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The Thing I Didn't Expect About Our Adopted Son

I am the mother of three children. One of them is dead, one of them came to us the old fashioned way (boom chicka boom boom, if you know what I mean), and one of them is adopted. I love all of them.

Each of my children was born into unique circumstances. Our oldest arrived just a few months after the death of my mother. I had been a primary caregiver for Mom in her last year, and we opted to name our girl after her. Her birth brought tremendous joy in such a time of deep sorrow.

Our oldest son was born in the midst of our daughter's cancer treatment and two relapses. Three months of his infancy was spent living in a de facto medical hotel, a communal home out-of-state where all the residents were receiving specialized cancer treatment while away from home.

His sister died when he was just shy of 10 months old.

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Our baby, now toddler, came to us through adoption. That birth, too, was different. I was blessed to be there for my son's delivery and remember thinking, "Is this what it was like for my husband when our first two were born?" Not being the mother giving birth, I really wasn't certain what my role was. Is that how fathers feel during labor?

Adoption has provided us a third opportunity to love and nurture and raise a child, but it's complicated. More than I realized when we were in the initial hopeful stages of anticipation, wondering when, or if, an expectant mother would pick us to raise her child.

Lots of friends and family whisper when they say, 'He looks so much like Donna.'

I remember, in those early stages of paperwork and classes that adoption requires, looking at our older son, who, like his sister before him, had bouncy curls and big blue eyes. There was a moment, sitting there at my kitchen table, when I grieved the genetic connection I would not have with our last child. When you adopt, you open your heart to whatever the universe has in store for you. Knowing that our son's Birth Mother had Native American heritage, we thought it likely that we would be raising our first brown-eyed baby.

Nope. Just like our first and second children, our third child has bouncy curls and big, blue almond shaped eyes that stare back at us. His lips have the same pillow like quality of his older siblings, too. From the back, with his blond curls that older women would pay a lot of money to achieve, our son could easily be mistaken for our daughter before her cancer diagnosis took those curls away.

Lots of friends and family whisper when they say, "He looks so much like Donna." No whispers are needed. Through fate or chance, and not having a thing to do with genetics, our youngest does resemble our oldest. Why whisper? Well, because he is adopted.

He will be raised knowing that he was loved by two families but arrived in complicated circumstances leading to his adoption.

Despite it being 2015, there is still a stigma attached to adoption. Naïve me didn't realize this until I became a part of the adoption community. It is important to note that, historically, many adoption practices lacked a solid ethical foundation. In the "baby scoop era," it was common for adults to decide for teen mothers that a closed adoption would be arranged, with or without consent. Birth records were sealed and secrets were kept.

The practice of open adoption is still a relatively new phenomenon. The stereotype of the unwed, teen mom doesn't nearly address the diversity of Birth Moms who look to place a child for adoption these days. Our son's Birth Mom was in her mid-20s and already raising a young child herself when she opted to place her baby. That choice is never an easy one and comes with a lifetime of ramifications.

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November is National Adoption Awareness Month. These words are part of how I honor our son's adoption. He will be raised knowing that he was loved by two families but arrived in complicated circumstances leading to his adoption. In that regard, it is just another way our youngest is a lot like his two older siblings.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY: Sheila Quirke

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