My Children’s Story is Complicated- Part 3 of 3
By: Mary Weaver, MOFAS Northwest Area Family Resource Coordinator
Along the way, both up to and including the lives of my children, “Emily” received some amazing services. There were (and continue to be) some fantastic resources out there for other young parents facing similar situations. And sometimes they work. For “Emily,” however, they didn’t work consistently. Some of that is due to her own choices; some of that is due to a lack of real, in-your-face supports that “Emily” truly needs. In reality (and my opinion), “Emily” needed a parent or a mentor, someone prodding her on, pushing her back up when she fell down, again and again and again. She needed what my husband and I were providing to her children. And she didn’t have that.
The more I met and visited with “Emily,” the more I came to love her. Did I agree with or approve of most, if not all, of her decisions? Absolutely not. And I let her know that. Did I empathize and recognize how those decisions came to be, that many were beyond her control? Absolutely. “Emily” was put (or entered) into areas I could not imagine, lived through incidents beyond my worst nightmares, with the worst possible nightmare of losing her children because of her actions. Who was I to inflict my prejudices, my judgments, my morals and/or ethics on someone who truly did not know any other way of life? Someone who was fighting the real issue of mental illness as well as addiction? Someone who had so little self-esteem that she did not know her own worth and value in any way, shape or form?
Accepting “Emily” into my life was a no-brainer for me. She was the mother of my children. She gave them life. They have her full lips, her coloring. Jake and Jackie share her knobby knees and long toes. Max is a mini-image of “Ben,” including his wavy, lighter-colored hair. They created them, all the quirky, funny little habits that can be passed genetically. Without “Ben” and “Emily,” three of my children would not be here. I cannot fathom my existence without them.
It surprised me one day when I realized I don’t get mad at “Emily” for the damage that was done to my children.
Yes, Jake, Jackie, and Max have been affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol and methamphetamines. Jake and Jackie have partial FAS. Max has never been officially diagnosed but I definitely see more problems with him than Jake and Jackie. There are a lot of issues. There are a lot of struggles. There are days I’m frustrated beyond belief with how to best support them or help them through the day.
And there are days of joy upon joy, of discovering new and wonderful things about my children, laughing at whatever bonehead thing they said or did, or even shaking my head in disbelief when I truly forget that they are adopted. They are mine.
Maybe I don’t get mad because I subjected Chris to the same potential damage. Maybe it’s because I do care so much and feel so much for “Emily.” Maybe it’s because all that anger won’t change a single thing for my kids.
Maybe I don’t get mad because, as an adoptee, I feel that my children will “sense” that and think it reflects upon them. I cannot speak for all adoptees, obviously. But I think part of the reason I feel the way I do was my parents were always expressing their gratitude to our birth parents for allowing them the opportunity to be our parents. And I feel exactly the same way about “Emily” and “Ben.”
To me, ultimately, my children’s birth parents are who made my children and are still a part of them, even if not physically present. To shame, disparage, or foster long-term anger at them is, I believe, something my children will reflect and pick up on. And if I can’t fully love (not approve of behaviors, mind you) who gave birth to my children, how can I love my children unconditionally and have them grow and be proud of their heritage, culture, and family of origin? For me, that would be shortchanging them, putting down something that is innate within them, like ridiculing them for having hazel eyes or that funny-looking pinky toe like “Emily” has.
Through my work with MOFAS, I have been so very fortunate – and blessed – to work with families as a Family Resource Coordinator. Some are like mine and raising adopted children. Some are like mine and raising birth children. All of them have been affected in some manner by prenatal exposure. One of my other responsibilities is that I am able to work with birth parents through the Changing Course series, which is a series MOFAS presents at treatment centers for men and women in recovery. This informational, supportive, and educational course provides me with the opportunity to meet men and women who are so very much like “Emily” and “Ben.”
In my presentations, I stress that there is no shame and no blame. Like I previously state, quite honestly, what good does that do? It’s human nature to know when we screw up and we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to forgiveness. The majority of the time women who use during pregnancy are either dealing with addiction, a lack of knowledge of the dangers, or may not know they are pregnant yet. As I present the basics of what alcohol, heroin, meth, or opioid addiction does to the developing fetus, the pain is palpable at times when people realize what they did and recognize things within their own lives or the lives of their children. It’s truly heartbreaking to experience, not only as a birth parent and adoptive parent but simply as another human being.
I wrote this in order to share my thoughts, my experiences. I wrote this to help other families to be mindful of others’ journeys. I wrote this so we can remember that really rotten things happened that were completely unfair to our children and we, as parents, are left to pick up the pieces. I wrote this because maybe, just maybe, we can remember that we’re all in this together, no matter how we got here.
This site is provided to families and professionals as an informative site on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It is not intended to replace professional medical, psychological, behavioral, legal, nutritional or educational counsel. Reference to any specific agency does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by MOFAS.