Many people are very interested to hear that we adopted our third daughter from a family member, it is not as common as foster-adopt or international adoptions. So here are the answers to some questions we often hear.
What is your relationship with your sister now?
As we were growing up, my sister was 3 and 3/4 years older than me, that 3/4 was important! I remember a few good memories with her, like blasting the radio super loud and jumping up and down to the music until my dad came up and hollered at us. But mostly our relationship was strained. Being as much older than me as she was, we didn’t have the opportunity to develop a good relationship before she joined high school and then got married. I remember her telling me she resented me for being on my parent’s side during many of their arguments. I was very much a good girl and she was very much the rebellious teenager.
After we were both married and had kids, I often tried to help babysit while she attended school or we would meet at my parent’s house for family dinners. But even then there was a divide between us that allowed not much of a relationship.
Before the adoption, when my sister had hit her rock-bottom, she hated me. She didn’t like that I went to church, she didn’t like that my life was seemingly on a better path than hers, she just didn’t like much about me. And really, I thought much the same about her. I couldn’t see why she wouldn’t just deal with the issues she was going through (more like, I wanted her to deal with them the same way I would have) and I resented her for getting so much financial and emotional help from my parents all the time. But when I heard about her pregnancy, I started talking to her. I talked to my sister because I wanted to know about her life, I wanted to know about her experiences, I wanted to make sure she was okay as a person, as well as a mother and as my sister.
Once she let us raise the baby, we suddenly had a connection that we’d never had before, we are both a major part of bringing this beautiful spirit to earth, giving her a body, and raising her to be an amazing woman. My sister and I started seeing eye-to-eye on so many more things. We started talking more as friends and wanting to stay involved in eachother’s lives.
We had a lot of things to iron out and we probably still do. 25 years of contentious relationships don’t disappear overnight. But we have 4 years invested in being friends now and our relationship is just going to keep getting better.
How do you feel about her as a birth mom?
I honestly forget a lot. On special holidays, the baby’s birthday, or when we visit are the easiest times to remember the specific details. But I see how thoroughly she has been able to grow and transform from her sacrifice and it makes me proud of her more than anything.
How have visits gone?
Since we left for Guam the first time after adopting our daughter, we have seen my sister in visits only a few times. Each time we have been more worried about the biological half siblings than about anything else. This last time my sister had a family/friends gathering where she pointed out my daughter to a friend and said “This is the baby I was telling you about!” and I beamed. In fact, I didn’t even realize the situation until I got home later. My sister tried especially hard to pay attention to our daughter, to give her hugs, and even carried her up to bed one night. But on the outside there was no animosity, no depression or even anxiety on anyones parts.
How open is this adoption?
This adoption is as open as my sister wants it to be. She has requested that I send pictures
on several occasions and she has sent gifts a few times. I have tried to specifically mention things she is going through and learning when we have conversations and we have shared medical information back and forth in an effort to help me understand the baby better.
On the birth father’s side, I would be completely willing to send pictures or letters every few months but after we left for Guam when the baby was 4 months old, we haven’t heard from him. Some day we will actively seek him out- our baby does have several half siblings on her father’s side as well as biological grandparents that we would love to get to know.
How has the decision to adopt your sister’s baby changed her life?
My sister could probably answer this question better than I could. But let me paint a picture of what was going on when the baby was born. My sister moved into a woman’s shelter for several weeks with all four kids. She didn’t have the time needed to go to work, because she had 4 kids to be raising on her own. She had very few friends, a very shaky self esteem and was still trying to figure out who she was as a person.
Fast forward to now. She was able to find low income housing and get her children into school while she worked. She eventually found another man- who I must say is wonderful- and they got married and moved into a house. At times my sister has worked on her education (she wants to teach math!) and at other times she and her husband have both worked. But her life is “back on track” in terms of stability and her goals.
Her children from the first marriage have grown tremendously now that they have the stability that my sister has been able to provide.
What were people’s reactions to this adoption?
We had a wide variety of reactions. Someone at my husband’s work with whom he was required to counsel with said that we were “putting the cart before the horse” with this adoption and she advised we not get involved at all. Other people have shown animosity towards many aspects of our experience, thinking that family adoptions are dangerous and not a good idea at all.
But many of my friends have been very supportive and have listened eagerly to my story about what we have gone through. My sister has been told by several people that she needs to write a book and that her story can be an inspiration to many birth mothers.
I think a lot of people get turned off on the idea of a family adoption because that child will always be around and no one will ever be able to forget what happened to the birth mother. But what I really love about this adoption story is that my sister got a chance to heal. She made a sacrifice that ultimately saved her entire family and she still gets to be a large part of this baby’s life.
If you have any specific questions for me or my sister, don’t hesitate to ask! I will try to answer any respectful questions that come up!