Tonight is the eve of my son’s – OUR son’s – first birthday. As I reflect back on his first year and think of the precious time we’ve been a family, I know you must be thinking of him, too. Right now, he’s sleeping soundly. I can hear his gentle breathe through the monitor from the room next door. He’s bundled in his cozy fleece pj’s (but not too many layers, he runs remarkably warm) and cuddling his tiny panda (it was his big brother’s bear but he wanted him to have it). In the morning, we’ll all go barreling into his room singing all three verses of our birthday song. He will be taken aback at first, surveying the room and its sudden commotion and then a smile will start in his eyes and explode across his mouth and cheeks as he wrestles his sleep sack scrambling to feet. The balloons and streamers floating in the doorway are sure to be a hit and he’ll do his hilarious frog-hop crawl over to attack them, which he will do with a vengeance!
Just writing these intimate details makes my throat burn and I keep needing to pause for my blurred vision to clear. These are the details a mother ought to know about her child. I don’t tell you these things to make you jealous or sad, I simply want you to know how desperately we love him. These are the details YOU gave me the opportunity to know about him. It is both strange and blissfully overwhelming to think that another woman loves him as much as I do and yet, has an intimacy with him I will never know. We will surely impart certain characteristics and world views just by being together as family; all that we pour in and nurture. But it is alarmingly apparent that some things are simply innate and oh, how I long to know who he looks like and from where his mannerisms come.
I know little about you and even less about why you needed a closed adoption. Honestly, I wish it was not the case; it would be nice to have less questions and more answers. But I am not one to wish for what isn’t, rather I am confident all of the details or lack thereof will work together for good and although it might present some hurdles for him to ascend, it will certainly be an integral part of the man he will become. In my heart of hearts, I know this was not easy for you and that your circumstances were just too painful or difficult to maintain a relationship at this point. However, as he grows, he’ll wonder and think of you; who you are and why he couldn’t be with you. It is the deepest prayer of my heart that we offer him a safe space to explore every question and emotion while lavishing on him such unconditional love and acceptance that he can ask freely while feeling completely secure.
His birthday broaches uncharted territory; with my biological children, I always think back on their birth story, but I wasn’t there for his. You were. There is mystery and unknown surrounding his first days, which honestly, I cannot think about too long or it threatens to cave in on me. The joy, excitement, and celebration of his life is accompanied by heartache at the certain loss we ALL feel. But that is the root of adoption, isn’t it? Joy and beauty – LIFE itself – rising from brokenness. The dichotomy of pleasure and pain, succulence and sacrifice.
And sacrifice you did.
A mother’s heart is a heart of sacrifice. A giving up and stripping off of self, whether in the day-to-day care or the constant remembrance of her offering. A mother doesn’t forget; whether she carries her child for 4 weeks, 40 weeks, or walks with him for a lifetime. A mother’s heart is forever changed by the ones she’s carried and certainly the ones to whom she’s had to say goodbye…How is it you’ve changed? What is it you’re feeling? What I wouldn’t give to sit face to face; to hear your story (and your voice), learn why it had to be this way, and reassure you your efforts were not in vain and we’re doing our best for him.
My thoughts of you are frequent and complex; this is unlike any relationship I’ve experienced. I love you completely because you gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life, and yet I’ve never even had the pleasure of meeting you. I’m grateful that you selflessly offered him life and in turn forever changed our family; selfishly, I’m glad he’s mine. My heart breaks that you didn’t have – or take – the chance to know him and rejoices that we do. More than anything – more than you or me, then or now – I think of all he will endure, whether it be ease or hardship, because of how his life played out before he took his first breath.
Every night, I pass four precious framed faces that adorn our walls, but tonight, I’m especially attuned to the fact that he’s among them. As I tip-toe my final rounds, checking on each of my children before I turn out the last lingering light, of this you can be sure, we will love him always and he will know that you love him the same.