Pregnancy after adopted teens in family?
June 6, 2011 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Having a surprise biological child after adoption, especially with older children in a sibling group who will be 10-20 years older than the new one. They're happy, we're happy right now - but what issues should we expect? And what about the stupid 'finally your own real child' comments starting?

This is anon for my kids' privacy. We have four amazing children, adopted in complicated international circumstances. We chose adoption very quickly after a series of early miscarriages a decade ago, and now have four great teenagers in an open adoption with lots of contact. They are not the same race as one of us, and although now for example, scifi bookworms, they are also all sporty and not very academic, unlike the rest of our side of the family, but obv. much like their other parents.

We're now expecting in the first trimester, with a heartbeat and far more medical odds this time round. The conception was not planned as we thought fertility was off the table, but hey. The kids are mostly pleased with questions, and we would like to anticipate likely issues for both them and the future baby. I don't know any adoptive family in the same circumstances, only ones with bio-kids born first.

We've already been surprised, luckily out of their earshot, by a congrats-real-baby comment, and I'd like to know what else to expect.

I already know from one miscarriage during an early crisis with the kids, that I love them as fiercely and deeply as any biological child will, and we have nieces and nephews biologically too. My kids are fairly well bonded to us, although they are all abuse survivors and have worked hard to become stable and secure.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We've already been surprised, luckily out of their earshot, by a congrats-real-baby comment

People who say shitty things to others should be put on the spot and made to feel awkward as much as possible.

I would respond to this with a confused look on your face and say, "whhaa? You mean my other kids aren't real?" and maybe add on a "how long have you known? Why didn't you tell me sooner!? ARE THEY HOLOGRAMS?" Last part to be added only if they haven't caught on that you're mocking them yet.

I know a family who had two biological children, adopted one, and then had another biological child. This is in a very stuck-up, conservative area of the country, and I know they've gotten a lot of really rude comments about their adopted child being another race than their own. (I once heard, at a party thrown by this family, a woman lament that "the Mexican boy" (omg he's not even Mexican, not that that's the point) ruins all the family pictures because his siblings are all blonde-haired-blue-eyed.)

I don't know what to tell you, except that some people are going to be nasty and horrible. Just make sure your kids know you love them all the same, no matter what they hear from anyone else.

Congratulations on your growing family!
posted by phunniemee at 6:37 AM on June 6, 2011 [9 favorites]

This is an excellent chance to use your sci-fi fan background in social situations. I've always wanted to talk about my imaginary family members in public (or something equally wacky) - anyone stupid enough to say something like that deserves all the wackiness you can throw at them.

As for having a biological child after adoption - it's a lot like having a kid together in a second marriage when there are already stepkids in the mix (even moreso in your case, due to the open adoption.) The thing that helped the most in my family was the ironclad "you are all brothers and sisters, full stop" rule. We didn't have to do anything silly like drop the "half" when it was appropriate, but we didn't treat each other like we didn't share parents and a house and such.

It would help, probably, if you told them this changes nothing in terms of their status with you. My mom mentioned offhand, years ago, that my sisters and I all have the same status in her will, for instance. It was reassuring for me, since it was easy to feel like the leftover baggage from a life she'd like to undo, especially when I was being an angsty teenager.
posted by SMPA at 6:53 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

In polite company: "A real child? Do you think I'll love it more? I thought most parents loved all of their children equally. This is fascinating to me! Which one of yours do you love best?"

In private company: "That is a stupid and thoughtless thing to say and if any of my kids ever hears you repeating that, that will be the end of our relationship."

I am gathering that your other issue is a concern that your bio child will be more like the two of you than the children who came to you through adoption, and that you're worried this will make the older children feel... disenfranchised? If I am wrong please ignore the following.

