It’s been a long time, birth mother.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of our son; yet, in many ways, it feels like it was just yesterday. I often think back to when you and I were taking turns rocking him during visits. Is this what other mothers formed through adoption think about? Is this how other mothers formed through adoption feel? In many ways, we are stuck in those first moments when little souls entered our lives. In other ways, we feel far away from those moments.
To look back through this past decade, I still fondly remember the laughter we shared. I also remember (with great appreciation) the tears we mutually shed in those last days when you were his “legal” mother. Although the years have come and gone, I truly and honestly think of you all of the time. You gave birth to this special and wonderful kid.
He is as loyal as they come. He hardly ever (I mean rarely) speaks ill of anyone. He makes friends wherever he goes. He does not care about outer appearance or “coolness” or any of those things. I’m not even sure if you realize this but you are the same way.
When we were fostering and working with you, you did not judge us. You did not care what we looked like or if we were “cool” or not. You completely accepted us for who we were – just some random couple who decided to become foster parents and won the jackpot by getting the call to become foster parents for your baby boy.
It’s been a long time, birth mother; one decade since the gavel fell, I looked into the eyes of our son and I knew he was home…forever.
As a mother through adoption, I go through many emotions – elation, exhaustion, humility and guilt. Is it fair that I get to raise the son you grew in your womb? Sometimes, I don’t think it is. How in the world did I get so lucky? When people tell me that I have blessed his life, I negate that. The truth is that he has blessed mine. So much. This truth never leaves my side. It beckons me to remember the magnitude of adoption.
Yes, it’s been a long time, birth mother. The first moments I saw our son are forever sketched into my memory. They are real and tangible; as if they just happened. I suspect, or at least, hope that they will forever stay that way.
I have had people tell me that we were so kind and good to you while we were fostering. We tried our best, given the awkwardness of the situation, but you made it easy. You were kind. You were good. You accepted us. You even referred to me as his “Mamma” a few times.
During his adoption hearing, with the backdrop of sniffles and tears from our family and friends, you were on my mind. When the Judge meticulously went through the case and our son was officially declared “ours”, you were on my mind. While we celebrated that special day and all that it meant, I went to bed thinking of you. Even now, a decade later, I often go to bed thinking of you.
I will never be able to thank you enough for that. I will never be able to repay my gratitude of how you treated us. Instead, I pray and hope that I am raising our son (yours and mine) to become an adult who repays kindness to this world.
It’s been a long time, birth mother.
Yet, it feels fresh and anew each day. As I watch him grow up, I think back on that blonde, curly-haired, happy-go-lucky little guy and I just become so overwhelmed. Who knew that one little boy could grab a hold of my heart and history and change it in an instant? He means the world to us, to our parents and to his Father in Heaven. I know he means the world to you.
Looking back over the past decade, I have failed many times. I have succeeded at others. I have cried. I have laughed. I have wondered if I am doing this whole (adoptive) parenting thing right, but…I have never questioned the love you have for our son. Not once. It breaks my heart and swells it with love at the same time. It is an essential truth that will always resonate deep within my heart.
It’s been a long time, birth mother; a long time since you and I took turns rocking him during visits.
Children who enter our lives through foster care and adoption have a funny way of grabbing our hearts. Sometimes, we are blessed enough to have birth parents who grab our hearts as well.
You did just that.
Adoption anniversaries are widely known as “Gotcha Day”; however, my husband and I made a decision very early on in our foster care and adoption journey to not use this term when celebrating our adoption anniversaries.
Before I go any further, I do want to say that I don’t judge others who use the term “Gotcha Day”. Not at all. Every adoptive family is unique and chooses to celebrate or not celebrate their adoption days in their own way. For our children’s life experiences and the reasons they came into our lives, the notion of “gotcha” has never settled right on our hearts.
According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word gotcha means an unexpected usually disconcerting challenge, revelation, or catch; also: an attempt to embarrass, expose or disgrace someone (such as a politician) with a gotcha. Think about the times we have played a joke on people and then said, “Gotcha!” While this word is often used with fun, the actual meaning is more serious.
“Gotcha Day” is very popular and commonly used by a lot of adoptive families. It has also sparked debates both within and outside of the adoption community regarding the insensitivity of it and the overall meaning. I don’t want to get into the societal views of this but I would like to explain why we have chosen not to use this phrase.
From the very start of each our children’s lives after birth, there was heartbreak and loss. Our children were not able to live with their biological parents and it was not by choice. Our children’s biological parents did not make a plan for adoption. They did not set out to find a family for their babies, nor did they expect to lose them. It is true that two of our birth mothers made the decision to voluntarily terminate their rights but we know that this decision was desperately saddening and very difficult. To be completely correct, while they voluntarily signed, there really was not a lot of choice in the matter.
Circumstances of life led them down the path that they were forced to walk on and that path included a life without their children. This is not a cause for celebration nor is it something to take lightly or in fun. This is why we don’t say “Gotcha!” when referring to our children’s adoptions, nor do we say, “Happy Gotcha Day!” to others who are celebrating.
We acknowledge the anniversaries of our adoptions with a cake, a balloon and by calling it “First Name, Last Name Day”. For example, mine would be called “Caroline Bailey Day”. We want our children to know that the day we adopted them is so very meaningful and that they are a gift in our lives. Honestly, each of our adoption days has been the most joyful ones in our lives, yet, my husband and I also recognize that as the years pass and we witness the unfolding of these little human’s lives, their biological parents do not get to experience this.
It’s in this recognition that joy and sadness sit side-by-side.
Having been a part of the adoption community both professionally and personally, I have witnessed so many precious moments of families whose lives have been touched by adoption. It has been an incredible privilege to play just a small part in this. I have also sat with biological mothers who were deeply troubled and trying to navigate life within the decision to make a plan for adoption or trying to mend the reasons their children entered into foster care. Folks, there is nothing more humbling than this.
To listen to a grieving mother who is acknowledging that she wants to do what is best and safest for her soon-to-be-born baby or choosing to essentially give up and let her child stay with his or her foster parents or be placed in an adoptive home is by far, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in child welfare work. While the children may be able to grow up in a safer home or with parents who can provide more opportunities in life, these biological mothers will live with this loss for the rest of their lives, and their children will as well.
Our own children’s biological mothers live with loss. Even though we’ve tried to soften the blow a little bit and answer as many questions as we can with our children, my husband and I know that we will never replace who their biological parents are or what life would have been like for them to grow up in within their immediate family of origin.
Recognizing all of this and saying “gotcha” when it comes to adoption just doesn’t sit well in my soul.
It never has.
I suspect it never will.