The Promise

I told myself I wouldn’t cry. I didn’t want to scare her. I didn’t want her to think this stranger was emotionally unstable. Then I worried if I didn’t let myself cry she’d think maybe I was emotionally inept. 

I changed my shirt 3 times. I was about to change it a fourth time when I decided that nothing would be good enough so I may as well save myself the trouble. I spent a great deal of time worrying that she’d find me reprehensible or think, “This lady is ugly. I got handed some bad genes.”

I spent days cleaning the house. I couldn’t seem to get it clean enough. Never mind that teenagers hardly pay attention to details such as clean baseboards, I was sure she would glance down and think, “this house is too dirty. I can’t stay in such filth.”

I loaded our little family into the truck and we stopped by the florist. My husband, her father, wanted to have roses for the first time he held his “baby who’s not a baby anymore” in his arms again. 

I handed him the card to fill out and watched him hesitate and struggle for the right words. “Just write ‘Love, J'” I instructed him. Relief washed over his face and he did what I said. 

When we arrived at the airport I thought maybe I was dreaming. There was no way I could be this lucky. In just a few short moments she would be standing face to face with us. It felt as if we were holding the winning lottery ticket. Guilt briefly touched my heart as I thought of my other first mom friends, women I have grown to love, who don’t have what I was about to or who may never will. What did I ever do to deserve to be this lucky?

The text message came. “We’re about to land.” I looked out the window of the airport and saw a plane coming in from the right direction. As it came closer I glanced at my husband. He looked terrified. As it’s wheels touched the ground his eyes became red and the tears could no longer be contained. 

I told myself I wouldn’t cry. He was making this plan harder to stick to. 

People could be seen walking down the long corridor, behind glass doors. A man in a suit, a woman in a dress. They were hard to distinguish until they were closer. 

But I spotted her before anyone would think I could definitively say it was her. I knew it was. I pointed. She came closer. Her gait was as familiar as my own. The way she swung her arms was like looking in a mirror. 

The first moment I saw her


I wanted to run through the gate doors, airport security be damned! Her pace quickened as she saw us all standing and waiting. We were completely oblivious to other passengers as we blocked the way out with our bodies. 

And then she was in my arms. I couldn’t stop the tears and hers flowed freely as well. I momentarily pulled away to put my hands on her face and stare into her striking eyes. She. Is. Amazingly. Beautiful. 

She was in my arms again. She was real. I could feel her. The warmth of her body. The texture of her hair on my face. Could it ever get any better than this? This moment would never happen again. This was it. It was absolute perfection. Divine. 

Over the years a song had always stuck in my head and reminded me of her. I had dreamed of this moment for years. And in my dreams the song would play. I now know how fitting the song is. 

“Together again

It would feel so good to be

In your arms

Where all my journeys end

If you can make a promise

If it’s one that you can keep

I vow to come for you

If you wait for me”

-The Promise, by Tracy Chapman

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The Adoption Rollercoaster: Reunion?

As my relinquished daughter gets older it’s become more difficult to keep up with personal updates in regards to my adoption story. The older she gets, the more I realize that it isn’t just my story to tell and I have become conflicted about just what to share and what to keep private.

I see so many birthmom blogs of mothers early into the adoption journey blogging all the details of their great open adoption story. I see the same thing with adoptive parents as well. I’m guilty of putting things out there without thinking as well. I’d just like to remind everyone to be cautious when publicly sharing your story. The way you see things may not (probably isn’t) exactly how your child does.

Even so, I would like to share some things that have transpired. I’ll keep things simple out of respect for IKL’s privacy. I won’t imply that I know how she feels. This is just my side of the story and I’ll stick with facts and how I feel.

I learned that some decisions had been made for my daughter, by her adoptive parents, that I did not agree with. I felt there were some definite issues going on and could reasonably correlate adoption to some of them – again, my opinion. As you already know, I had an open adoption, with direct communication with my daughter (phone calls, visits, etc) until she was almost 2 years old. Direct communication, and visits, were cut off at this time. I still received periodic updates from her adoptive parents, sometimes sporadically, through email and there were a few photo albums mailed over a decade. I saw things through their eyes and while my daughter was becoming old enough to express herself and how she feels, I was not privy to what that may be. I’m going to assume it was the same for her as well.

