January 19, 2012 by greenhouse04
In my quest to understand our unique calling, I’ve been reading the book “20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed” by Sherrie Eldridge. In it, she describes a phenomenon that I’ve been experiencing a lot lately, but never quite understood: mixed emotions.
Mixed emotions are when a circumstance prompts strong emotions within you of two completely different kinds, such as joy and pain at the same time. These emotions exist side-by-side, and don’t necessarily mix or sully one another. For instance, a person may experience extreme joy at the graduation of their son, and at the same time extreme sadness because his father isn’t there to see it.
Adoptive parents and adopted children experience mixed emotions on a regular basis. They are normal, and not bad or to be run away from. As an adoptive mother, I will need to recognize mixed emotions in my children and help them deal with them. But first, I need to recognize them within myself.
Here are some mixed emotions that I’ve felt over the past few months:
“I am so thankful for this child! I am so sad they are not my biological child and that they weren’t in my womb.”
“I love being a mother! I wish I could experience pregnancy and childbirth.”
“I love this little boy! I wish I had known him as an infant and toddler. I’m sad that he and his birth mom had to be separated.”
“I love this little girl! I wish I hadn’t had all those bad experiences with her birth parents. I’m sad that their bad choices caused her to lose them.”
“I love this new and unexpected calling to be an adoptive parent! I am extremely sorrowful over the loss of my most precious dream of getting pregnant and having a child.”
The emotions that are wrapped up in each statement cannot be communicated in writing – intense, deep emotions of joy and pain, love and sorrow, excitement and fear. I can only imagine the mixed emotions that must swirl around in the minds of adopted children. Mixed emotions like:
“I love my mom and dad! I’m sad that I don’t look like them and that I didn’t grow in my mommy’s tummy.”
“This family is so fun to be a part of! I wish my birth parents could’ve had fun with me like this. I feel bad for loving this family so much and not feeling the same way for my birth family.”
“I love my grandparents! I wonder if they love their biological grandchildren more than me.”
“I’m excited to find out more about my birth family and meet my birth mother! I don’t want to be too excited because I’m afraid of hurting my mom and dad.”
“My mom and dad love me and take care of me – I feel safe with them. Why couldn’t my birth mom love me, too? Why couldn’t she take care of me and keep me safe? Is there something wrong with me?”
“My unique family is so cool! Why couldn’t my family just be like everybody else’s?”
One thing I’m learning is that, while its normal to have mixed emotions, I don’t want the negative emotions to sully the positive ones. They can exist side-by-side, but once the emotions of pain and fear begin to steal from the joy and excitement, something needs to change. That is when the negative emotions have gone too far and gotten out of control, and are in fact becoming a tool of the Destroyer.
Recognizing our feelings and helping our children recognize them, then accepting them and dealing with the negative while embracing the positive in a healthy way are the first steps toward growth and wholeness, both for adoptive parents and adoptees. Now that I understand this, I hope to be a mother who can to some degree understand what my children are feeling, fully accept their emotions as valid, and show them how to bring their emotions to the Great Healer and Counselor.