My sister has just sent me a beautiful, if quietly haunting picture.
In the centre foreground is the top of a new-born baby’s head emanating from his tightly swaddled little body. Two adoring grandparents look down at him, oblivious to the camera. Behind them, from the shadows, a beautiful young woman in a hospital gown looks down at the baby from her hospital bed having given birth to the baby two days earlier.
The grandparents are my parents.
I have not met the young woman who is twenty years old and, as I understand it, does not feel ready to raise a child. She is the birth mother to nephew – my sister and brother-in-law’s newly adopted child.
They have all agreed to have an open adoption which means that on some level this little boy will always know his birth mother or parents. It also means that I have gained family in a manner that I have never envisioned.
I have often heard people say that they choose their family by making their friends into their family. I have never been able to get on board with the idea that you can trade in your blood family for people you choose. Even though I have friends who are so close that I consider them to be like family, there are not many of them and they are a happy addition to my family, friends that I have known for so long that they are close to me and my family. They are not a trade in.
But this is something different. This is two families adding, trading and reconstructing for all of their benefits, the birth family, adoptive family and mostly the little boy.
Looking at the picture again, I don’t know why I should be surprised. ‘Grandpa’ is my father and my sister’s, but ‘grandma’ is my mother, not my sister’s. Nonetheless, she is thrilled to be grandma to this little boy.
We all create and recreate our family according to necessity and convenience. We often think of this as a new phenomenon in these days where 50% of marriages end in divorce and remarriage is common. But of course it is not. For years and years families have reconstructed as necessary whether it was children going to live with aunts and uncles or grandparents, or being sent off to live with strangers due to death, illness, poverty or other factors.
Of course every marriage is a sort of a reconstruction as well. A son is gained, a daughter is gained, but how do the two families fit together and balance. Do they find enrichment, love, hatred, inconvenience? You hope mostly the former although I know that it is not always the case.
This adoption seems to me to be a different kind of marriage, one where there is no vow but where divorce is not possible or nearly so easy. I will be very interested to see with time how these families reconstruct and stay in touch and how we all fit together. I don’t believe that it could always be easy. But hopefully everyone will be enriched by the new relationships that are built.
I would be very interested in hearing about other people’s experiences with the reconstructed family, whatever that might mean.
Guest Blogger: California Sarah