Where were we? Some decisions were made to address “behavioral problems” and I didn’t agree with those decisions. I felt that the decisions made would reinforce any feelings of rejection or abandonment and wouldn’t really get down to the root of the problem which, I believed, adoption played at least some part in. I do believe her adoptive parents felt they were doing what is best, even if I didn’t agree – and it still didn’t mean it was right or the appropriate course of action. Of course I never expressed this to them for fear of risking communication being cut off altogether.

This started 2 years of emotional hell and the realization that I may have made a huge mistake. My fog began to lift and I found my voice.

At the beginning of that 2 year period, I went out on a limb and asked permission to write to my daughter for the first time. My request was received well and with much enthusiasm. I was hopeful that maybe the door to openness would begin to unlock. Previous attempts and open invitations to Skype, connect via social media, and visit were unanswered. Well, the open invitations to visit (and some even included that my daughter not need to be present if they were uncomfortable with that) were always answered with, “if we’re ever in that state.” So, the warm welcome to write a letter directly to her gave me hope and was something I viewed as promising. After all, regardless of any hard feelings, what’s truly best for my daughter would be for her to NOT be put into a position of Us vs. Them. She should never have to “choose.”

My first letter, written 2 years ago, came about 6 months after I learned of the decisions made as a desperate attempt to help heal any wounds caused by adoption that may not be being acknowledged. Carefully I composed an email, written to her, for her adoptive mom to print out and pass on, explaining, to the best of my ability, why she was relinquished and a little bit of information about what me and her father were like. I had to choose my words carefully as it would be first read by her adoptive mother and father. But I wanted to be honest. Quite the conundrum.

After hitting “send” I waited. A few hours later I received a message back saying that it was “beautifully prophetic” (whatever that means) and would be printed, placed in an envelope, and given to her.

Time went by. A few months later I decided to take a bolder step and send a photo book of our family and another, more casual, letter. I asked if the attorney’s address I had, from all those years prior, was still okay to send things. I didn’t get a response right away so I sent the package anyway. A few days later an email arrived with a PO Box address I could send anything in the future. This, again, gave me more hope. More openness. They were now allowing me to know the town they lived in, even if not their address.

About every 3 months me and the kids would send letters. Sometimes we’d include other things. Pictures, a life book, a handmade pillow, etc. Each time IKL’s adoptive mother would email that she was receiving these things but was not yet ready to respond or have contact but that she was hopeful that one day she would. Part of me would be devastated each time but the other part of me understood and didn’t want to push too hard. I felt that if she didn’t wish to receive communication, at all, I would be informed.

Things went on this way for a while and then, almost a year ago, we got a package in the mail. You can read about that here: https://musingsofabirthmom.com/2015/01/12/the-letter/

4 months after that, I learned that my older parented daughter had received communication from IKL via social media. I won’t go into the details as that is their story to tell, but, suffice to say, I learned a few things that my parented daughter felt was important to share.

IKL had written me a letter, before my husband’s letter, and was under the assumption it had been mailed to me. I never received any letter.

IKL thought I had received her letter and was ignoring her since I never wrote back. (I had been writing every 3 months – this leads me to believe not all – maybe not any – of my letters or packages had been given to her)

IKL was more than ready, excited even, to have a relationship with her first family – again, my perception.

IKL did not want her adoptive parents, at first, knowing she was talking to her sister.

It was very hard not to jump in and tell her the truth. I don’t have all the facts and do not want to put her in the Us vs. Them game. I encouraged my parented daughter to encourage IKL to be forthcoming with her parents and removed myself from the situation altogether. I was not going to be the one to “tattle” on her for talking to her sister and betray any small amount of trust she might have for me. Nothing she was doing was dangerous and I made an executive decision, as her mother, to let the relationship unfold while guiding and educating my parented daughter about reunion. I thought she needed this contact and that it was good for both girls.

A few months later, I received an odd email from IKL’s adoptive mother stating that IKL had told her she was talking to my parented daughter. Just that line. Nothing more. I responded that I had never spoken to IKL and that I was glad she had told her. I asked how she felt about it. Her response what that she thought it was great and that I could talk to her if I wanted, too…she’d ask IKL how she felt about it.

I waited a few days, to see if I’d get an email back, and heard nothing. Since IKL had liked a few of my photos on one social media site, I decided I would initiate a hello message. I’d been given permission to talk to her, so I did. It went well. Short, awkward, and beautiful.

