by Dawn Smith-Pliner
Awestruck by the birth of her first grandbaby, one grandmother was shocked when she realized her tears were not those of joy, but of sadness. Realizing her grandbaby looked nothing like her brought back all of the struggles of her own infertility. Like lightening striking, she understood for the first time what it must have been like for her daughter to grow up surrounded by people that she loved and adored and who loved and adored her back, but who looked nothing like her. As an adopted person, her daughter had no mirror to reflect into until the birth of her own baby.
After her daughter gave birth, she searched and found her birthmother. When introduced to one another, two mature women- one a birthmother and the other an adoptive mother- found themselves mesmerized by the beauty of their mutual grandchild. Two grandmothers realized in that moment how much they had in common- in their grief and in their joy, united by the birth of their granddaughter.
In another case, being told by her 17 year old college bound daughter that she was pregnant, forced a mother to dig deep inside herself to give her daughter the support that she needed throughout the pregnancy. Being present at the birth of her first grandbaby and watching her sobbing daughter place the baby into the arms of the adoptive mom was almost too much for her heart to bear, even knowing that through her daughter’s open adoption plan she would have visits with the family over the years. While fiercely loving her daughter and grandbaby, regular checkups with her long time counselor helped heal her grief. Sessions that included her daughter and the adoptive mom proved especially cathartic.
A favorite song of mine is entitled Never Too Much Love with the lyric- “Never too much love, never too much love, never in the world can there be too much love”. A simple lyric that sometimes becomes complicated in the world of adoption. We live in a society that sometimes believes that we own our children. Unless time is taken to educate people to the importance of connections, especially in the world of open adoption, disastrous outcomes of struggling and competing adults over a child remove the opportunity
for the child to reap the benefits of a solid foundation that acknowledges both the birth and adoptive family. A family tree that includes both the roots of the biological family and the branches of the adoptive family allows the child to blossom into a fully acknowledged adult.
As Emily Procter, who was adopted as an infant, wrote in a recent Parade Magazine article, A Mother’s Journey- “As comfortable as I was with my adoption, the nature-vs-nurture question has been a big one for me. I adore my parents, but I always wondered if I would feel a different kind of love- not more or less-just different- for someone who was biologically related. I couldn’t wait to look at someone who shared my genes. I thought my baby was going to provide a decoder key to my past. “ Upon giving birth to her daughter she continues, “My love for Pippa is overwhelming. But after all these years of wondering, the birth of my daughter has helped me see that the love I feel for her is the same love I feel for my mother, father and my husband. For me, family love is family love, no matter what.”
Dawn Smith-Pliner is an adoptive mother to Aura and Isaac and an adoptive grandmother to Isabella. She relishes her connections to all of her families.