While eating dinner the other night, Rhubarb posed a provocative question: "What are my birth parents and birth siblings called to you?"
We all paused to reflect upon the fact that there are no special terms coined for the birth families that help to form forever families. Just as my husband's mother is my "mother-in-law" because of her special place in my relationship, shouldn't my children's birth parents also receive a special term in relation to me? Likewise, since her sister and brother's birth family hold an important place in the heart of our youngest child, born into the family, what might she call them?
"What are your birth siblings to me?" Blueberry asked. "My brother and sister's birth siblings" seems so distant and cold, not at all descriptive of the connection they share.
It occurs to me now that perhaps we do not have special names assigned to these relationships because we are only just beginning to place value upon them. A person special to me is searching for a child she placed for adoption 51 years ago. The agency told her that they could offer her non-identifying information, no names. This means she will most likely have to hire a detective to find her birth child. It also means that a stranger to both the birth mother and her birth child knows more information about them than they themselves do. Even now, there are elements of the connections formed by adoption that seem so fragile, weakened by avoidance and negligence.
It saddens me to consider that my son and daughter cannot organically toss out titles for their birth family in relation to their forever family. There is always an awkward space when the questions arise. "Mamma, when you met my birth mother, was she the height I am now?" "Blueberry, did you know you are close to the same age as my birth brother?" The lack of binding vocabulary automatically severs the line that runs from birth family to child who joined family through adoption to forever family. Though the child in question remains in the middle, there is nothing to join the two ends. The circle feels broken and incomplete.
Perhaps someone out there is better at root words and etymology than me and can create some new vocabulary to go along with the precious connections formed by adoption. I welcome it.