First Families

Photo by Stefan Ruiz for The New York Times
Photo by Stefan Ruiz for The New York Times

First families are significant. So are current families. I was reminded of this when I read the cover story of a recent New York Times Magazine section. “The Mixed Up Brothers of Bogota,” by Susan Dominus is excellent. Have you read it? If you want to, click on this link. The article was fascinating and made me think about my work in the field of adoption.

Imagine that you have been trying to get pregnant for years. You try everything. You even see a medical specialist to try and determine why you can’t get pregnant. You try in-vitro fertilization. You inject yourself with hormones and spend thousands of dollars to try and get pregnant. But you can’t. You don’t. All that you ever wanted was to be a mom or a dad. You slowly give up on the idea of having a child biologically and you begin to explore adoption.

I have the privilege  of working with people who want to become parents and are trying to decide whether or not adoption works for them. Most people who choose to adopt do not think of it as a first option when starting their families. They usually explore adoption when they are unable to have a child biologically.

Again, imagine trying for years to become pregnant and not being first family
able. Imagine then deciding to adopt because you have so much love to give. You have the resources, the interest, the drive and the determination. You know that you could love a child to whom you did not give birth. You’ve come so far.

Then imagine being told that if you choose to adopt, you will have to at least be open to having a relationship with your child’s first family. Would you feel threatened, angry, resentful, fearful and guilty? Yes, probably. However, your child will feel more complete having the opportunity to at least meet his first family.

It’s so hard to explain why open adoption is important to someone who is unfamiliar with adoption. Over time prospective adoptive parents get it. They may still feel insecure about their child’s first family but sometimes after meeting them, those feelings change and become more positive. Sometimes they don’t. However, a child’s first family is a part of who they are. They have a right to know from where they came.

When I read the Dominus article, the word adoption isn’t mentioned but it was in the back of my mind throughout. Her (true) story isn’t about adoption. Adoption (ideally) is a conscious decision made by a first family. However this is the true story of what it’s like to be raised in a families in which two of four children weren’t born and are raised as fraternal twins.

The piece is about two sets of identical twins were born on the same day, in the same hospital in Colombia, South America. Somehow, the twins were separated in the hospital and eventually raised as fraternal twins. They grew up living very different lives. One set was raised in Bogotá (the largest city in the country of Colombia and the capital), while the other was raised in La Paz (a small, very rural town).

Eventually the brothers meet when they’re adults. familyThen they decide to meet their biological parents but one mother has died. One of the twins will never be able to meet her. He meets other relatives but he feels the loss of never  knowing the woman who gave birth to him and to the life he could have had if he stayed with her. The loss is what connects this piece to the complexity of adoption the loss of one family and the gaining of another.

After reading the article, do you have a different view? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here and tell me what you think.What are your thoughts about first families?