Friday, January 21, 2011

the ugly issue of abandonment

I'm curious to hear from you about how you've
dealt with your daughter (or son)
on the issue of their abandonment.

Lucy was abandoned at birth...or a few days after,
and we adopted her when she was 2 1/2.
She had a wonderful foster family who took great care of her
and spoiled her rotten (thanks a lot for that).
But she has zero memories of any of it.

The subject of China is very much a daily topic for us,
mainly because of Macy.
So because of that, Lucy loves to talk about China...
that we came to get her on an airplane, adopted her,
on and on she goes,
recounting the story just as we have told her.

I remind her once in a while that she had a Chinese mama
that carried her in her tummy.
She knows what that means...but I'm not sure it really clicks with
her that that really happened.

And though I've gently told her the fact that she was
abandoned, it just goes right over her head.

Honestly, when I stop to think about it myself,
I cringe...the thought of my Lucy-bug being anywhere without
me is chilling.
I guess because I just can't imagine my life without her
and I can't fathom the fact that she was ever left
alone, defenseless.

And even though Lucy has attached to us quite nicely,
she still has behavior that to me, points to
insecurity of being left behind.
(I really think this mainly comes from being taken from her foster mom)

I guess my point to this post is,
I realize that this will be an issue for her to some degree,

And I'd love to know how you've handled it.

How do you help a child deal with that ugly reality?


Kim said...

Our Lily is 6 and she talks and cries for her " 1st " mommy. She always wonders why she came to be our daughter. She loves us and does not want to leave but she does miss her birth mom. She is starting to notice that she looks diffrent and she wants to be like everyone else. She wants to be like the blue eyed blonde haired girls in her class. I tell her on a daily basis that she is truley blessed to be such a beautiful Asian Princess. That Jesus knew that we were to be her parents and that he knew that she would grow in her 1st mommy's belly. She loves to tell her story and it always starts out the same...... Did you know I have 3 moms.... 2 in China and the one that is my mommy now.She lived with foster grandparents that also spoiled her! It is so hard to see our children suffer but I think in the long run knowing and understanding at a young age is the best defence for our Lily. I hope this has helped.

Janet and Kevin said...


This is such a bittersweet side to adoption, isn't it? We have, from the beginning, told and retold our little sons' stories (all that we know anyway) to each of them. With both our boys we have pictures of when they were only weeks or months old - such a treasure to have!

Eli is still so young, and it doesn't sink in yet. Philip, while older and wiser, doesn't seem fazed by it yet either. However, one time in particular, I was telling him his adoption story, and he asked me if Ted was grown in my tummy. Now, Philip really knew this, but for some reason he wanted to make sure of the answer that day. When I began to tell him that Ted did grow in my tummy and then moved on to how Philip came into the world (placed in his finding spot by the gate of a small village when just a day old and a policeman found him), I suddenly began to cry. I couldn't help it. The more I tried not to cry over the extreme sadness of my precious little son being alone by the gate of a village when just a day old and how maybe his birth mom was deeply grieving at that moment of him being found, the more I couldn't stop. I just hugged him, and he didn't say anything, just hugged me back. When I got control of myself, I tried to explain that even though it was God's plan for him to grow in his China mommy's tummy and we thought it was such a miraculous story, I still wished he could have grown in my tummy. We wished that we could have known him from the moment of his birth like we knew Ted. But for some reason, God had a better plan, one that would make him who he is right now and who he will be in the future. I told him, as I do often, that he did grow in my heart though as if he had grown in my tummy.

We reiterate all the time how much we love our boys and how amazing their journey to us is, but it doesn't take away the ache of knowing how hard their life was at first. I am sure as they get older, their questions and thoughts will be able to be expressed more. Right now, they just take it in stride.

We do keep China in their hearts and mention from time to time that something that they do or a way about them might be from their birth parents. That seems to make Philip feel comfortable knowing we haven't forgotten about his other life across the ocean.

Janet and gang

Tracy said...

