Announcer: Welcome to the adopting and fostering home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years, or your just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your host Lynette Ezelle and Tera Melber.
Lynette: Welcome back to the adopting and fostering home podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about helping your child walk through their birth story. You know Paul David Tripp says, “we are meant to live lives that are connected to the beginnings and to endings. We are meant to live this way because all that we do is meant to have connection to the God of beginnings and endings, by whom and for whom, we are created.” So Tera, why this topic today?
Tera: Well my answer to moms who ask me this is pretty simple, likely our children are already going to be thinking about their birth story, at some point, they’re going to ponder it. They’re going to make conclusions about it with or without us. Adults and children alike are going to ask them about their story.
Lynette: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Tera: And we need to give them a voice and help them sort through their stories to help them navigate life. So, as their parents, we should really take this journey with them and to the best of our ability be their guide, and through it all we have to embrace Jesus Christ and trust him for the pieces of the puzzle that he either chooses to reveal or to not reveal.
Lynette: Oh yeah, that’s right, and since they’re already going to think about it, I think this surprised me the most, they’re thinking about it a lot.
Tera: Mm-hmm, exactly. Even from the time they’re small.
Lynette: Yes. But since they’re already going to be fielding these questions, we should help give them a voice. We want them to know that they can stand firm knowing that the one who created them was not surprised.
Lynette: At any moment in their lives.
Tera: And that gives them comfort and security and we may not understand, goodness knows, that we as parents do not understand their certainly not going to understand why these circumstances occurred. But we have to learn, and to able to share and teach them that they can trust Him, who is the author of their lives.
Lynette: That’s right.
Tera: And remind them of verses like Jeremiah 1:5 that says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
Lynette: Oh yeah. That’s so great. So Tera, tell me what is one way you’ve helped your kids explore their birth story?
Tera: Well in order to give them a voice we have to make sure they know the facts as we know them. So first of all, we should be sharing their adoption stories, age appropriately, as early as possible. So that kind of makes people nervous I think.
Tera: To be able to say, ooh I don’t know if I want my child to know, especially if it’s a difficult beginning.
Lynette: And honestly, as adoptive moms we do, we have that fear, let’s be honest. We panic maybe a little bit here.
Tera: Oh, I for sure panicked. But I did meet a gal one time, she’s adopted, and she’s and adoptive mom. She gave me a piece of advice one time she just said, “don’t be fearful to share the facts with your child.” And her advice, as this is her personal experience and with other adult adoptees, is to find out that story before they hit puberty when their hormones are raging and things are crazy in their mind. She just simply said you know Tera, they’ll typically in her experience accept it as a fact and not as a personal affront to the. So that was scary, because some of our children’s birth stories are pretty difficult.
Tera: But, age appropriately, you can find the wording to be able to say, hey, let’s talk through this. Because you want them to have the facts, not in their head where their making up a story that isn’t true.
Lynette: Right. Right. So if you do this, then as they age …
Lynette: If you start young, you’re already putting their story into words and we’re practicing it ourselves as parents.
Lynette: I know at our home, in my house, it’s become a natural conversation.
Lynette: So, what about older children though? This is kind of where we are now with older children.
Tera: Right. Well, one of the things that you mentioned was even if you bring home a newborn, while your feeding them that bottle, to be able to start talking to them about their birth story because, honestly, it’s more for you as the parent [crosstalk 00:04:18] for those who are around you, that you’re practicing that so that it does become a very natural conversation.
For our children, they were older when they came home. They have memories of their life before coming to our home. But often times they get their thoughts confused and jumbled, and so when we’re talking about it we just want to make sure that they understand that no question they have is out of the realm of possibility. You almost have to train yourself to not look shocked or surprised when they ask you the questions.
Lynette: Exactly, just hold it together, mom.
Tera: Hang on tight, ’til they’re done and then go to your room.
Lynette: That’s right.
Tera: At our hose we have a three ring binder for each kid.
Lynette: Absolutely, I tell the kids if the house catches on fire grab the binders. You know?