If I am correct, I have two thoughts I don't really want to delve into deeply here but broadly: 1) The age gap works to your advantage. There is less age-grouping comparison, by the kids themselves. (The relationship with my same-age, close but competitive sib was very different than my 10-years younger sib, who was herself really different than the pair of us.) 2) The fact your older kids have a lot of contact with their families of origin will also go a long way to smoothing this out. The new family member may highlight the ways in which the older kids are not like you, but having a connection to the people they are like... really helps.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:54 AM on June 6, 2011 [14 favorites]

Hey, I can tell you about what it's like being the adopted kid who had a younger biological sibling.

My folks were told that they couldn't have kids, so they adopted my brother and myself. Then, magically, they got pregnant when my brother was 5 and I was 3. I was far too young to remember any comments, but for years afterward people would refer to my sister as the "miracle child". *eyeroll*

It was a bit weird growing up with a sister that looked exactly like my mom when I didn't. (We're all Caucasian, but whereas Mom + Sis are blonde and willowy, I am darker and...not willowy and never was). I think my biggest source of angst was that my sister was "the pretty one", but that didn't have anything to do with her being my folks' bio-kid.

I never felt disenfranchised by my little sister. So what if she was biologically my parents kid and I wasn't? I knew plenty of other adopted kids, step-kids, kids who had half-siblings, kids who lived with their grandparents, etc - so it wasn't weird by any means to be adopted. Sometimes people would be surprised that my LITTLE sister was their bio-kid, but I don't think anyone was ever mean about it. I usually would just roll my eyes at the "miracle child" comments but never felt bad about being NOT a miracle.

The moral of the story is: in the end, it didn't really matter that she was related to my parents biologically and that I wasn't. She's just my annoying little sister.

So, there's some anecdata for you. Congratulations on the new bebe!
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:22 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Renee and her husband Chuck at A Baker's Dozen have fourteen kids with some biological coming after others who were adopted. I know it's not the same situation, but you might find reading her blog helpful.
posted by kate blank at 8:00 AM on June 6, 2011

About thoughtless comments: I have a family member who would be making those comments, and she would mean very well and just not realize how awful the comment could come across. With a person like that I think your best move is to acknowledge the friendly spirit in which the remark is meant before correcting it.

"Look, I know you mean well, but our kids are our kids, period. None of them are more "real" than others. We are excited for the baby, of course, and our kids are excited to have a little brother or sister. Thanks for being excited for us too."
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:00 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with LobsterMitten--thoughtless comments are, by definition, not premeditated. People say dumb shit sometimes without thinking through the implications. Most probably don't actually mean to imply that your biological child is more legitimate..."Wow, you finally have a viable pregnancy!" sort of floats like a brick.

I would ignore it with a smile and say something like, "Thanks, we're all very excited." If someone starts to press the issue in a tasteless way, you're totally within your rights to say that you don't like hearing people say things like that because it seems to devalue the relationship you have with your other children.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:56 PM on June 6, 2011

My friend's experience was somewhat the opposite of Elly Vortex's. She's often (jokingly amongst her peers, and they nor her get offended by this kind of thing) referred to as teh "happy mistake", as with a 20 year (!) age gap, noone really thinks they were expecting to get pregnant after trying, failing and adoptiong 2 decades prior. The older siblings didn't act any different than bio older siblings in other families as far as reception to teh new little bro / sis.

Those wierdos with the "real child" comments, shut them down.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:46 PM on June 7, 2011

Your children have a past that made it hard for them to trust in stability and security. What you can do for them is give them tools. Sit down the kids now and tell them: "You may at some point hear someone say [...]. They've got it wrong. We want you to know that right now, so you'll never have a moment of doubt. Love for each other is what family is about." Then when someone blurts out a foolish thing where it can be heard, the child will know that it's safe to let the comment roll off. If possible, also give them a concrete tool for handling it. Is there a retort you all can come up together? An opportunity to demonstrate how you're still one big team!

Congratulations to you all on the upcoming addition to the family!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:01 PM on June 9, 2011

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