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The Unexpected Consequences of Being a Bio-Mom

November 9, 2011

We adopted our first two children, and while they share a genetic link through having the same birth mother, until now there has been no biological connection between the inhabitants of our house.  After being a forever family for nearly 5 years, I can see how the dynamics of the nature versus nurture debate play out with our big kids.  There are very fixed components of our children’s personalities, their physicality and the way that they exist in the world that clearly come from their birth parents.

I remember the first time that I heard Bella’s birth father’s voice over the phone.  The cadence and inflections were hers.  It was like speaking to an older, yet male, copy of herself.  They have the same eyes, and from what I can gather, many of the same mannerisms.  We weren’t sure where her learning disability came from, but one conversation with her birth father made it clear to us that it was something she inherited from him.

I can also see our gentle parental influence on our kids as they mature into these pretty incredible adults.  They think a little bit more critically about the world around them, they aspire to higher education, they’re more grounded with the stability a family provides, and they’re both kinder and more accepting of those around them.

In the early days of our adoption, particularly when we were having a rough day, and I knew I was being judged by some parent, teacher, or store clerk for being  a poor stupid girl who got pregnant as a teenager and consequently raised some pretty misbehaved kids, I’d pull out the adoption card to seek compassion while simultaneously distancing myself from the offending behaviour.  I clearly felt the need to make myself feel better.  I was compelled to overshare that I adopted these two children, they were older children when we adopted them, and they were from Children’s Aid.  It was my way of articulating, without having to actually say it, that none of what was happening was my fault.  It was just my job to pick up the pieces and fix it.

Until now the majority of my parenting experience has been about fixing my kids or bringing people onside to help us fix our kids.  It’s only been in the last few years that I can establish a link between my kids’ behaviours and choices and our parenting.

With Baby A it’s different.  And it’s not just because she’s too little to outwardly demonstrate how fabulous we are at raising kids.

I see pieces of myself in her flesh.  Parts of me have been coded into her genetic make up.

Early on her personality exuded the impatience and stubbornness that is part of my human character.  These are not necessarily the first traits I wanted to pass on.  These aren’t inherently bad, they’re just personality quirks that will make her life a little more colourful and parenting her teenage self joyless for us.

Baby A went to the eye doctor last month we’re now dealing with the possibility that she’s near-sighted.  She’ll be tested again in eight months to be sure.  Again this is not the worst thing in the world. If it turns out she inherited my eyesight then she’ll be a kid with glasses.  I just feel guilty that my DNA was bestowed upon her in some way that will inhibit her ability to ever see the world with unmediated clarity.

Today I found patches of eczema behind Baby A’s knees.  I thought she had escaped the scourge of my skin sensitivities.  My eczema as a kid was nearly debilitating.  My feet used to crack and bleed so bad that it was difficult to walk.  I had mostly outgrown my eczema, with the exception of a patch on my hand that exploded during pregnancy and bothers me at present.  I never thought this would be something she’d have to face.

The baby seems non-fussed about her skin this far, but I’m wrecked.  I feel so bad that I gave this to her.  It’s awful to know that you’re at the root of her suffering.  That you’re the one responsible for that nature piece of the equation that cannot be done.  I never expected to feel so burdened by this blood tie.  I never knew about the guilt that was inherent in the biological part of being a mother.

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