Tera: And I’m not a scrapbooker, at all, but I have very easily been able to buy those, you know, plastic covers and put all the documents I have into that binder. And they know that it’s not off limits. So, there may be times up until certain age where we say, hey we’ll look at your book together and these are the things that, cause you know one of them might say, well I remember, I’m thinking maybe this happened. And I’ll say, well let’s go back to the book because these are the facts as I have them. So this is everything I know about your beginnings.
Lynette: And I will always be honest with you.
Tera: And I will always be honest with you. Yes, right. So I think just making sure that they recognize and know that you’re willing to talk about it all the time. Any time that they want to, and that it’s not a topic that’s off limits and that they know that there’s access, you’re not keeping any secrets at all.
Lynette: And we hear people talk about making a timeline, or a life book. I think that’s so important. One of your children came home to us, mine and yours, with a life book, a beginning.
Tera: Right. Experiences that they had in the orphanage, the orphanage director was super kind to-
Lynette: That’s unusual.
Tera: It is unusual, to put pictures but every time we would send our daughter a gift, which we got to do two or three times while she was over there, we sent a disposable camera, and just asked, we didn’t know if it would happen or not, but we just said, hey can you put pictures of her? And then they did. I just said stick that back in there and send it-
Lynette: That is a great idea.
Tera: So we have those pictures, so she’ll look at the pictures and say, oh I do remember her or I remember what my room looked like. Those things help her kind of put things into focus, but a timeline, I think that’s really important.
Lynette: Yeah, I’ve never done that. I mean we’ve talked about it, but as far as making it visual-
Tera: My sister is the one who kind of talked to me about this. So, she has children that she adopted, she and her husband through foster care and internationally, but one of theirs was getting the facts really confused. So, my sister sat down with her paperwork and started writing in this year, this is the home you were in, in this year, this is where you were, then this happened, and on and on until you came to be with us. And you were with us for this amount of time before we were able to adopt and that way, they see oh we’re taking that information from that.
Lynette: And it gives value to every year of their life.
Tera: It does. And it helps them just sort of put things into their mind in the right way.
Tera: Cause it’s not their- I mean, I can’t remember things that happened to me as a kid, a lot of things. And sometimes I would get things confused and my mom would say, oh that isn’t how that happened you remember blah, blah, blah and then I’m thinking, okay, I get that. I remember that. But it’s important and it helps them to solidify their story in their mind.
Lynette: Yeah. That’s right. Write things down and add to them as they come that’s a great idea. Good point.
Tera: Well you know another thing that I think is super helpful when we’re trying to help our children remember their birth story and talk about it in a natural way, is to be able to use culture to prompt conversation. What I mean by that is, let’s face it, every Disney movie we go to has a plot line that begins with a character losing their parents.
Lynette: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Tera: I mean seriously. I cannot enjoy my popcorn because I’m worried to death about what our kids are thinking. But with that, we can utilize cultural things, stories that happen in the news, movies that are occurring, books that they’re reading, and be able to prompt a conversation.
Tera: So I have a friend that calls this tossing a pebble. So you toss the pebble and it may sink to the bottom and you get nothing, but other times you may prompt a conversation and all of a sudden they feel the safety and security to say, you know I remember when this happened, or why do you think that happened? Or tell me about, you know, my past, and we have to remember as moms to not be afraid and not be threatened by their curiosity.
Lynette: And I’ve noticed too with teenagers it happens at midnight.
Tera: Oh my word.
Lynette: You know, it really does. But I can’t be afraid of that, we have to stop what we’re doing and listen. Sometimes you’re just driving with them by yourselves, that can happen before they get their driver’s license. That’s sweet time together.
Tera: It is sweet time.
Lynette: And they’ll begin to open up.
Tera: Because they don’t have to look at you when you’re in the car together.
Tera: So it’s very non-threatening. They’re looking out the window, asking questions, and so often times I would say, “Hey what did you think about that? Did that make you think about your birth mom?”
Tera: And to not feel threatened. One of our kids calls his birth mom, mom, and he calls me mom. He doesn’t delineate by my first mom, my second mom, he just says, hey mom you know today I was thinking about my mom.
