In response to the “Open Adoption Roundtable #26″ on the fabulous, thoughtful blog “Production, Not Reproduction.”

Topic: Siblings in open adoption

I’m ill-qualified to talk about the practical ramifications of siblings relationships in open adoption, or how to guide a child through these types of relationships. My son is just turning two, and we don’t have contact with his first mother. Though, full of hope, we send her letters and pictures, we receive no reply. So all we can do is sit on our hands, hoping and praying that she’s okay. That our son’s brother is okay. As the months and years pass, Nick and I will stumble upon ways to talk with Ian about this. For now, I talk to him about his brother in fits and starts, reaching for the right words so that when he really starts to listen, I’ll be saying something substantial.

Ian’s brother is ten years older than he is. We don’t know what he looks like, what his story is, or if he knows that Ian exists.¬†We know that we think about him all the time, almost as much as we think of Ian’s mother.¬†Sometimes I imagine he and Ian finding each other in twenty years. Would they stare at the ground? Hug awkwardly? Would they be able to build a bridge strong enough to carry the weight of all their differences–racial, cultural, economic, emotional? How do I give Ian the resources to cope with the loss of a sibling he never knew?

Ian’s brother is like our shadow-child. He is with us all the time, almost-visible, an almost-tangible boy who disappears when we think too much about him. A lost child we might never find. I want him one day to take on all the weight of corporeality in our lives, to become a flesh-and-blood presence. So Ian can play with him and talk with him and fight with him, like brothers do. And now that I’m writing this, I realize all of this I feel about Ian’s brother is true about N., Ian’s first mom. She is always with us, but never with us. The unseen guest at every dinner, storytime, playtime & naptime.

If I feel this way about them, how will Ian feel?

2 Responses to “Shadow Brother, Shadow Mother”

  1. Rosemary Says:

    This is hard. The way you feel their absence honors them. I don’t know how Ian will feel, but I think he will feel more gain than loss, more presence than absence in his life.

  2. Heather Says:

    I apologize for how late this comment is, but I wanted to thank you for participating in the roundtable. Your penultimate paragraph describes so well the feelings I have about my son’s as-yet-unmet brother.

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