Combining Children by Birth and Adoption: Which One is Yours?

Dawn Davenport


Combining Children by birth and adoption

Do you have a mixed family–some by birth and some by adoption? Which ones are really yours?

If you get pregnant after adopting or adopt after already having a biological child, at some point you will likely hear some variation on “which one is yours?”

“I knew your son was adopted, but your daughter is yours, right?”

“They look so much alike, you would never know that they were not both yours.”

ARGHHH! Before you throw something I think it helps to look at the motive and have a ready comeback.

Focus on Intent

Generally the people who are asking which child is yours do not have evil intent. Most folks are simply trying to figure out the relationship. We can all fall victim to an accidental “foot in mouth” moment.

A few years ago I found out that two women I am acquainted with were sisters. I almost commented that I had no idea because they look nothing alike. Coming from a transracial adoptive family I realized the absurdity of my statement and stopped myself, but had I barreled on as I often do and had one or both been adopted into their family, I might have inadvertently offended them. The fact is that we often speak before we think – it’s simply a part of carrying on a fluid conversation. Wearing our feelings on our sleeves guarantees that we will spend a lot of time being insulted.

It helps me to remember that I’m hypersensitive to comments such as these because I worry about how they will affect my children.

Who is Your Real Audience?

How should you respond to “which one is yours?” or “are they both yours?” Keeping in mind that intent is seldom mean, I try to focus on answering as if my children are listening because they often are. Even if they aren’t listening to that exact conversation, I’m educating the world one person at a time so that maybe it will be slightly easier for them in the future.  I say some variation of:

They’re both 100% mine. One came to us through adoption and one through birth. We were lucky enough to get to do it both ways.  How about you, do you have children?

How do you respond?

P. S. You’ll also almost be guaranteed to hear “see I told you all you needed to do was relax”. I’m working on a blog on idiocy of this statement, but suffice it to say it is both wrong and disrespectful on so many different levels.


Image credit: Automania

15/04/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 17 Comments

17 Responses to Combining Children by Birth and Adoption: Which One is Yours?

  1. Avatar Anne Buckley Jones says:

    The only thing I would add to the potential responses to someone asking “Which one is yours?” is something I learned from a wise adoptive parent when my daughter (who was adopted) was very young.
    Having discussed the story of her birth and her life with her from a young age, she was more than able to ‘tell her own story’ by the time she was about five.
    So, if my daughter was with me, before I responded to anyone’s questions about adoption, I would look at my daughter and simply ask, “Do you want to handle this. . or should I?”

  2. Avatar Donna Bolian says:

    I just smile and say, “They’re all mine. Do you mean which one did I give birth to?”

    We have two children who share DNA with one or both of us and 4 children who just happen to be adopted. The ages range from mid-50s to 21.

  3. Avatar Greg says:

    Allowing a child to be themselves includes allowing them to recognize all of their families. It means allowing them acknowledge who certain people are in their lives and letting them decide who each family member is to them. It means allowing them to recognize that they are a member of their non biological family as well as their biological family.

    It doesn’t mean you dictate to them that their biological family is superior and when they turn 18 they leave their non biological family forever. You let them make that decision for themselves. No law ever changes a biological connection and no law ever changes a non biological bond. A person’s identity is defined by themselves not by a law or some piece of paper.

    On the parental side a non bio parent should never deny the existence of the child’s bio parent but they should also stress to the child that despite the lack of biological connection that they’ll always be their parent and a member of their family. Because if we are saying that the non biological parent is not a parent than that child is not a member of their family. The reality is there are many different ways someone can be a child’s parent and it’s not all biological. Biological parents are not superior or have more meaning in a child’s life than non biological parents. They are just different and what each means to the child is up to the child not a law.

  4. Avatar marilynn says:

    “They’re both 100% mine. One came to us through adoption and one through birth. We were lucky enough to get to do it both ways. How about you, do you have children?”

    Dawn I like the intent but you are lying and the kid will know it and so will whomever your talking to.

    How can you try and say an adopted child is 100% yours? Come on.

    You know the whole point of adoption is to raise someone else’s child. Parenthood is split up at the very least it’s split to where reproduction is done by the one set and rearing is done by the the other set. Many times the parent doing the reproducing did some of the rearing for a while as well.

    Truth of the matter is…the truth, truth? Bio or adopted means 100% your responsibility to raise and take care of. But only one of those kids is 100% yours and in fact they are only 50% yours anyway even if bio.

    Yours are yours you made. The bio mother retains exclusive right to refer to her offspring her children as her own even if they are no longer under her authority and control.

