We hope you’re all surrounded by the ones you love (and maybe some pie and mashed potatoes too) on this special holiday!
National Adoption Month and the holiday weekend around Thanksgiving can be a great time to start an annual adoption tradition. No need to stress over planning something big or elaborate, but both adoption month and Thanksgiving are times for recognizing family and celebrate the different ways that they’ve impacted our lives.
Here are a couple of ideas:
- At Thanksgiving dinner, go around the table and share what you’re thankful for. As adoptive parents, be sure to include your child’s birth parents and remind your children that they have so much to be thankful for too.
- As an alternative to going around the table, you can also write out what you’re thankful for. Buy a cheap tablecloth and some wash-resistant pens, and each year, you’ll be able to write “your thankfuls” as well as look back on the ones from years past. Follow this link to learn more about this tablecloth idea.
- Take a picture each year in front of the same background, holding the same item (like a gift from your child’s birth mother) or wearing the same outfit. This little girl’s parents have a cute idea along this line by taking a picture of her in the same over-sized t-shirt every year.
- Play hooky for a day with your spouse and child(ren). You could use this time to take a family outing, have a special meal or treat or meet up with your child’s birth parents if you have an open relationship.
Researchers say that the fastest way to a life of happiness is to take on an attitude of gratitude. We’ve been trying to do that all week on the blog, and here are some ways to do that at home:
- Send letters to people in your life who have been touched by adoption to thank them for their example and support and to celebrate adoption in their lives. Write thank-you notes to people who have helped you through the adoption process or who have been with you on your infertility or adoption journey.
- Mentor a couple in the process of adopting – it can be really reassuring to hear from someone else who’s been there too. Consider adding yourself to our adoptive family reference list. Families on this list help to answer questions for prospective adoptive couples who want to learn more about American Adoptions and the domestic adoption process for families. Join this list by emailing us at AF.Coordinators@americanadoptions.com and letting us know you’re interested!
- Waiting families can get in on this too! Ask your friends and family to help you spread the adoption love too and have them write letters to your future child about their excitement about the adoption, welcoming a new baby into the family. You can tuck these letters into a scrapbook for your child so that he or she will always know how anticipated and beloved they are!
- Send an annual picture to your adoption professional or attorney. Our staff really enjoys hearing updates on your families and circulating your sweet photos to each other over email! We’re already looking forward to a wave of mail over the next month or two!
Whatever you choose to do to celebrate National Adoption Month, enjoy some family togetherness!
It’s especially important to celebrate birth parents during National Adoption Month! These courageous women and men made your adoption dreams come true and are an important part of your child’s identity.
If you have a closed adoption, consider starting an annual tradition to honor your child’s birth mother. You could light a candle or have a bouquet at dinner, say a special prayer before bed, make a donation to an organization in her honor, or just spend an evening talking about the respect your family has for her.
For families who have a more open relationship, you could send a special National Adoption Month pictures and letters package. As Michelle shared with us in the blog post Tips for Sending Pictures and Letters, you CAN send packages more often than your agreement. For many women, the holidays are the hardest part of the year because it holds so many reminders of family togetherness.
For information about open adoption relationships, check out the following articles:
- The Benefits of Contact with Birth Parents (VIDEO)
- Picture and Letter Correspondence with Birth Parents
- A Great Keepsake for Adoptive Mothers and Birth Mothers Alike
National Adoption Month and the holidays could be the perfect time to send another package – even if it’s not part of your regular schedule!
Sit down and help your child write a note or send one yourself. You can also include fun and timely fall and holiday crafts. A handprint turkey or homemade Christmas ornament could be great!
Check out the following links for craft ideas:
- Christmas Crafts for Kids and 101 Handmade Christmas Ornaments
- How to Make Paper Snowflakes
- Hanukkah Crafts and Decorations and Hanukkah Crafts for Kids
No matter what you do, just make sure to take time during National Adoption Month and other times of the year to talk about and honor your child’s birth parents.
What are some ways that you celebrate your child’s birth parents?
In the spirit of National Adoption Month and Thanksgiving, we encouraged our staff to reflect on some of their favorite adoption memories. Here are a few that stood out!
“I will never forget the one adoption we did back in 1996 at Christmas time where the birth mother thought she was having one baby boy and ended up having twins. This was not discovered until the family was on an airplane on their way to the hospital and their birth mother was in labor. The adoption took place on Christmas Eve, and the birth mother surprised the family when they got to the hospital with a boy and girl instead of just a boy. This particular adoption happened very early on at the agency, but I still think about it. It was a super surprise, everyone cried for joy, and it was great to be part of such a journey for this couple!” – Wade Morris, Director of Community Resources
“One of my favorite things about sitting at the front desk of the office is when a local adoptive family comes in to drop off their pictures and letters. The parents are always so happy, and their kids are really happy too. It is so awesome to actually get to see the kids and how their moms interact with them, even just for a few minutes. It’s a small thing, but it really warms my heart and makes my day when I see the babies/children with their adoptive parents.” – Elexx, Project Coordinator
“I have worked with countless families who, by the time they got to me, were heartbroken through years of infertility. The feel good memories which stand out to me are the families who are so taken with the birth mother that they incorporate her name into the child’s. These are almost always the families who secretly hope for a closed adoption because they had fears about the birth mother and the ongoing relationship they might have to keep up; they were afraid to get to close to her for fear she would want the child back and break their hearts all over again.
