Over 2 years.
That is the amount of time that has passed since her world (permanently?) merged with ours. That’s how much time has passed since her world was flipped upside down, again. Three Christmases. Three of her birthdays. One high school graduation. One prom. One visit back to where she calls home. Twenty-six months. First apartments, first cars, and so many other firsts. There’s so much to tell but it’s not my story. Not my life. I can only speak for myself.
I know how blessed I am to have gotten the chance to be the parent that was there for all these things. I hate that I was blessed with it. I hate that it came at a monumental expense for her. I hate that I have all the things I ever prayed for, and she will never have what she wishes. Isn’t that just the irony of it all? “If you love her, you will suffer so she can have all the things you can’t give her.”
That’s the narrative that is supposed to play out. Instead I’m the one with all the things that prevent my suffering at her expense. The opposite of what was intended and neither of us had any control over that from the moment I decided to officially hand her over.
I feel the need to preface any update about our story with this disclaimer. That any happiness we may feel, that she may feel, that I may feel, in regards to having each other, is always at her expense and will always have the adoption strings attached to it. I cannot emphasize that enough.
The first 15 years we were strangers. And maybe, in the long run, the more time that passes, it won’t seem as harsh as the reality is. But nothing can erase the first 15 years.
From my point of view, our relationship has grown easier, more natural. Sometimes it’s as if she’s been here all along. Maybe sometimes it feels like that for her as well. In the beginning we had no shared memories. Whenever anyone would recall a funny, touching, or shocking story from our family’s past, I could see the hurt in her eyes knowing she should have been able to recall it with us. Whenever she’d share similar memories from her family’s past, I could see the frustration that we couldn’t share in the memory with her and the people who could were far away and she was not willing to sacrifice her happiness for the sake of being able to share memories.
Now that twenty-six months has passed since she’s been with us, and at least another year and a half added to that time since she’s been building relationships with us, we are finally starting to emerge into “shared memories” territory. When we gather we can say “remember that one time…” and she can participate and engage. I can see her moving closer into the “inner circle” and my heart flutters with hope that she can find solace and belonging somehow. Even if for fleeting moments.
We are so alike, this woman-child and me. How is it possible that of all the children, the one I gave away would grow to be a reflection of my younger self? Tenacious, stubborn, prone to radical acts of taking matters into her own hands when justice hasn’t prevailed. Yet soft and empathetic, a heart too big for her own good if she let’s her guard down long enough for it to open to the hurts of the world.
I am thinking this is the best it gets. I truly have THE most ideal outcome for reunion. But it isn’t what they show you. It isn’t what you think. Maybe you’re a birthmom reading this thinking, “Stop complaining! She came back to you and you’re complaining! You’re so lucky!” And I am lucky. Very lucky. But she isn’t a puppy and she isn’t a toy. Her coming back to me, her staying, her choice to continue a relationship with me, that shouldn’t be what makes me lucky and it shouldn’t exempt me from being truthful about the reality. It doesn’t change the fact that she isn’t lucky and if she isn’t lucky then how could I be? As her mother, her happiness should always determine mine. As long as I’m the winner in all of this, and she’s the loser, it will never be enough. I will never be satisfied.
I cannot emphasize enough, if you are thinking of making your child an adoptee, to realize these things. Reunion isn’t magical. It is tainted and will always be tainted. There is literally no way for you to prevent your child’s adoption story from becoming tragic. You relinquish your rights to protect your child when you make this decision for them. Poverty is temporary, but even if it wasn’t, happiness is not defined by material things. Our story is living proof of that. If you are safe for your child, even if you need help or are living in a homeless shelter, you are what’s best for your child. It really is as simple as that. Hindsight is 20/20.
For now we will continue building, continue going through the motions, continue to make memories and put our faith in the mystery of that unseen connection that binds us to each other forever and ever amen. The invisible thread that brings us together, that says, “once we shared the same body and your breath was my breath.” We will always seek ways to undo what was done; to mend that thread that was broken and now is tied back together but, like a poorly laced shoe, continues to come unraveled and needs constant attention. We will always hope that one day this will all just be a distant memory. Even if we acknowledge that this simply will never be, our hope is what gives flight to the wings we wear that keep our heads above the water of “adoption.” Like Emily Dickinson writes:
“Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”