had to allow God to cultivate a mother’s heart in me for our adoptive son in a way that came completely naturally for my bio son. The circumstances were just different. One came to me helpless and loving. The other came to me just as helpless, but able to spit, kick, and disobey me.

    Nicole, I know you didn’t ask for an open forum of how to discuss adoption with the kids, but I learned something from another family that I love. Like I already said, our adoptive son was old enough to know when he was adopted, so it’s always been an open topic. I tell him instead of being born from my belly, he was born from my heart. He knows that he was in someone else’s belly and at another house before ours, but he knows that he was wanted and loved by us even before we knew him.

    I’ve said way more than my piece. It’s something I’ve thought much about and means alot to me. THANK YOU Michelle for bringing this up!

  11. Sara F. Says:

    Love your insight Michelle! I totally agree that we give our adopted children “different, not better” lives. I have struggled with how to put those exact feelings into words, and that is perfect!
    (Gotta love it when someone else puts your exact thoughts into words!! Thanks!)
    Sabrina and Tessa are absolutely precious!
    Looking forward to part 2!

  12. Kim Says:

    Wow. I totally agree. I have two adopted and one biological. I love all of them, but each is very different. I never expected to have a biological child. I found out when are adoptions were almost complete. I cried, not because I didn’t want this child or wasn’t excited, but because I was scared. I thought I would lose it and I was afraid that it would negatively impact our adoptions. My daughter is very mothering and very easy going, she loves to talk and can always make me laugh. My older son is more serious and pushes the limits more, but hey he’s almost 3, but when he smiles it lights up the room and he loves to be loved on and tickled. My youngest is all boy, he’s rough and tough, a bit of a bully sometimes, he’s clumsy and laughs when he runs into things or falls down. They are three completely different people and I’m thankful for that and for having all of them in my life.

  13. Jenny Says:

    Well, as you know, we have 3 girls – all adopted. And I was just tonight talking to my oldest about how I love them all the same amount, yet differently.
    I don’t have the adopted vs bio experience, so can’t speak to that, but I don’t think it is unusual to feel differently about our children… or to show it differently, or to feel close in different ways.
    All relationships are unique due to the individual natures of the people involved and the surrounding circumstances.

  14. Linda Says:

    As a mother of two adopted children, and a sister to an adopted brother, this topic is near and dear to my heart. I missed the internet story referenced in this post but my first reaction is to feel terribly sorry for that woman’s adopted daughter! We have a 7 year old son from Ecuador and a 3 year old daughter from Guatemala. Although I have been more of a lurker on this site (it always amazes me how much Sabrina looks like my daughter!), Michelle you were kind enough to exchange email messages with me when you were in Antigua as we were headed down to get our daughter at the same time that you were there “fostering” Sabrina.

    I love both of my children immeasurably and know that I couldn’t possibly love them more. I came to that love and continue to love each of them “differently” however. With my son it felt like “love at first sight.” And, the “love affair” between us doesn’t show any signs of waning. With my daughter it took a little longer. For some reason she and I took a little more time to adjust and “get to know one another.” Nonetheless I love her to pieces. I know plenty of bio moms who have had the same experience with their bio children. My expression is that “although I would never be so arrogant as to say that I love my children more than any other mother, I know it my heart no mother loves her children more.”

    My Husband has three bio children from his prior marriage. We talked long and hard about adopting before we made the decision to do so. After our son was home for a while he confessed that although he had been sure that he could love an adopted child with his whole heart, he did secretly wonder if it would be “different.” He claims now that the biggest shock to him is that it isn’t different AT ALL. I can tell you that my mom would say the same and that I actually have a much closer, “more loving” relationship with my adopted sibling than with my bio sibling.

    The bottom line for me is that I am often puzzled by this issue or should I say the people who are really convinced that there is or must be “a difference based solely on adoption v. biology.” It strikes me that one of, if not the most, significant relationship recognized in our society (legally, religiously etc.) is marriage. By definition that union is born out of a choice we make with an unrelated person. Why then is it so hard for people to assume that the intensely loving relationship of parent and child can’t also be borne from choice?

  15. Kecia Says:

    Thanks Michelle.

    I too have that cringe-y moment when people say, “Oh..he’s so lucky” or “You are so amazing for doing that”. I am not under any illusion that his family in Guatemala could have provided 1/3 of the “opportunities” (material, educational, medical etc) that we could, however, their love and culture and sense of family can (and does for many), provide a fulfilling, satisfying life. Our joining was mutually beneficial, leaning HEAVY on the gifts my way. Sure, I think about those kiddos living in the garbage dump, or begging for money on the Avenida Reforma and fantasize that I saved him from that fate. But that is not his reality…and its not ours.

    I do not have any biological children and can’t make the comparison. What I AM sure of is that if there is a love stronger, deeper more intense and all consuming than what I feel for my son…I am glad my body can’t bear children…because I don’t think I could manage it.

  16. Sarah Says:

    Wonderful post!!!!

    We have been TTC for over 2 years. I have had so many people ask lately if we have thought about adoption.

    I have such mixed feelings!!!! I worry that if we adopt and than have a biological child I would feel different about them. We want child so bad!!!!

    I have enjoyed reading the comments from others as well. I feel much better about looking into adoption.

  17. Ashley J Says:

    Yes, friend! Great post!
    This is what I do know… I have 3 bio, 1 adopted, and then a bio again. Each child is different, and each love is DEEP, but different. Eliza (our adopted) is our sister, our daughter, our baby girl. My 6 year old summed it up best shortly before the newest addition arrived when he said… “Mom, I do not remember your tummy getting this big with Eliza.” He knows she is from Guatemala, he knows we visited and had to go get her, he knows that it was a long process… but sometimes his heart gets confused because to him she is just like the rest of the brood… our family… and we all love each other dearly for our similarities and our differences.

