Monday, October 22, 2012

Adoption = Loss

A month ago, the local newspaper featured a story about a woman who was killed in a highway accident caused by another driver driving the wrong way down her lane.  She left behind children who were one and three in age; what a tragedy.  It was impossible not to be affected by that story, and my heart broke for those poor children and for the husband who was suddenly responsible for them on his own.  Tears came to my eyes as I read the article and looked at the picture of the young woman who had died.  I felt horror and sorrow on their behalf and imagined what life would be like for them in the future.  Over the next half hour or so as I puttered about the kitchen getting dinner ready, I thought about that poor family and how it would cope without a mother.

Then it hit me.  Hit me so hard that I had to sit down and put my head in my hands.  My two younger children were exactly one and three years of age when they lost their first mother; when their first father lost the mother of his children.  Two years later they lost their father, too, when circumstances forced him to relinquish his children.

Why did it take this newspaper article to remind me?  Why did it take a half hour for the parallel to find me?

They lost their mother. They lost their mother.  Then they lost their father.

Oh, my children.

I've forgotten a little of their pain over time.  I am horrified that I have, but it's true.  Even worse, it's been easy to forget; the slide has been painless.  The kids are often impatient these days about talking of their lives before Canada and it's easy to let that slide when my overtures are met with resistance.  As they have adjusted to their life in Canada, as we've all adjusted to being a family together, it has become easier for me to believe that their lives are simpler than they really are; to think, even subtly, that whatever loss they have experienced in the past must surely have dissipated in its effects by now.  After all, they have love again, they have food, they have shelter, they have all of their needs met.  Isn't love enough?

People often tell me how lucky my Ethiopian-born children are that they are in our family.  I've always been uncomfortable when people say that and feel a little repulsed by that kind of statement.  I always look quickly to see if Seth and Lizzie have heard that comment and am fast to say that it's Geoff and me who have been blessed to bring them into our lives.  To say that they are the lucky ones simply isn't true.  Because the truth is that love isn't enough...if it were, they wouldn't be here.

Truly there is little, if anything, to celebrate about adoption from a child's perspective.  Do they have a good home now, and opportunity that they might otherwise not have had?  Yes.  But they have come to this point in their lives only as a result of having experienced the worst of all pain and I'm betting that they would never have chosen to leave their first family if given a choice.  These were wanted and loved children, intended for their first family.  Then, not only did they lose their first mother, as did the children of the woman who died here a month ago, but they lost their father and everything. else. familiar. and. loved.  They had no choice whatsoever about anything that has happened in their lives.  They certainly didn't choose to be parted from either of their first parents, or choose to live in an orphanage.  They didn't choose to come to Canada.  They didn't choose us as parents or Matthew as a brother.  They didn't decide one day that English was the language for them.  All they experienced when they were adopted was the loss of all of their firsts, the things that they were entitled to by birth.

Adoption is synonymous with loss.

Somehow, shamefully, sadly, it took the reading of that article to bring me a sense of renewed appreciation of my children's losses.  How quickly will I forget next time?


  1. Wow. I'm just... Wow. So very, very well said.

  2. Hi Ruth,
    Your post touched me and brought tears to my eyes. This was a much needed reminder to me today....
    Hugs to you.