It's an honor for us to introduce you to our friend, Susan TeBos. Susan is the mother of three internationally adopted children and co-author of Before You Were Mine, Discovering Your Adopted Child’s Lifestory. This helpful book equips adoptive parents to commemorate and celebrate their adopted children's birth stories. You can find out more about Susan and her thoughts on Facebook-- www.facebook.com/susantebos.author
Communicating and Understanding
The other day I was searching for a website that gives voice to birthmothers desiring to reach out to the child she could not parent with words of encouragement and love. I had no idea that sites like this even existed. So I was certainly surprised when I spotted a YouTube video of a birthmother cherishing her final moments with her newborn baby. This video had received over 32,000 likes. Amazing! So many eyes glimpsing the heart of a birthmother, dreaming and wondering if perhaps this love and encouragement was true for them, too. I could only guess that most of these viewers were adult adoptees, individuals who had never been introduced to their lifestory or taught that it is okay to know.
Today, more than ever, wondering and not knowing have been replaced by communicating and understanding. We’ve come a long way as an adoption community and kids are asking and parents are telling. Still many adoptive parents hesitate to go to the difficult places of their child’s heart mainly because it is uncomfortable, or they don’t know how, or they may not have all the answers. Additionally, many are not sure what the outcome of the truth telling will bring. Some even wonder if it is worth it.
Becoming our Child's Storyteller
Experience tells me that it is so worth it and that every authentic effort to bring clarity and truth to an adopted child is valuable. I believe it is our distinct and unique privilege to become our child’s storyteller. And to do this well we must believe that this precious child is counting on us to go there first; to go to her story and to know it, and feel it, and see it with compassion and truth. She is counting on us to be ready when she needs us to hear her, affirm her, to reassure her, and to guide and protect her. Who better to receive her concerns or desires or hurt? Who better to walk with her through it all?
My husband, Mike, and I are raising our three children to receive their birth stories and hopefully accept them one day too, even the messy stuff that causes tears and wondering. It’s all about layers of learning and establishing our roles as storytellers in their lives. We started telling when they were little and it was easy. We talked about their birth country and birth parents names and facts and data like eye color or occupation. We even delighted in performing our own silly versions of Russian dances wearing furry Russian hats. Then, as our kids grew, the wondering grew, too. That’s when the hard work began. Russian hats became embarrassing. Eye color not enough. Questions surfaced that were more sophisticated, questions we didn’t have definitive answers for and yet were honest enough to tell them so.
Introducing the Birthparents
That’s when we began introducing their birthparents in a new way, looking at things like character, for example, and making safe assumptions that would help them see this person more fully. A person’s actions can tell us a lot about his or her character. With this in mind, one day I decided to download an extensive list of character traits off the internet with lots of options to select from. I just Googled ‘character traits’ and pop, up came lists to choose from. After selecting 4 or 5 traits that were believable and best described our oldest son’s birthmother, I was ready to share something new with him when he needed it. When the day came, Matthew, age 13, was visibly relieved to begin seeing his birthmother in this new way…hopeful, friendly, safe, responsible, and even loveable. He had never considered her this way before and his heart softened toward her that day. As for my part, the words I selected to describe his birthmother were not just random words simply chose to appease his heart. He knows I would never jeopardize our mutual trust in that way.
Sadly, we will not have such comforting words to share with our daughter regarding her birthmother’s character. It will not be easy. It will be hard to describe a person who was so broken at that time in her life.
May you, too, discover the privilege that is unique to adoption. May you speak truth into your child’s heart. May you enter holy ground where a reservoir of feelings waits to be shared or released. May you become your child’s storyteller.
To find out more about how to become your child's storyteller, read Susan's book.