  18. Yeah So Says:

    I love this post and reading the replies – I will never be able to compare between bio and adopted, but I really can not imagine it making a bit of difference. And I really can’t comprehend loving my adopted son anymore than I do now.

  19. Bobbi Says:

    Having two bio children and one adopted, I can tell you that I love each of them differently, but equally. I love my oldest for her easy going personality, (up until puberty started, but that is a diff. subject) my youngest daughter for her stubborn streak that will make her a stronger person than I am, and for the fact that she is staying my forever baby. And, my son, oh how I love him. Maybe because he is a Mama’s Boy, and maybe because he thinks I walk on water! But, honestly, because I cherish him more than the girls. I don’t take him forgranted. Each milestone and moment I appreciate because I missed so much in the beginning. And, yes, I too know that he is loved by more than one woman. I kiss him and tell him often how loved he is. So, yes, different but equal.

    AND, thank you for the perfect wording. A different life, not necessarily better.

    This was a great post

  20. Dana Says:

    Great blog today Michelle! Me and my siblings are all biological. I have always known that my parents love us all the same, no favorites, but they love each of us differently. We’re all different people so it’s a no brainer. You love each person differently. I also agree with your thought on “a different life” than if our children stayed with their biological mom. People say I have given Serena a better life but I don’t think that way. She’s made my life better and if she stayed in Kaz her life would have different.

  21. carla Says:

    I cant read posts like these without thinking back to rebecca walkers quote:

    “It’s not the same. I don’t care how close you are to your adopted son or beloved stepdaughter, the love you have for your non-biological child isn’t the same as the love you have for your own flesh and blood. It’s different. . . . It isn’t something we’re proud of, this preferencing of biological children, but if we ever want to close the gap I do think it’s something we need to be honest about. . . .

    “Yes, I would do anything for my first son, within reason. But I would do anything at all for my second child, without reason, without a doubt.”

    I cant comment as to the difference as Ive not walked even a step in those shoes, but…

  22. Michelle Smiles Says:

    Carla – that is what I was trying to reference…I couldn’t recall where I read it – just knew it was online.

  23. Jennifer S Says:

    Had to Google her name, just to see it for real…http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/29/AR2007032902320.html

    *rolls eyes*

    I can’t speak to it…I only have adopted and lover her and she can have both my kidneys and my heart and my retina’s…whatever she wants or needs.
    But,
    I had a miscarry a few days ago. It was an early one…
    and I was afraid it wouldn’t last…but, I was afraid how it would make my sweetie feel.
    Because the EDD would be a week after her BDay. I didn’t want her BDay shadowed by the surprise bio baby. There was a weird sense of relief and complete and utter loss when I started to bleed.

    Strange feelings. Thought I would share. And yes, I hope some day, I get another surprise that sticks around.

  24. Bec Says:

    I’m not an adoptive parent, I have a biological daughter but for many reasons having more biological children isn’t really an option for us. Learning to love my daughter was a process for me. Because of the circumstances surrounding her birth (born three months premature) it took me a long time to really bond with her.

    I can’t imagine having a child biological or not and not going to the matt for them. Of course I’d love two children differently! But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t move heaven and earth if one them needed something. I honestly can’t wrap my head around not.

  25. Andrea Says:

    Thanks for addressing this subject in such a sensitive and informative way. I look forward to reading more.
    A few things that you may want to mention, or at least keep in mind when considering Rebecca Walker’s comments.
    1. I believe — as far as I can recall — that the “adopted” child in her life was the child of a former parter, who came to her by way of the relationship rather than via a deliberate effort and go out and parent a child. Am not sure if there was ever a legal adoption, but for the kid’s sake, I hope not! Anyway, while I am sure it is possible and even common for a parent to love a step-child as their own, I also believe that part of the miracle of adoption comes as a result of being the child’s primary caregiver. May not be explaining this well, but I believe when we are entrusted to care for a child, the love blossoms, which could explain why relationships to step-children may be different than to adopted children. I am not a step-parent, however, so I hope I’m not offending anyone by making an inadvertently ignorant statement.
    2. Consider the context in which her remarks were being made. As part of a publicity tour to promote her book, which happens to be called Baby Love. I think Walker intentionally set out to make a provocative statement that would get her attention and sell books, much like the tactics Ann Coulter uses.
    3. Finally, even if she feels this way in her heart, what kind of a person would advertise this sentiment, particularly in view of the fact that a child is involved. I don’t believe, as she claimed, that this is a topic we have to talk about, since clearly, most adoptive parents have no shortage of love. That Walker was more interested in getting attention than in protecting a child her life is testament, I believe, to her own limitations at love and sensitivity, rather than to the realities of adoption.

    Judging my her book rankings on Amazon, it seems most people saw right through all of this.

  26. Heather Says:

    Love this post and I definitely agree with different but not better. I have 3 children…boy age 6 (bio), girl age 2 1/2 (adopted, guatemala) and girl age 4 months (bio)…(also really hoping for one more adoptive child, can someone talk to my hubby about that?). Anyway, I do love them all differently and tend to them differently because they are different people! My son is a cuddler, my daughter is not…but my daughter is a huge joker & silly one so we laugh together all the time, my son is much more serious. It’s just different in what they need/want from me!

    I also hear you on what we place on our children from our own insecurities…I worry that my son is too sensitive because of my genetics and that my baby will be chubby and have body issues next to her skinny sister because I did! But I don’t worry that way about my 2 year old…of course a lot of it is because she is GORGEOUS and also she has the confidence of 10,000 men and can work a room like no body’s business, but…

    Really looking forward to reading your next post on this Michelle! Thanks for sharing…

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