However, soon after the baby was born, they witnessed the incredible sacrifice that this woman was making for them to become parents and realized that she is not a threat to them. I remember baby “Eric” and baby “Cooper,” named because of their birth mother’s last names. I remember baby “Stephen,” named because his birth mother’s name was Stephanie. I will always hold a special place in my heart for these adoptions because of the bond that is forever formed between these families.
One specific adoption story that touched my soul was the couple who had miscarried twin girls pretty late in their pregnancy. As they mourned the loss and started through the journey of adoption with us, they understood that the chance of adopting twins was pretty rare. We only see maybe five sets of twins a year between both programs, so the likelihood that this would happen to them was slim to none at best. However, that was not the case. They were matched with a birth mother who was carrying twin boys! In my 14 years, that is a story I will never forget. It confirms the cliché I say to my families all of the time (and I almost sure they get sick of hearing), but everyone ends up with the baby (or babies!) they are supposed to!” – Angie Newkirk, Adoptive Family Specialist
And look back on what National Adoption Month means to Adoptive Family Specialist Kelli!
One way YOU can spread National Adoption Month awareness is to call a local radio station and ask them to play an adoption song in honor of national adoption month. What song would you request?
Just a few weeks ago, Adoptive Mom Stephanie shared how her adopted son, just six years old, was touched by Kip Moore’s song “Hey Pretty Girl.” Although her son had heard the song before, this particular listening resonated with him, especially as he realized that some day he might have a biological family of his own and someone who looked like him biologically. Read the excerpt of her letter below and have a listen to the song for yourself:
“But today was just an ordinary day, not one of the tough ones, and your song, Hey Pretty Girl, was on the minivan radio. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw Nicholas crying. I asked why he was sad and, in his infinite 6-year-old wisdom, my son told me that sometimes, people cry even when they’re not sad.
Wiping tears away he said, “I’m not sad, Mom. It’s just this song. It touched deep in my heart.”
He has heard your song before, but today he felt it.
He went on to explain as best he could, as he processed that one day, he could have a biological family of his very own.
“It makes my heart feel something, but I’m not sad. One day will I be married like the song man? And then I’ll really be in a family? My own family?”
I wanted to insist that he’s in a real family now, and I tried to remind him gently. But, no matter what I say or do, to him, it can never be the same. Kip Moore, today you gave my son the gift of hope: Hope that there will be belonging, and blood relation, and kinship in his future.”
Read Stephanie’s full post here.
While there are songs written specifically about adoption, many people feel adoption connections to other songs because of the mood they convey, the time they first heard it, etc. Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet“ reminds many adoptive couples of what they have to look forward to, even though it’s not a song specifically about adoption.
Meanwhile, Mark Schultz wrote “Everything to Me” about his birth mother. (Listen to the song or watch the story behind the song.) This list of Adoption Songs from Bethany Christian Services is a great collection of adoption-specific songs as well.
One Adoptive Mom Shares How It Feels to Reach This Milestone
Each year, Adoptive Mom Rebecca writes something about her adopted daughter, Camila, on her birthday to help mark the passing of time. This year Camila turned 18, and Rebecca asked us to share her short essay about her family during National Adoption Month. As with many mothers and fathers, sending a children off into the world is a stepping stone fraught with emotion. For Rebecca, as Camila’s adoptive mother, the emotions come with even more symbolism.
Thoughts on My Daughter’s Adult Birthday
My daughter was born 18 years ago today. But I wasn’t in the room. I wasn’t the first one to see her head and body wiggle its way from one universe to another. Not the first to hear her cry announcing to the world “I am here!” Not the first to hold her to my breast. Not the first to smooth the mound of black hair on her head, or to tickle her perfect pink feet. Not the first to touch her cheek, to stare into her dark eyes, to take in the sweet newborn smell in the folds of her neck. I was not the first to kiss this perfect child and wonder what life would hold for her.
I was not privileged to share in any of those firsts until my daughter was two days old. And on that day, the day I was able to experience all of those firsts with this perfect baby girl, I was overcome with emotion unlike any other I had ever experienced in my lifetime. I had never felt so inadequate, so unprepared, so unsure of who I was as a woman, as a mother-to-be, as a human being in this world. Because on that day, two days after my daughter was born, it was up to me to take this perfect child out of the hands of the young woman who did experience all those firsts, and cradle her into my own with a promise that I would take over from that day on and be this child’s mother.
When you have a child by birth, you vow to yourself you will be the best parent you can be. And each time you break that vow, and there are many, you disappoint yourself. But when you adopt a child and make a vow to the birth parent that you will take care of that child and love that child and be the best parent you can be, each time you mess up, you wonder if you are in fact the best parent for that child. Would she have been better off being in the care of someone else?
So here I am, 18 years later, still wondering if I was the best parent for this perfect little girl. I know I have loved her and continue to love her to the core of my being every single day. I know I have done everything in my power to guide her and help her grow into the strong young woman she is today. I am amazed at her beauty, inside and out, and more than anything else, her self-knowledge and confidence as she takes on whatever life puts in front of her with curiosity and zest. How did this happen? A little bit of biology, a little bit of environment, mixed with a whole lot of love.
Eighteen years ago I was not privileged to witness the miracle of my daughter’s birth. But today I AM in the room, as she emerges from childhood to adulthood.
And today it’s my turn, to let her go.