Acknowledging the Loss of First Families
Mother’s Day was this past Sunday. My boys were incredibly sweet to me, of course. They bought me a gift and went out of their way to make sure I didn’t have any work around the house. I felt deeply loved. But despite the joy of the day, each year I carry a profound loss within me. It’s not my own loss but the loss experienced by my sons and their first mothers. I think writer and adoptive parent, Jody Landers, captures it best, “A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.” When this holiday comes around, I find myself reflecting on the loss carried by those I love so deeply.
Complicated Reasons for Loss. As an adoptive family, we are often asked about our sons’ adoption stories. We won’t share those with anyone as they are theirs alone to share. However, like all adoptions, theirs was a result of loss - the loss of family, connection, and history. All adoption stories are complicated and as unique as the people involved. Adoptions can be the result of death, strained relationships, generational trauma, substance use disorder, mental illness and, sadly, they may result from broken government systems, trafficking, racism, and poverty. One thing I know, adoption should always be the last option. Every child should be given every chance to be raised by their biological family.
When people talk about adoption, the adoptive parents are typically celebrated. We say things like, “Aren’t they wonderful? What a beautiful gift they gave to those children!” This comes from a good place, of course, but it misses a core truth that the child and their first family have experienced profound loss. In fact, society often speaks poorly of first families – making generalized assumptions about poor choices they might have made that resulted in their children entering the child welfare systems. But as our CASA volunteers and staff can attest – it is never as black and white as that. Each family’s story is complicated and rooted in trauma. In our experience, parents love their children and do not want to cause harm to them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Kate Blair