Tera: That would be an odd conversation if anybody heard us outside of it, but I can’t feel threatened by that because she gave him life, and I have to value her.
Lynette: It really helps bring them to a wholeness in that realm, when you give their birth mom value, and the lord calls us to do that. He enables us to that. I know in our family, and in yours as well, what we’re noticing is adoption is generational. What I mean is, our older children or adopting children will adopt our foster children.
Lynette: What we’ve noticed with that, we’ve had an adopted grandchild. We now have a foster grand. That’s opening up a thought process for our adopted teens in our home, and they’re thinking, is that how my story began?
Lynette: Was I put in one family, removed, and put in another family? And so, it’s opening a lot of conversation in our homes so this is so helpful to me.
Tera: It is, and it’s so healthy for them to be able, in the safety of your home, knowing that they are treasured and deeply loved, for you to be able to willing to hear that. To be able to engage in that conversation, and it’s also so vital for us to at the end of that midnight conversation, when we are tired, to be able to say you know even if your birth mom was not making stellar choices, or even if your birth mom made this amazing plan for you. Either way, the lord Jesus formed you in her womb and brought you into this world for a purpose, and though your beginnings are hard, it does not define who you are today and we can trust him that he has your plan, forever. So always pointing them back to the cross, even in those difficult conversations.
Lynette: Well I love your suggestions, you know, to just keep things organized in a binder, keep your documents together, that is so important to me. I have to, emails, birth history, orphanage pictures, and make a timeline or a life book. I know we’ll have a great resource about that in our show notes. And then use culture to prompt conversation, keep a journal.
Tera: We have one child that, this was very beneficial, it was not beneficial for the other two. But one of the things he would often do is, he’s really tender hearted, and he would think about things but he didn’t necessarily want to talk about them. So we just kept a journal, it was really just for a season of maybe about two years and I kept a journal in a certain spot. I said, if ever you have a question or you feel sad or you want to write a letter thinking, you know, maybe we could get her this letter. I don’t know. But if you ever want to write your thoughts down, write them down here, and then lay it at my bedside and I’ll write something back.
Lynette: That is just brilliant.
Tera: And for those couple of years I didn’t make that up, somebody else told me that.
Lynette: That’s a great idea though because it makes it not so big.
Lynette: Satan wants to magnify that, and convince them you can’t overcome this. But if you write it down and you say, let’s handle this together.
Tera: Right, and we’re going to give it the lord. It’s just, I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it’s been over the years for us to just make this such a natural conversation from the beginning and not to feel threatened by any of it, and it’s hard. There are some days that I just got frustrated. Like we’ve had the same conversation. But they, at different times in their life are going to process it, and we have to still, the lord has called us to be guide and parent for them and so that’s what we’re going to do.
Lynette: I found myself saying even to one last night, we will always help you in any way if you want to search, if you want to try to look up a name or find a name, we will help you. You know, Tera, only the holy spirit can give us the peace to do that and not feel threatened by that.
Tera: You know too, we have to really be able to be okay with the lord can choose to reveal. He knows every detail of their story.
Lynette: That’s right.
Tera: Or he can choose not to, and that’s a hard line to follow for years and years, we didn’t know anything about one of our kid’s families, and just in this last summer, the lord blew the door open in ways we never could have manufactured. To the point she was able to meet her biological sister, to be able to spend time with her, it’s the craziest story ever how the lord did that. I couldn’t have done that.
Lynette: No. Only He can do that.
Tera: Only he can do that.
Lynette: And how did you see that change her life, your daughter’s life?
Tera: You know, it was really one of those things where she had seen where one of our boys does have contact with his birth mom.
Tera: And it’s been a healthy thing for him, and she was always super supportive and super grateful and she would always minister to him in the sweetest and kindest of ways and say, you know, I know you’re hurting right now, but you know something. I don’t know anything, and so to see her, as a young adult, walk through this, you know, I really wanted to be there with her when all of this went down. The lord made it in such a way where she had to walk this path without either one of us with her.