I am so glad that you have this post today. Seriously! We adopted our son when he was three. He grew up with a loving foster family whom we actually still have contact with. I know that this family loved him dearly. When we first brought him home he was angry for a very long time. We did not fully bond as a family until after the first year because he held onto his hurt for so long. The Lord literally carried us through that time. It was tough! In fact he wouldnt have anything to do with anything about China. He was a angry hurting soul.
Since that time I put together a treasure box for him that has everything he owns from his past. His clothing, shoes, pictures of him with his foster family, and things that we sent to him while he was still there. Only on about three occasions has he asked to get into his box. When he does there is a look that comes over his face where I can see that he is transported back. He says he doesnt remember much. One time when we were looking through his things he just looked so sad. I said to him "Do you miss your foster family?" and he just cryed. I said "Its ok if you miss them, it wont hurt mommas feelings." He said "I dont miss them, I just miss China." It broke my heart for him.
We have told him about being born from another mommmas tummy and we have told him about his foster family. However, he NEVER asks questions. NEVER!
I have not yet told him about the abandonment part yet and to be perfectly honest that is the ONLY part that I struggle with. I have always been an open book with all of my kids. Not much embarrasess me or makes me uncomfortable, but if I am being totally honest...the thought of looking into those innocent, precious big brown eyes that look back at me with total trust and an unbreakable love NOW, I get very uncomfortable. I dont know how to do it. I question when is the right time? Will he be crushed? How will it affect him? I mean to tell him of his foster family or that he is adopted is one thing, but to tell someone that they were abandoned just doesnt seem natural and probably because its not.
I know that someday we will come to that and when we do I will lean on the Lord for guidance and I know He will carry me through.
I would love some advice though. : ) Thanks again Lori for this post.

Jennifer said...

What a great post and the question is such an important one. I can't wait to read everyone's advice! Someday we'll put the advice into practice! :) Hugs to you!

Sharla said...

Amazingly, this isn't something we've had to deal with yet (she's 8 and was adopted at 6)... One of her spelling words, a few months ago was 'orphan' and she didn't even relate that word to herself when we explained that it is a child without parents... I don't even think she saw herself as once being an orphan.

The way I see the remnants of abandonment is how long it took her to attach to me and then her almost fear of when I leave... Where am I going... When will I be back... I haven't tried discussing it with her yet because, while her social language is excellent, she still has a hard time grasping concepts.

I will probably wait until she starts asking questions or until it is clearly causing struggles that she may not understand.

Anonymous said...

My daughter was abandoned at 18 months old and was adopted when she wwas 3 years old. She still has some issues. I am a teacher and if I am in another teachers rm when she arrives after school she will come and find me. She is fine without me but she always looks for me and she is 14.

Adeye said...

Oh goodness, my friend. I am so clueless on this too. H-C is 8 and STILL has not asked us anything about her past. Nothing at all. I know the question will come up at some point--and we'll just have to trust the Lord to give us the right words at the right time.

Never easy, huh?

Holly said...

Have you read the book, "When I Was Born In China?"
I bought it to help with this issue.
Josiah knows his story and he knows that we don't really know why he was abandoned but we have some guesses and that he was left in a very good and safe place where he was sure to be found quickly and taken care of. He doesn't miss his foster family or ever talk about his Chinese parents though we sometimes pray together for them that we will one day have the chance to meet in Heaven. I am all for being open and honest and sharing as much information as they can handle at every age and stage.

Sammy said...

When my kids have asked I tell them to pray for their birth parents and maybe they will see them in Heaven. I explain the one child law etc... and tell them why they may have been given up. When I explained this to our daughter who was adopted at age 11 y.o. she said "I always wondered why I was given away like a piece of trash." She had never had any of this explained to her. The other thing is sometimes I think they just need to be told the plan encase something ever happened to us. I think that is a big thing they worry about.

