My wife and I participated in another panel at the adoption agency, and I felt, once again, like a freak. I tried to be as helpful as possible to those wide-eyed, eager-faced waiting couples, remembering when I was one of them. But it was hard.
The trainer mentioned our entrustment ceremony and described it as “passing a child from one family to another.” No! I protested, but didn’t get a chance to explain because time ran short. We CREATED a new family together. We wrote the covenant together. Our daughter has one family — all of us.
An adoptive mom next to me wondered aloud if her daughter might benefit from an open (rather than their closed) adoption. So when my turn came, I mentioned a couple things about how openness benefits me, an adoptive mom. I could tell that at least one hopeful face connected with me, but most people avoided my gaze. I felt again that my experience seems to be just my own.
Here’s what I would say, if I could:
- We, all of us – adoptive moms, birth mom, birth family, adoptive family, friends, cats (ok, maybe not the cats) – chose to create a family for our daughter. We CHOSE. Our choices affected us differently: our daughter’s birth mom made a choice that brought her deep grief. Our choice as adoptive parents brought us incredible joy. Both of us feel bittersweet gladness. This is how I talk about it. I don’t talk about how “we adopted” because the story isn’t about us, it is about our daughter, how she came into the world, and the family that a group of adults created out of love for her.
- Open-hearted and authentic relationship between birth and adoptive family can be healing for adoptive parents. It is for me. At six months my daughter can’t talk, but her mother can. When I talk to her mother, I connect with my daughter. Yes, my daughter is her own person, and in time her personality will reveal itself. But for now, being close to her mother is one way I can be close to her. This helps me and I am so grateful that her mom is able to share so much with me.
- Motherhood isn’t all or nothing. We share it. Her mom took care of our daughter for nine months. I’ve only cared for her for six months, and I’ve had help that her mom didn’t get. Her mom will ALWAYS be her mom. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do, I can’t change that. Her mom got to carry her in her belly and whisper to her at night, and soothe her when riding the bus, the train…days I’ll never have. And now I pick our daughter up when she wakes in the morning, I fix her bottle and cereal, so many days that her mom will never have.
- When I look in my daughter’s face, I see her mother, and it opens my heart. I don’t know how else to explain that, I just wish someone understood this experience.
Maybe we are always alone in our experience. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m a mom who sometimes bursts into tears while holding her daughter because the joy-sorrow is so big her heart can’t contain it. So these are my words, and this is a start. I’m here now, loving and open with all that I am.