We adopted our oldest son, Jonah, just over three years ago at his birth. When Jonah was eighteen months old, my husband Harris and I were just a couple of months away from beginning the home study to adopt our second child when we were astounded to learn that I was pregnant. Jonah watched as my belly grew, he felt the baby moving around in my tummy, and he understood that his little brother was in there. Our second child was born when Jonah was twenty-seven months old.
Just before he turned three, he asked me, “Mama, where do I come from?” So I told him, not for the first time, that he was born in Texas, just like me. He was quiet for a minute and then he said, “But Mama, who was there?” We’ve talked about adoption a lot and we’ve read many kids’ books about adoption, so he knows the general idea, but this was the first time that he expressed an understanding that he’s adopted. Here’s what I told him:
You remember that before you were born, Daddy and I didn’t have a baby and I was so sad because I really, really wanted a baby to love. You know that I cried every day because I needed a baby so bad. Well, there was a lady in Texas who had a baby growing in her tummy – that baby was you. One day that lady called me and said, “I understand that you want to be a mommy. I have a baby growing in my tummy and I want you to be his mommy. But you have to promise to love him and take good care of him.” So I promised her that Daddy and I would love you and take good care of you and that I would be your mommy and that Daddy would be your daddy. So Daddy and I went to Texas and we talked to the lady and the next day, we all went to the hospital and you were born.
That seemed to satisfy him for a while. Then yesterday in the car, he brought it up again. This time, he started with, “Mama, how do they make cows?” I clarified, “Do you mean, ‘where do baby cows come from?’ Baby cows grow inside the mama cows’ tummies, just like people do.” Jonah said, also not for the first time, “I growed in your tummy!” I gently told him, “No, remember, you grew in another lady’s tummy and then I got to be your mommy.” Because Jonah’s birth mother is so wonderful, I also was able to tell him that when he was in J.’s tummy, I saw him moving around and I felt him kicking and pushing on her just like he saw and felt his little brother pushing on me from the inside.
Without batting an eye, my little boy said, “And when I was in your tummy, I hugged you.”
I’m learning that for a three year-old, the line between reality and magic is very fine– the world is like a fairy tale. In my son’s three year-old mind and heart, he knows that he grew in someone else’s tummy, but he also knows that he was hugging me before he was born. I plan to make sure that he always knows both of those things.
Talking to children about adoption adds to their understanding of the world, whether they are adopted or not. This kind of conversation can be a great gift to your child. Even a simple outline of the adoption process can open their eyes to new thoughts about relationships in their lives.