Lynette: Because we’re talking overseas.
Tera: Overseas, yeah. And he was gracious to have believing, wonderful women come alongside her that we had known for years to walk along with her, but it wasn’t how I thought it was going to turn out. And I’m a little bit jealous I have to say that I wasn’t there with her. But it’s kind of helped her realize the big picture of what the lord has done in her life, and it’s helped her just to be able to trust in Him even more. Because I’ve told her before, sweetie, you know there’s no way we could have made this work, only the lord is the one who intervened.
Lynette: Yeah, give him the glory, that’s right.
Tera: It just is another way to point her, that her foundation is in the lord Jesus. One of things that I think we really need to be careful about in guiding our children is making sure that they know their identity is not linked to that portion of their life. It is and I don’t want to be insensitive in that way, at all. But what I’m saying is that I knew our kids, and you know your kids have find their identity first and foremost in Christ.
Circumstances are going to be tough in life. There are going to be easy things that happen to us and stinky things that happen to us, but our foundation, our identity, is in Christ. And knowing that he formed us in our mother’s womb and he brought us into this world, and he has a plan for our lives.
Lynette: Right, and training our kids not to seek horizontally what the lord’s given them vertically.
Lynette: And I pray that for myself as well, we all need that.
Tera: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-yes. One of the final points that I think is important in helping our kids work through discovering their birth story, and this is one that’s kind of tough, because you have to be super careful and know the situation, is to consider having dialogue with the birth family, if it’s possible, and if it’s safe. And if the dialogue is not possible or safe, making sure that any information that you can glean or gain for them for their future will be beneficial. So I know in the states when you’re adopting that that can be tricky. So, you know your family situation far better than we do, but if there is a possibility to have conversations, if it’s a domestic adoption with birth mom. I know you were able to meet your granddaughter’s birth mom, so just those stories that you’ll be able to share with your granddaughter will be invaluable to her.
Lynette: Because you may think at this point, oh I’m not going to need that, I don’t need to document that. They’re not going to care about that. They will care.
Tera: They will care.
Lynette: They need to know that God saw them. God knows what’s going on, and God had a plan.
Tera: That is exactly true. So, I just think those are important for our child who is able to have contact with his birth mom, in Ethiopia, which is super strange and odd it has been very restorative to him, to know that, we’re okay if he has that conversation. And we tell our kids all the time, anytime you’re ready, we are ready and willing just like what you said to search, to look, we’re on your team. We’re all a part of this together. We’ll do whatever we can to help you.
Lynette: We support you in this. Absolutely.
Tera: We support you and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out or if it’s going to be good or if it’s going to be bad, but we’re on your team. So just to recap some of those things is that we want to give our child a voice, and we want to be able to help them get the facts correct, as we know them, by making a timeline, by making a life book, by documenting and keeping things. Our kids are not necessarily going to able to, they may not feel like they can ask us questions, so be able to prompt them, tossing a pebble, prompt them with conversation. Maybe keep a journal, be able to have dialogue with birth family if possible.
Lynette: That’s right. That’s a great place to end there and so, if we can help you in that area, you feel threatened maybe to start that conversation with your child, just as Tera said throw out pebbles and sometimes they-
Tera: Sink. Sometimes they’ll respond those questions, sometimes those pebbles will sink and sometimes they’ll be a ripple effect and you’ll be in a three hour conversation.
Lynette: But they are thinking about this, and they are processing this. Jeremiah 29:11, for I know the plans I have for you, declares the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.
Tera: Right. Don’t be fearful. The lord created their story and the lord will help guide you through it. This is not a competition between you and birth family. The lord Jesus created this story and he’s given you the time to be able to walk alongside your child. Thanks so much for joining us today, we really appreciate you being with us.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to the adopting and foster home podcast. We’re so glad you’ve taken time to listen today. Keep in mind we’re a ministry of the North American Commission Board and funded through the Amy Armstrong offering and your giving to the cooperative program. We look forward to talking more about adoption, fostering, and orphan care and how you can be involved.