Healy Family said...

our son wasn't abandoned, but has definite security issues. his birth mother (in taiwan) checked into a home for unwed mothers during her pregnancy and at some point after he was born, we do not know if his birth mother ever held him or anything, he was taken back to the same place and cared for in the orphanage nursery. we had an unusual adoption in that my sister was living in taiwan at the time and actually took him home with her until i got there to pursue/finish the adoption. our son will now be 14 in may. we can hardly get him to leave the house sometimes. we jokingly says he has "fomo" - fear of missing out - but maybe it's just a fear of being separated again. he can go and do stuff but sometimes it takes a crowbar to pry him out of the house. but like another commenter said, he always wants to know where we are going, when we will be back, etc. he will probably be so happy to go off to college some day and live at home while doing so. :) he also has some, at times, severe anxiety issues - i don't know if it's related to his personality or adoption or both. boy can kids be complicated sometimes!!

Elissa said...

We have been pretty blunt about it with Lily from the get go ("You came out of your China mama, but they couldn't keep you for some reason, so they left you somewhere where you'd be found, and Mr. XYZ found you, brought you to your ayis who took care of you until we could get there.") But I can tell that it is just now, at 4, starting to mean something to her. Just yesterday she said, "Was I inside or outside?" and I knew exactly what she meant. And the other day she said, "Was I waiting in a hallway?" It's almost like she's hoping it wasn't as bad as it was or something. And she has major "don't leave me alone" issues and has since we brought her home at 15 months. Much, much, much, much better in the past year or so, but still somewhat insecure.

Marie-Claude said...

Great Post,
Yes the subject comes up, pretty often these days. Beatrice being 6 and is in first grade at school, knows her story, we tell again and again, she loves when we talk about our wanting her, waiting fer her and our time in China. We have always included her tummy mommy in that story and her time in Yangjiang SWI. We have pictures of her starting at one month up until she was adopted, priceless! Now the question of why did my tummy mommy did not want to keep me came up about a month ago. She knows I'm not her (1rst mom) as she says but ''my mommy for forever''. When asked the particular reasons why her tummy mommy left her, we told her the truth. We did not know. But we did tell her of what we knew, a little scibbled note on her, pictures of her stay in the orphanage and the overwhelming love we have for her and her country. When she asked us if we will ever go back in China, we say of course. We want to go back to with the two girls show them our journey, their journey, she always make sure Mom, I'm coming back with you? !! Yes she is one tough little firecracker, always a smile, determined little girl but the insecurities and fear of abasonnement are still there, less but there. As her pediatrician, specialized in int'l adoption says to us, it's all healthy, tough but healthy.

Karin said...

I think it's good to be sensitive to each child. Some care deeply...some care only a little. I do think that all kids have to come to terms with the truth. It's just that some kids can be more matter-of-fact about it and other will agonize. We have told our kids what the situation in China was (one child policy, pay-as-you-go health care, poverty, etc.) and tell them that we don't really know the circumstances that precipitated their parents feeling that they had to leave them. We do put the positive spin that they were left in a place where they could be easily found--and that makes us believe that the parents wanted them to get better care than what they could give. (We have finding spot info on all of our kids, so we can truthfully tell them that--I would not make up anything and cause false hopes/dreams.) Age doesn't seem to be much of a factor in their curiosity--some of our older kids are less curious than one of our younger ones. She talks often about her 'mom who gave her birf' {smile}. She says she misses her, etc. She was found at a day or two old, so obviously, she doesn't 'miss' her, but she misses knowing about her, I think. I think with each child, as they ask and grieve in their own way, the best we can do is beg God for wisdom and ask Him to heal their hearts.

Stacey said...

Something I learned from our social worker... She prefers to use the phrase "left to be found" instead of abandoned. Inferring that the birthmom had a plan, I guess. Maybe it suggests more love and care from the birthmom than just hopeless abandonment.

Debby said...


Both of my girls have similar stories (although L went to a foster family & J was at the SWI the whole time). L could care less about any of it. She rarely asks about anything pertaining to China, but at times can be quite proud about being Chinese. dramatic angel, talks about China & her China family nearly everyday. Daily I am the audience to some dramatic statement about her Chinese her China mom took her to the store once & bought her a Hello Kitty umbrella or some such sort of thing. She has a very vivid & dramatic imagination. She was left at birth & I do not really believe she ever left the SWI until I met her at 18 months of age. It is just the way she chooses at this age to process the info. Right now everything is very fairy tale-ish to her. Two years ago, she was in complete denial that there was ever a time when she wasn't a part of our family.

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