The Girl in Vietnam: Why Being a Part of the Adoption Triad is not for the Faint of Heart


On the way to school this morning, Little Man was chatting up a storm and asking lots of questions. He’s an inquisitive child and this seems to be the norm for our daily commutes. About ten minutes into the drive, this particular conversation arose:

Little Man: Why is that girl in Vietnam sick?

Me: [sounding confused] What girl?

Little Man: That girl in Vietnam. How did she get sick?

Me: Huh?

Little Man: That girl that was supposed to take care of me.

Me: [ohhhhhh….that one] I don’t know. It’s complicated. Maybe we should look at your life book at home and then talk about it.

Little Man: Do you think she’s still sick?

Me: I don’t know for sure, but yes, probably so.

Little Man: I would like to go to Vietnam and meet her. What does she look like?

Me: Yes, we will go to Vietnam someday and see if we can meet her. I don’t know what she looks like, but I bet she is beautiful just like you.

The conversation about Little Man’s birthmother ended just as quickly and effortlessly as it had begun. Little Man seemed satisfied and continued chatting about various other topics. But I was left trying to catch my breath. My heart was racing and nearly ponding out of my chest. I am so happy that Little Man is talking about his past while he tries to make sense of such a complicated issue. But did I say the right things? Did I handle the conversation well? My mind and heart were racing, trying to make sense of all that had just transpired.

Even though we’ve used the term birthmother in our conversations about his past, he still only feels comfortable approaching the subject by using the word “girl.” We are not rushing him and we are allowing him to express himself in a way in which he feels comfortable. As he matures, the lingo will change, I’m sure.

We are very open about his past and his adoption story–with the very few facts that we do know. The hard truth is that we don’t know much and I grieve heavily for all of the unknowns. The truth is that Little Man’s life began in the midst of a very tragic situation. I want so badly for my son to know his history in its entirety, but it just isn’t possible. The paradox of adoption–the joy and the the loss–is so heartbreaking to navigate at times. Today’s conversation gave me a glimpse into the future and nearly ripped my heart to pieces. Someday the answers will be too few, and the only thing I will be able to do is stand beside my son as he grieves. For now, I will focus on what we do know and I will choose to embrace the joy that has come out the complicated paradox of adoption.

9 thoughts on “The Girl in Vietnam: Why Being a Part of the Adoption Triad is not for the Faint of Heart

  1. What a tricky issue to tackle especially with a young child. I have many mom friends who have adopted and I don’t think there is ever an easy answer. By being open with your children, that is perhaps the. Est you can do. A friend of mine who was born in Vietnam went back in her 20s and reconnected with her past. She was glad she did yet was also so thankful for the loving upbringing she got here by her adoptive parents.

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