If We Knew Then What We Know Now…

Every once in a while, someone asks me if we knew Tim was going to have a mental illness, would we still have adopted him? It’s an interesting question. Maybe I’m just used to being asked all kinds of questions about my two youngest children, since Tom and I are white, our oldest biological child is white, Tim is biracial, and our daughter is black. We’ve gotten lots of interesting looks and comments over the years. Some have been kind, some not so kind.

We didn’t know Tim was going to be biracial. We did get to ask questions about Tim’s birth mother before we decided to adopt him. We’ve never met her, by her choice, but we did get some basic medical information about her and her parents from her mother, before Tim was born. We have no information on his birth father’s family medical history. The night Tim was born, we got the call from his biological grandmother to ask us if we still wanted him – his patronage was a surprise to her too. We brought Tim home the morning after he was born and we didn’t care about any of that. We cared that he had 10 fingers and toes and all his parts were in the right places – the things all new parents care about.

By the time Tim was about a year old, we thought something might be wrong. We consulted our pediatrician who thought it was too early to tell. Our adoption wasn’t final. But we never considered not completing the adoption. At two, we were pretty sure something wasn’t normal. Our adoption was final, and we never considered disrupting it. Same at three, four, five, and so on. The thought never entered our minds.

I wonder, do biological parents of mentally ill children ever get asked if they wish their child wasn’t born?It’s sort of the same question.Our kids suffer so much that, philosophically, it’s a rational question to ponder.

Then I think of Tim telling me he’s my snuggle bunny, even at 15. How his hair smelled as a baby. His infectious giggle. How great his is with animals and little kids. How he taught his sister to ride a two-wheeler when no one else could. His amazing creativity. I can’t even imagine my life without those things. I can’t imagine it without him. If we knew then what we know now, would we still have adopted Tim. You bet we would have. Even with the hard times dealing with this disease, they don’t take away the loving and amazing young man he is.

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  • Emeraldcityal March 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing our blog. It gives me insight into the incredible woman you've become. In many ways you remind me of my sister. My nephew had Joubert's syndrome. He was a great guy and while he was ok most of time, he had his moments. 🙂 Clearly, you and Tom were supposed to be parents…although almost everyone can do it, it's not meant for everyone.

  • KSorl March 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Chrisa, Once again you bring tears to my eyes. Somehow, I knew what your answer would be, but not knowing Tim, I didn't realize all those wonderful things about him.

    I see adopted children as no different from biological. So to me it's a question of if you wish he'd not been born. And good parents never say that they'd wish that their child had not been born; they wish that their child would not suffer.

    Thank you for always seeing Tim and others as the sum of their parts. Not just as a mentally ill child. He is, as you remind all of us, so much more than that. I needed to hear it. Sometimes those of us with mental or physical challenges can only see that part of ourselves. It becomes encompassing. So, thank you for that reminder.

  • Chrisa March 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Al, your comment has such incredible meaning to me. I admired you so much when I was a teenager – still do – so your comment is especially touching to me.

    Ky – you're a great lady. Thanks so much for your note, and I look forward to seeing you in May after 25 years!

  • Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Chrisa, My sister and I are adopted and my parents are..my parents. I can't even tell you how many times they have been my guardian angels in the tightest of places. My son is not adopted-but he is classically autistic. We are there for him and there a LOT of tight places. I think very few people who have personal experience with adoption get into all of the Lifetime movie aspect of it. People used to ask me about my "real" parents and it always took a moment to realize what they meant. I have always known my real parents-love is greater than genes. Thanks…. Beth

  • Jules March 22, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    It blows my mind that someone would have the guts to make a comment to a perfect stranger about something like that. Unreal.

  • Anonymous March 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I am sorry to hear about your friend (Michael's blog). My heart goes out to his family and also to you. I hope Tim is doing okay, and that your family is hanging in there.

  • Chrisa March 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Beth, as an adoptive mom, I really appreciate your comment, more than you know. 🙂

    Thanks about the condolences. It's been a rough week.

  • Adrienne March 28, 2010 at 12:01 am

    "I wonder, do biological parents of mentally ill children ever get asked if they wish their child wasn’t born?"

    Yes. I've been asked that 3 times, once by my own mother.

    We learn, as parents of children with mental illness, to live with a high level of uncertainty that I think many people can't comprehend. Since we can't wipe away the illness, perhaps we would like to wipe away the child? And no, I would not thankyouverymuch, because Carter is my boy and he owns my soul every bit as much as my NT children do.

    I'm so very, very sorry about your friend. The grief after a loved one completes suicide is massive and I'm wishing you much peace on the journey through.

  • Chrisa March 28, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Adrienne – wow.

    You know, I can see asking that, as a purely intellectual exercise, but not by my own family.

    Thanks for your condolences as well. They are much appreciated.

  • Anonymous April 2, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Are there any biological parents of children out there diagnosed with a mental illness as a young adult, who had a happy healthy childhood and adolescent and then became ill,psychotic in college? I would love to hear from you. I would love to start a support group for parents of children with schizophrenia/schizoaffective/bipolar with psychosis?

  • Chrisa April 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Yes – most schizophrenics / schizoaffectives are diagnosed in their late teens / early 20's. That's the norm. I'd suggest you check out http://www.bringchange2mind.org for more info on support groups for parents of adult children with mental illness.

  • Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 1:52 am

    This is a little late. I just read it from the link you posted. Before adopting I always wondered if a parent could love an adopted child as deeply as a bio child. I do have the pleasure to answer that question, for me anyway. A resounding YES! You feel that same answer Chrisa. Yes I have been asked 'that' question… by my bio children!

    We have never regretted adopting Cody – he is our son.

  • Mandalaa November 30, 2012 at 2:46 am

    I came across your blog and I have been reading it over the past week, I find it extremely insightful. Not sugar coating your trials is the best therapy. I am bipolar, not severe and I can function in society and I'm a mother and all of that. But it's srill there. Nothing will make it go away. I also write a blog sporadically, usually when it gets to be too much so it appears my blog is all rage and whining . . . well, it is. But my heart goes out to you and thankfully, it appears I didn't pass on my genes to my kids (4 documented generation of bipolar on my mother's side on the female end) so far, I hope ALL THE TIME that it will not appear in adolescence or adulthood for them. I see in my daughter rages and getting mad at the drop of a hat as well as random yelling at things (she loves to rant out of our windows and anyone and anything outside), and sometimes I think my son displays signs of Asperger's, it is not severe enough for me to warrant psychology. I am lucky.

  • Chrisa Hickey November 30, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Welcome. And thanks for sharing your story!