Since we first read about our daughter, we’ve known that there were half siblings out there somewhere, in other adoptive families. This knowledge, which we had but she did not, has felt very heavy.
We adopted our little girl at age six, but we only felt that she was ready to hear that she had half siblings last year, when she was nine. I was so worried about telling her and not telling her. I worried about her growing up mistrusting me for withholding this amazing, life-changing info. There was also a terrifying worry that, when I told her, our angry, unsettled little girl would want to leave us and live with ‘them.’
I was waiting for her to attach, to feel that she belonged (and wanted to) to our family before telling her. But we were on a rollercoaster ride – one week she was great and loving and seemed happy, the next it was impossible to do or say anything around her without triggering a volcanic explosion of rage. My partner was very reluctant to upset her fragile world and link her back to her birth family, which I understood. So, she wasn’t told. My guilt burden grew.
Then, when our daughter was eight, the adoptive mother the elder two siblings tracked me down and we started to chat and share pictures on email. This is when I knew that I was right – this relationship needed to happen. My partner agreed when he read the mails. My daughter and her eldest half-sibling are like peas in a pod. They look similar and, as he mother and I talked more frankly, we discovered that we had very similar highs and lows with parenting them. It was like finding a twin, almost… Quite unexpected, and a push toward the decision that we must get ‘the talk’ planned, diarised and done.
Then, the mother of the other two siblings then got in touch. We found out all about each other and I let them all know that my daughter would be told in March, with a view to meeting in April. I imagined that she’d be so freaked out about the discovery that she’d need about two weeks to recover, then would need to see her brothers and sisters as soon as possible. The older two siblings already knew about our daughter, the littler two wouldn’t really understand so, luckily for us, the other families decided to fit in around our needs.
We made a simple (yet sooo complicated) A4 sheet about the two adoptive families in which the half-siblings were living. We used the pictures that had been shared over the email. I had a picture key ring made. I altered our family tree to include the four ‘new’ children. My partner and I went through it all, deciding where to have our talk, who would start, who would talk about the birth parent, what to do if she ripped up the pictures and even what to do after the talk and what we should then have for dinner. We consulted with our post adoption support social worker many times. I think it’s fair to say that we were scared witless about what was about to happen to our precious and very fragile family unit.
In the end, we had planned it perfectly. She was not freaked out. Emotional, certainly, but positively so. Two weeks after the ‘chat’ we were a couple of hundred miles away meeting four half siblings and four parents we would know forever as extended family. A huge deal for us all. But it went brilliantly, and what a joy to see those children, all from the same birth mother, united and playing together as if they’d known each other all their lives.
We met again just after Christmas, and this will become our ritual. Christmas has effectively doubled. We’re all happy about it, and the best bit for me is that, at the end of both our get-togethers, the children have happily gone back to their parents and waved goodbye. It’s taught me to trust our bond more. In fact, since we’ve got to know the siblings, our family might have strengthened. I must admit though, that I hope no more babies will come along from birth mum now… that is quite enough family for me!