    People get to Hallmark-ish and sentimental in their responses or try to be ultra vague thinking it’s nobody’s business and you’d be missing an opportunity to make the kid feel loved for who they really actually are – which is not your own child but still a member of your family through and through. What’s wrong with saying you can’t take credit for making both of them but they are both your responsibility and joy to raise or something like that?

  5. Avatar marilynn says:

    Greg when I talk about someone not being allowed to be themselves I’m not just talking about freedom of expression as with your rebellious teen example. Sadly adoption law eradicates the identity and kinship of the adopted person and it’s completely unnecessary. People could and would adopt happily without the law completely stripping the adopted person of their legal name and kinship in their bio family. Some day the law will get there and adopted people won’t have to change their identity in order to be loved and cared for. Until then the sad reality is that adoptive parents have that burden to deal with of the law being that way to their adopted kid so its bad enough the kid looses their identity in law but to have nobody at home recognize who you really are and they’d just joke away at not being able to tell which ones are their bio kids and which are adopted its like a slow sad death of their true identity everyone just wants to wish it away and say they forget who you are and your family is. The part of you that matters is the part they changed and the history they revised in their image its quite heavy stuff. So way different than a teen’s individualism or freedom of expression being stifled I’m meaning the systematic destruction of your true self in order to be worthy of food shelter and love.

  6. Avatar Alicia says:

    I so needed to read that! I get so hypersensitive when I get asked that question…..and it is ALWAYS right in front of my children!!!

  7. Avatar Addie says:

    Thanks for this simple and perfect response. I receive this ALL the time. And I also receive the follow-up of the “you must have conceived because you relaxed.” I very firmly state that I most certainly was not relaxed…I had a three month old colicky child, was in the midst of finalizing an adoption, and was sleep deprived. But by the miracle that is my oldest child, he fixed his mama and helped me bring his brother into the world – all the credit is owed to my son and God:)

  8. Avatar Tracy says:

    I love the gracious way you respond to this question because I think most of us mean well… even when we have our foot in our mouth. I also appreciate you taking the opportunity to make it a teaching moment!

    • Tracy, yes, I think we adoptive parents need to own that we might have just the slightest tendency to be overly-sensitive in matters discussing adoption. Most people do mean well, but simply don’t know the right language.

  9. Avatar Michael Recant says:

    Dawn, I applaud your consideration of “intent” versus becoming a member of the enforcement arm of the “politically correct” police. I have found most comments like these come from lack of experience with adoption/infertility and so a honest, gentle “learning moment” response works so much better for everyone, including the kids.

  10. Avatar Greg says:

    Whether biological or non biological to me the adult(s) who are legally responsible for that child and recognized by that child as their parents then those adults are their parents. I’m not sure I like the phrase “your child” being used because that to me implies ownership. Whether biologically related or not the child is not owned by their parents. They are there own person and will become their own adult. You see it in biological families where teens/adults rebel against their parents because of overparenting. So it’s not just adopted people who aren’t allowed to be their own people. It has more to do with parenting than it does the structure of the family.

  11. Avatar marilynn says:

    I help put separated families back together on the back end so my comments are based on what I think would be fairer to everyone involved and I know it comes out blunt sometimes but I’m not trying to be hurtful at all. Ideally adopted people would remain themselves, not loose their identities or kinship in their bio families while simultaneously becoming full members of their adoptive families as well so that they would still be referred to as the child of the parents who are not raising them and that would not bother the adoptive parents at all to say and then simultaneously convey that the adopted person was a full fledged member in their family as well doubled up with family.

    It’s hard I think for adoptive parents because here they are telling the truth these days to the person they adopted but all the records hide the truth and much of the lingo hides the truth too all in an effort to make the adopted person feel like they are completely integrated into the adoptive family. It would be so nice to come up with a way to achieve that total integration at no cost to them at all, no cost to their identity or kinship in their bio family more than was already lost by whatever tragedy separated them to begin with.

    I think it is very hard to find that balance of showing that the love and commitment is equal to that of any bio child while simultaneously respecting they have a bio family of their own. I’m sure it can be done though.

    • marilynn, I think many adoptive families “find that balance of showing that the love and commitment is equal to that of any bio child while simultaneously respecting they have a bio family of their own”. That is the nature of many open adoptions. I do think it is absolutely crucial for children to know that they are 100% totally and completely loved and a part of their adoptive families, not some “other” that is growing up in this family. It is possible (and being done all the time) to do this while acknowledging that another family gave birth to them and that they carry the genetics of their first family.

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