Today is A’s birthmother’s birthday. As we were getting ready for school, I said to her, “We should sing “Happy Birthday” and send it to C. I think that would make her happy.”
A, said, “Can we Skype with her instead? Because I want to see her face while I sing and then say “I love you.”
“Oh,” I said, grateful for how sweet this child is. ” I think that would definitely make her happy. Let’s try her.”
We managed a quick Skype in the hectic morning and then planned to have a more leisurely conversation after school. In the moment, all three of us had a part of our soul nourished. C got to start her birthday being serenaded by the daughter she gave birth to almost five years ago. A got to see her birthmother. She got to see the woman we talk about daily. She got to see a familiar face and hair and eyes. And I got the gift of being the one who facilitated it. And later, after our video chat, it was even nicer. The nervousness that A first had this morning had dissipated because the ice had been broken. She was able to chat and have her true, loving, sweet personality shine through.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about adoption. It’s something that is dear to my heart because it is how we created our family. It is also a lifelong journey. One in which involves educating others, advocating for our children’s privacy, and sometimes being protective over them because of our non-traditional family structure. Questions about “mom”, judgements, assumptions, even bold personal questions can still be pervasive even in 2019.
We have always given our children language about adoption from the start. The term “birthmother” refers to a woman who has “made an adoption plan” or “placed her child for adoption.” Notice that I did not save “give her child up.” Adoption is giving but it is not giving up. Adoption in many ways is more addition than subtraction. Many adoptions today in the US are “open adoption.” This means that the adoptive family and the birth family (sometimes just the birthmother, other times birthparents or even extended family) agree to a certain amount of contact. This is a legal document that a number people are involved in its creation – the adoptive parents and birth parent(s), social workers, the adoption agency and attorneys. Its creation, prior to “placement” of a child, and often worked on before the child is even born, is important because it helps frame how you will connect later. At first, it is a document. It feels like ink on paper and sort of impersonal. It doesn’t have a true rhythm to it other than the one prescribed – how often photos will be sent, will there be in person meetings, how often will letters be sent. All of this may sound a little cold and impersonal. It’s important to remember that it’s really just the foundation set up before you really have a relationship.
Over time, the document, for those of us like us, who are fortunate, doesn’t matter anymore. You do what is right for your child. You just do. You let your child be your compass. You also do right by the person who gave you the incredible gift of parenthood. We are blessed to have wonderful relationships with both of the girls’ birthmothers. We are fully open, meaning they know where we live and we know where they live. We skype, chat, text, exchange packages.
Above all of those things, we give our girls frequent reminders of how we see their birthmothers in them. I often will say to A, “Who made you so cute?” to which she replies, “C did.” We then both smile. Or I will say to E, “You really look/sound like your birthmother when you smile like that.” This usually makes her stand a little taller, pleased that she has a connection.
Both girls have always had a picture on their nightstand from the day they were born. It is one in the hospital of the four of us – G, me, the baby and birthmother. While we have our family unit that consists of the two girls and us, and we have a large extended loving family on both sides that enriches all of our lives, they also have birth families. Every family tree has roots. Their tree while strongly rooted with us, also has roots from nature that extend through their birthmothers. Though we may not see each other all the time, those families will always have a place in their lives. In the future, as the girls grow, it will be theirs to determine what that means for them. For now, it is our job as parents to foster those relationships and make them available. It’s funny. I mentioned the “legal” document that says what we need to do that is enforceable by a judge. But the reality is, I’ve never let that be my real guide. My real guide has always been my heart. I want these women to continue to have relationships with our daughters. It helps me and it helps them. My wish is when I am asked a question that I feel may be better answered by their birthmoms, that I can always say, “Why don’t we give her a call?” Happy Birthday, C! We love you and are grateful for our little treasure.