The Shriver Report – How One Family Was Born From the Heart

Special Edition

How One Family Was Born From the Heart

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A few years ago, I asked my husband out on a date. I remember this evening in particular because I had to talk to him about something important and I thought that he would not be too pleased with the news.

We had made a number of appointments with a reproduction specialist. My husband and I had organized a long trip in the hopes that we would conceive our child. That evening, I told him that I could not follow through with our plan. In fact, I had resisted it from the start.  I told him that what I really wanted was to adopt. I felt that we already had a child out in the world and that we just had to find our way to him. My husband was completely understanding and supportive of my decision.

Looking back, I think that I felt great pressure to form a family the conventional way. The fact that medical advances allow women of almost all ages and conditions to have children was challenging to me. I personally knew a 56 year old woman that had given birth to twins.  For goodness’ sake! How could I refuse the treatments? Didn’t I want a family?

Adoption is a personal calling, and most definitely it is a choice. Adoptive parents are undeniably intentional parents. The process of adoption requires intense scrutiny of one’s privacy, and a long and trying wait that may not grant you a child. The adoption process is fragile in nature, and there are no guarantees. In my experience, the process of adoption demands an honest exercise of introspection and genuine commitment.

After that trying process and long wait, the world changed. I finally had my son. I praise the wonders, the beauty, and the happiness that adoption has brought to my life. My son is exactly that, my son.  I am enriched by his presence in my life. I am able to learn about myself, while I get the privilege to nurture and protect him, to accompany him as he grows and makes his own decisions. We love each other and continue to build a long lasting relationship.

My son is a happy and loving boy. Since he came, I assumed my mommy role with passion. I want to be my son’s support system and to provide him with the love that he deserves to thrive in life.  And yes, we do have our moments just like any other family. Sometimes he does not want to wear a jacket in the morning on his way to school or gets upset because I don’t let him watch another episode of his favorite TV program. But for the most part we do our best to enjoy our lives together with a good dose of snuggles, plenty of dancing and lots of laughter. We are creating a family and building memories for the future.

“I cannot help but notice that we, parents of all sorts, have so much in common. We all love our children and try to do our best even if none of us have the right formula for parenting. We will do everything to protect our children from harm and pain.”

I am fortunate to have a wonderful family of my own. I have my parents, two sisters and a brother, nieces and nephews, and plenty more. I also have many friends with children. And overall, I cannot help but notice that we, parents of all sorts, have so much in common. We all love our children and try to do our best even if none of us have the right formula for parenting. We will do everything to protect our children from harm and pain.

One random day, my son and I were at the doctor’s office and we saw a newborn baby. The conversation about birth and babies took a surprising turn when my son hugged me with the biggest smile and said that he once was a baby and that he was born from my belly. At that point I knew that the truth was going to hurt him, but I also knew that I loved him more than anything in the world and that I couldn’t lie to him.

I hugged him tight and close to me and I told him that I was not his natural birth mom, that I had not carried him inside of me. I spoke about his birth parents and about how he was born from another mom. He couldn’t stop crying. He did not want to believe me. He was in so much pain. I realized at that time that it did not matter how many times we had discussed this topic in the past. This was the moment in which my son finally understood.

My husband and I had spoken openly about the nature of our family. We had talked to him about his natural parents. We had made a photo album with pictures from the children’s home where he lived and kept it close to him. We had been deliberate in acknowledging his past and, to an extent, we tried to keep it present. It is for this reason that I did not expect such an intense reaction from him that morning at the doctor’s office.

I think that my son must have had a moment of maturity. Perhaps we had surmounted some milestone as an adoptive family at that time. We were happy. The bonding between us had become so strong.  Perhaps it was because we were so happy that the notion of adoption resonated with a new a threatening meaning to him. My fears at that time stemmed from my inability to contain his pain. I could not stand to see him crying inconsolably and feel like this moment would never end. I wanted to bring him back to our loving and happy present.

Who were his mom and dad? Where were they? Why did they leave him? These were legitimate questions and I had to answer the best way I could. I kept him in my lap close to me, and talked about it in a simple but truthful way. All I could really do was to embrace him, contain his pain with my love, and be present to talk about anything he wanted. His questions are not a threat to me. In fact, I believe that his questions allow us to exercise our love for each other and to celebrate our family. I am certain of our love.

When I wrote the book Born From The Heart I wanted to tell my son that I loved him. The book is the love letter that I wrote to my son to reassure him of his place in our home and in our hearts. I wanted my son to know that he was desired. A few times he asked me if my heart actually grew while I dreamt and waited for him, and I do tell him that it did. No one could see my heart like the illustrations of the book, but that is the way I felt when I thought of him. In fact, I still feel that way.

This book is by no means a substitute to a real conversation about adoption with our children. Each family needs to find their own time and place to have that conversation.

To what extent does it matter that our children have our genetic information? In my mind and in my heart, my son and I have always belonged together. What really matters to me is how we nurture our love every day.

Berta Serrano is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
Berta Serrano, a native of Bilbao, left Spain in search of something new. She found a source of inspiration in New York City, and decided to stay. She received her Masters in Art from New York University and has worked in the art world since. Berta lives with her husband and son in NJ.
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