As it stands now, a few more months in, my parented daughter and IKL continue to grow closer thanks to social media. I’m more cautious about contact as I don’t want to overwhelm her. I want her to know I’m here, but I don’t want to be pushy. 15 is a difficult age for any kid without throwing in the added bonus of being bombarded by a whole other family eager to get to know you.

She’s always receptive and kind when I do message her. I see, in her, a tenacity, a love for life, pain, ambivalence, passion, stubbornness and a huge heart. It amazes me just how much like myself and my husband she is.

So, for now, we are okay. Baby steps. I’m not foolish enough to think this will be a happy ending to a reunion. I know it takes work and I’m not even at the tip of the iceberg for all to come in the future. I am hopeful, though. Hopeful that maybe one day we can build a relationship and make up for lost time. (is there really ever any making up for it, though?) 

For now I am happy that my children get to have some sort of relationship with each other, on their own terms, and that I still have the possibility of one with her. Far too many of my dear friends have crossed that bridge into “no hope” and it breaks my heart.

I’m letting IKL take the lead, make the choices, decide for herself. No one else has, thus far. She’s earned it. Hopefully she’ll decide to take the lead with a place in my life. If she doesn’t, I’d be heartbroken, but understanding.

I was never supposed to be in a “reunion.” I was promised my daughter would grow up knowing us. That’s what’s most infuriating. But, there’s nothing I can do about that now except look forward.

As of right now, I’ll continue to ride the adoption roller coaster and enjoy the plateau for a while.

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Lost, Then Found.

Well, all I can say is “that was fast.” About a week ago I blogged about some of my family’s secrets. Hidden in the blog post was a quip about my mother’s biological “half” brother that was out there somewhere. We had no last name, no exact birth date, no connection (on paper) to her birthfather and pretty much nothing to go on to possibly find him.

Writing about my mother’s birthfather stirred a renewed interest in me to search, once again, for my mother’s brother. And that’s what I decided to do. I tried everything you could think of, for days, and then decided to give up. Until today. My Aunt, out of the blue, remembered his last name. It was all uphill from there. Within hours I had found him. Upon pulling up his Facebook profile I knew. I looked at the picture and knew he was my family, my uncle. I knew he was my mother’s brother. I messaged my mom with a link to the profile and wrote, “I found him.”  She was driving so didn’t get it right away. I wasn’t sure if I should friend request him or not. Even though this was my uncle, I wanted to let my mom take the lead. I waited a few minutes and called her. I told her I had found him and to check her messages for a link to the profile. She gave me the go ahead to friend request him and message him. I did both and even paid the $1 to Facebook so it would go into his inbox and not his “other” folder. I also friend requested his girlfriend (who he had listed as his spouse on Facebook) as a back up. My mom did the same. His girlfriend was the first to accept my request. So I messaged her right away. It took an hour for her to accept but it felt like days. I told her who I was, who I was looking for, and how I had come to find her profile. I saw that she had “seen” the message and about 20 minutes transpired. I was terrified that maybe a rejection would follow and that is why she was taking so long to reply. And then she did. She told me that my uncle would write to me and to friend request him on Facebook. I told her I already had. I told her that I had always known about him, I told her that our family loved him and missed him.  A little while later I received a message from him. It said, “Hello J, I am glad to meet you……. I didn’t know you existed an that’s a real shame about our family.” He was glad to meet me! (albeit through Facebook). He also wrote my mother. My mother messaged me and said, “I saw his picture and I loved him.” It was beautiful. And everyone was overjoyed. He was glad to be found. He always wondered where his family was. He looked for them in crowds. He said we all looked alike! And he said we need to meet as soon as we can. No more time wasted.

My mom got the opportunity to talk to him on the phone. He is doing well and he is okay. Awesome. We live a couple states away but we are going to plan a visit. He may come up to us and is really looking forward to it. My mom got to talk to her brother. How awesome is that? I am still trying to wrap my head around that. It’s so exciting, yet sad at the same time. Sad for years lost. Happy to be found again.

I hope that my birth-grandfather is smiling down. I hope that he can see how what was lost was found. I hope that this can bring things full circle and that peace and healing will come with it. Regardless of the sins of my grandfather, he is the common link that binds us together as family. There is so much I want to ask my uncle. So much I want to see. Does he have the same mannerisms as us? Does he sing like my mom and daughter? Is he musically talented at all? Is he a little firecracker like my mom? In good time my questions will be answered. For now I have peace. The puzzle is complete and I didn’t find a grave like so many others before me. My prayers were answered and I thank God for that.