Jennifer Van Gundy is an Adoption Specialist at American Adoptions who is an adoptee herself. She’s also a mom to two kids, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old who weren’t adopted, and a wife to a man who wasn’t adopted. So it’s natural, then, that tough questions sometimes arise about the adoption process.
Jennifer had a closed adoption and doesn’t know her birth mother, so her sons haven’t been faced with trying to understand a birth mother relationship. Like all kids, though, they wonder where babies come from — but it’s not so easy as citing the stork theory when you’re an Adoption Specialist! Jennifer explains that some kids come from their mom’s bodies and some don’t, but it really makes no difference.
“We talk about the difference of, ‘I wasn’t in Mimi’s tummy, but you were in my tummy. But it doesn’t matter if you were in my tummy or you weren’t. It doesn’t matter if I was in Mimi’s tummy or if I wasn’t. We’re still a family.’”
It’s been interesting to share her adoption story with them, Jennifer says. She’ll tell them, “Oh yeah, mom’s adopted. It’s just a part of how I joined this family.”
It gets trickier when questions about her work arise. Jennifer is the Director of Social Services, so when she gets calls at home, it generally means there’s a question or that someone needs help working through a problem. And while she tries to take these calls in privacy, it’s natural that curious children will occasionally overhear bits and pieces.
She explains to her kids that she’s helping a family or a birth mom, which brings up the question, “Oh, somebody doesn’t want their baby?”
“No, it’s not that they don’t want their baby,” Jennifer tells them. “Somebody loves their kiddo so much that they want the best for that baby. And they can’t give the best for that baby right now, so they’re picking another family who maybe doesn’t get to have a baby on their own.”
Teaching kids about adoption is an ongoing process, especially as they grow older, but it’s an important conversation to have — whether adoption is as prevalent in your family as it is in Jennifer’s or not. The specifics can be tough depending on your child’s age, but letting him or her know there’s more than one way to grow or join a family can be done at any age!