One year ago today, I shared the thrilling news that my husband and I adopted a little girl.
I’ll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on her. She was 2 months and 5 days old, and when the door opened and the precious woman holding her placed that baby in my arms – I knew. I knew she was our daughter. And right at the end of adoption month, it became legal. Permanent. Forever. Thankfully, we have had a smooth, special, and sweet year with our daughter. Sadly, not everyone who adopts does.
We’ve had to keep many details of our daughter’s situation and family of origin private. It is the right thing to do because it is her story – to keep or to share. We found that people didn’t always respect that and there have been times when we’ve overheard people sharing a part of her story. Sometimes they were accurate. Sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes we corrected them. Sometimes we didn’t.
We know – oh, we know – how blessed and fortunate we are that after years of waiting to adopt, our situation was mostly free of difficulty. We also know that we are not even two years in to our child’s life, and we have no clue what is to come. I’ve written about this being the innocent time. Before our daughter really knows or understands she was adopted. I’ve never planned on keeping that a secret. I’ve wanted our daughter to just always know. For there to be an openness about this – because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But, if I’m completely honest, sometimes I want to keep it a secret.
It’s selfish, really. In some moments, I think it would be easier. Perhaps there would be fewer questions from others. Maybe I wouldn’t believe others think I’m not a “real” mother (how is that for mind reading). But, really, I know it is best for my daughter that she know from the start. Of course, we’ll share her story with her to the extent she can understand and as she gets older we will tell her more and more until she has the full story. At least, the story that we have. Because I know she may never have the full story.
One night not long ago, she woke up in the middle of the night with a blood curdling scream. I raced over to her crib and grabbed her up while thinking “What would make this baby so upset?” The first – and only- word that came to my mind was abandonment. I’m sure she was having a bad dream, but what was it? Was it related to an engrained memory of being abandoned? I held my daughter and wept, filled with sadness over what she has lost. Filled with gratitude for what I have gained. And then I wept because of the guilt that comes with that gratefulness.
The reality is my child is better off in many ways because she is with us. I know that is hard for some people to read – while others will think “Of course! She is blessed!” I completely believe that whenever possible, children should be with their biological parents. But that is not always the safest or best place for a child to be. In our case, that little girl is better off with us than with her birth parents (although she has other biological family members that adore her). Perhaps she is blessed. I know we are. But it doesn’t change the fact that adoption always begins with loss. Adoption is truly a place where joy and sorrow meet.
So this adoption month – every adoption month – we should celebrate adoption because it is life affirming and life giving and life-saving. But we should also remember that not everyone can celebrate.
Yet, I pray that every year our daughter will be as excited on November 29 as she was this morning. Of course, getting two stuffed animals to celebrate the occasion that she is oblivious to didn’t hurt.