“How can you love a child that isn’t your own? You know what I mean, how can you really love someone who isn’t your flesh and blood?”
Oh how that question burns me up! I’ve been assaulted by this inquisition more times than I can count. The question always leaves me with a mix of rage and sadness. It’s been hard for me to put a finger on exactly why this rude inquiry has such an effect on my heart. I think it’s because the question itself is unnatural. Ultimately, it is in our nature to fall in love with one whom we share no DNA. We give our heart, body, mind, home, life to that person who is not our flesh or our blood. We may go on to create children together but that love and that family stems from a bond created by two people who do not have any genetic reason to be bound to one another. Why then is it so difficult to comprehend the love formed between an adoptive parent and child.
My rebuttal for those who question my love for my children has always been, “Do you love your husband? Are you biologically related?”
That thought was on my mind this past weekend, as my oldest daughter got married. I walked down the isle escorted by my 8-year-old son. As the mother of the bride, I took my place next to the seat left empty for the mother of the bride who could not be there. The loss was felt. The emptiness of the chair was real. I scanned the crowed to see the fullness of a family touched by loss yet blessed by renewal. This was a family created by adoption. A love formed out of many people with no biological connection whatsoever.
Our pinterest-worthy sign meant so much more to our family than most. We were joining not just two families, but three.
Biological cousins sat with adoptive cousins. Adoptive aunts and uncles hugged biological aunts and uncles. The bride’s family and the groom’s family ate cake and laughed together. Grandmothers and brothers shed tears. Sisters danced and sang. Friends toasted, laughed, took pictures, ate more cake. Titles were dropped and our family grew.
We were led to this moment by my daughter, an adoptive child, who understands that love is not in DNA. Love is a choice we make.
My daughter learned to love from her first family. They taught her that real love sticks things out, loves unconditionally, loves in sickness and in health, loves through times of plenty and loves through times of deep loss.
When my daughter’s birth-mother passed away she had already taught my daughter to love. My daughter shared that love in her second family, our family. She learned to be a sister in her first family and then extended that knowledge to 7 younger brothers and sisters. My daughter chose to be adopted, not in spite of her first family, but because of them. She did not dismiss one in favor of the other. Instead, she understood that family grows when there is love. She knew even as a teenager that commitment isn’t based on blood, it’s formed from choice.
We know our daughter will be successful in this new family she is creating. We know that in her marriage, there is already a deep capacity for love. The wedding was a symbol of love between husband and wife, but for us it was even more than that. It was an expression of the bond of a family who chooses to love.
She learned to love from her first family. Showed others how to love in her second family and now begins her own family on a foundation stronger than most. She and her new husband know how to weather a storm. They know how to love in plenty and in little. They know how love those who are not like them. They know how to base value on another because of his or her humanity.
As friends and family travel home to Pennsylvania, Alaska, Oregon and Ohio, the love of this newly formed family will go with each of us. We gathered together out of love for one unique girl who understands deeply the value of family. We have each learned from her that when it comes to family, the more the merrier. The example of love without conditions will linger. Just ask any member of this backyard wedding, in this Midwestern town, “How can you love someone who isn’t blood?” They’ll ask you, “How can you not?”
Have you ever been asked this question as an adoptive or foster parent? Have you struggled with this question personally?