On Not Knowing My Child’s Family Health History…



When my husband and I flew to Florida to bring home our son, and then 18 months later, to bring home our daughter too; we were were filled with sheer joy, giddiness, and a touch of blind optimism just like any new parent. While we had already been made parents by the birth of our oldest son, our second child was our first walk down the adoption road. And while there have been abundance of sweet moments, there have also been bumps on this road. Specifically, a few health bumps.

Holding my son for the first time at a hospital in Florida.
Holding my son for the first time.

With adoption, you don’t always have the privilege of finding out your child’s complete family medical history. Let me stop here and insert this caveat. This is not true across the board for everyone who has adopted. Thankfully, with the move towards more open adoptions, this means that there is more and more information being passed from birth parents to adoptive parents.

And not having access to a full family medical history should in no way discourage anyone from pursuing adoption! It just means that you might have to take a few more precautions with your little one.

I am sure this crossed my mind at some point while we waiting to be matched, and perhaps even another adoptive mother mentioned it to me.But I don’t think I really got it. It’s a big deal, and it’s not a big deal. Let me explain myself.

As I have mentioned before, I am both a biological and adoptive mother. If you take nothing else away from this post than this, please take this: I love all of my children equally and differently (because they are each unique), and they are all my real children. As I have written about before, I am not a particularly alarmist parent. I don’t call the doctor at the first sign of fever or snotty noses (someone always, always has a runny nose). But I will be honest: I am a much more jumpy parent when it comes to my adopted children’s health.

My husband and I leaving the hospital with our newest addition.
My husband and I leaving the hospital with our newest addition.

Because I do not know my adopted children’s family health history, I am much more quick to rush them in to see the pediatrician for a cough. “Do they have a family history of asthma?? I don’t know. Let’s double-check this cough isn’t a wheeze” is kind of how my thinking goes. Do my son’s birth parents wear glasses? I don’t know. Let’s see an optometrist just to make sure he doesn’t need glasses. When did my daughter’s birth mother go through puberty? I have no idea, so I have no clue when my daughter will too.

I have taken my adopted children to the doctor far more than my biological children. I know maybe that sounds awful; it hints that perhaps I love my children unequally. Or maybe it hints the other way: that I love my children deeply, and for my adopted children, I want to make sure we leave no medical stone unturned. I want to make sure we miss nothing during their childhood that could be treated now.

Our daughter on her adoption day.
Our daughter on her adoption day.

Of course, knowing your child’s full medical history (like I do for my biological children) doesn’t mean they are actually healthier than my adopted children. I have a family history of asthma, heart disease, obesity, and mental illness. It’s not exactly like I am passing on perfect genes to anyone. And, of course, ultimately, I don’t care one iota about whose genes my children received. I just care that they are my children.


Do you have adopted children? How do you view not knowing all of their family medical history?

Previous articleLess is Enough
Next articleClothes Shopping for Baby and Toddler Boys
Emma is the wife of Ford and mother to four: Lewis (2010), Teddy (2011), Archibald (2013), and Addie Cate (2013). She is both a biological and adoptive mom and wouldn’t have it any other way. Emma and Ford tied the knot in 2009, and quickly went from a family of two to six. Before Texas was home, she spent her college years in Mississippi; and her childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia where her parents serve as Protestant missionaries. Though she is fluent in Russian, she doesn’t find much use for it on playdates in the metroplex. When she is not buying diapers in bulk, Emma enjoys re-reading Austen and Bronte novels, napping, and the occasional visit to the Kimbell Art Museum. She dreams of one day sleeping in, but till then she is enjoying the long, lovely days at home with her crew of toddlers and babies.


  1. My new book called “Separated Lives” is a true story about the adoption of a baby boy and years later a friend taking him on a fascinating but uncertain journey to search for his birth parents. It is available from Dorrance Publishing (in Pittsburgh, PA) http://www.DorranceBookstore.com, Barnes & Noble barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.

    Author: Lynn Assimacopoulos


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here