I think this is my first post on this forum, or at least my first thread. I've been reluctant to post in this forum because of how public these boards are, even though I use pseudonyms. Our adoption is certainly no secret, but I still think a lot about privacy and the various implications of writing online about it.
That said, I need some advice. Can anyone talk me through exactly how they talk to their young toddlers about adoption? Like, tell me exactly the words you use, the situations you use them it, etc.
Willow joined our family in the first week of her life, via domestic infant adoption. She's a happy, healthy, amazing child, and she's 19 months old now. I want to do everything I can to help her understand and process her adoption in whatever way she wants or needs as she grows. Right now I'm feeling a bit lost. We anticipated a fully open adoption, with visits and everything--a birth mom or birth family whom Willow would grow up knowing face to face or at least through phone calls or letters. So far that's not the case; while our adoption is technically open, and we send updates and photos to our file at our agency, keep all of our contact info updated, and have been very clear in our openness agreement and with our social worker that we'd love to have contact, Willow's birth mom hasn't yet wanted that. We've never even met her. I completely respect that and I try hard not to disrespect her by trying to guess what's going on in her life or what her reasons are for not reciprocating contact yet. We do have some basic information about her that she filled out after delivering Willow, and two photos.
I'd expected that our relationship with our child's birth family would be a way into talking about adoption; we could talk about birth or first families and there would be a real person for my child to connect to that, someone she'd at least met. I thought we'd put her photo up in Willow's room and talk about her and so on. In our situation, though, I worry that that would be an invasion of her birth mom's privacy in some way (since she hasn't made contact, and we can't ask her what she's comfortable with, is it OK to have her photo up for anyone to see? To share her name or anything about her with other people? I don't want Willow to grow up thinking we're ashamed of her birth mom or the story of Willow's life before she came into our family, but I also want to respect and protect her birth mom). Without that, I feel a little bit lost.
I feel like Willow is old enough that I need to start talking about it to her. I'm very pro-openness about all aspects of adoption, and I'm not uncomfortable with or threatened by anything about Willow's story or how our family came to be. I definitely don't want there to ever be a time where she didn't know she was adopted! I just don't know where to start, or what or how much to say. I've tried to tell her her adoption story before, but I just felt awkward and overly wordy. I haven't found a single board or picture book I like yet (a topic for another thread, probably!), so I don't have any help in that way yet. She's the same race as us and looks a lot like us, so there isn't that obvious route into talking about adoption either. I really never expected this to be difficult, and honestly, I feel a little stupid about it... I've always been so passionate about being ethical and open in adoption that I just assumed this would all flow naturally and easily.