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I Used to Love St. Patrick's Day Until We Adopted Our Youngest

Photograph by Twenty20

It happens every year about this time. Stores and shops start to carry green T-shirts emblazoned with shamrocks and horseshoes in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. I'm Irish and from Chicago, so, yes, St. Patrick's Day is a holiday in my home. I usually bake a few loaves of Irish soda bread and cook a nice meal of shephard's pie for my older Irish relatives.

As a child, being the granddaughter of Irish immigrants was a large part of my identity. It made me feel special to celebrate that day with my Dad and so many of my classmates that shared my ethnicity.

"Kiss Me, I'm Irish" was more than just a slogan on a shirt, it was the truth and I loved it.

As an adult, things are more complicated. When my first two kiddos were born, special onesies and T-shirts were great for photo ops and to wear March 17, while they ate green donuts that I probably should have never served them.

But when it was time for me to buy a shirt for my third child, I wavered.

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I couldn't do it. T-shirts with shamrocks and slogans like "Born Lucky" mean something entirely different when you're adopted, as my third child is. Was he Irish? No. Was he lucky? No.

The truth about adoption, especially as an infant, is that you are removed from your original family—those who would typically love and nurture you for a lifetime—because, for whatever reason, that is not possible. Your original family is lost to you.

Poof. Gone.

Perhaps I'm being too sensitive or overly cautious, but if it gives me pause, my gut instinct is to acknowledge that pause and pay attention to why it exists in the first place. First and foremost are my thoughts for my son.

Even within open adoptions, there is still a degree of loss that cannot—and should not—be ignored. Navigating the relatively new terrain of open adoption is no easy feat, especially when there are so very few resources to help people within the adoption triad—adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents— relate to one another and integrate that loss into a healthy on-going relationship.

The family that welcomes an adopted child into their lives are, in fact, the lucky ones. When I stop to think about that reality, that I am raising a baby whom another woman nurtured to life for nine months, well, it still stops me cold. I am no less family or mother to my son, just because I miss the DNA and biological connection to him, but that does make a difference when celebrating ethnic identity around holidays like St. Patrick's Day. I am Irish, but one of my two sons is not.

I still haven't quite figured it out.

RELATED: The Thing I Didn't Expect About Our Adopted Son

Perhaps I'm being too sensitive or overly cautious, but if it gives me pause, my gut instinct is to acknowledge that pause and pay attention to why it exists in the first place. First and foremost are my thoughts for my son. While he is mine to raise and nurture and call son, another woman birthed him, another family, whom I have never met, grieves him. In that context, my pauses make sense, and I honor them, just as I honor my son's story, his history separate and apart from me.

So, yes, there will be no cute T-shirts proclaiming how "lucky" my youngest son is on St. Patrick's Day. Maybe just some green donuts and lots and lots of love.

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