What no one told me about being an adoptive mom was this: I will always, always carry my daughter’s birthmother in my heart.
I don’t think about my sister’s birthmother in China. We know nothing about her. We will probably never meet her. I’ve never even thought much about her. I am embarrassed by that, but it’s the truth.
But in a domestic adoption, everything is different.
I met Zoe’s birthmother. I propped Zoe’s birthmother up with pillows in the hospital. Our tears mingled as I hugged her goodbye and walked out carrying the baby we both loved.
I can’t forget her.
I can’t pretend not to think about her.
She is forever in my heart.
We opted for a semi-open adoption, which means that Zoe’s birthmother doesn’t know our full names or where we live, but we update her with pictures and letters at regular intervals through a special website designed for birthparents and adoptive parents to connect. We have opted to receive letters from her if she wants to send them, and our agency has given us a few updates on her adjustment and grief process.
The night before we met her for the first time, I spent hours Googling “what to say when meeting a birthmother for the first time,” “nervous about meeting birthmom,” “questions to ask and not to ask,” etc. I remember reading a poignant blog post by a birthmother about statements to avoid.
One was: “I’m sure you did what was best for you.”
“Someone actually said this to me and I wanted to hurt them. Does anyone really, truly believe that I chose adoption for my sake? It wasn’t best for me. What was best for me was keeping and parenting the daughter I loved so very much. Placing her was hell for me, certainly not best for me…I did what was best for [my daughter.] Period.”
I think about our birthmother. She wanted to keep Zoe. She loved Zoe.
She loved her too much to keep her. She wanted Zoe to have more than the life that she could give her.
As we sat in the hospital with her, she held Zoe and talked to her through tears about the opportunities, the clothes, the love, the stability that we would give her. She told Zoe her reasons, trying to help her understand why she was doing this. In response, Zoe slept, cried, ate, smiled. She didn’t understand.
But some day, I hope she does.
Some day, I hope she understands that she has two women who love her. Two women who came together in partnership to give her the best life possible. Two women who correspond about her. A woman who uploads pictures every three months of a beautiful growing girl, and a woman who looks at them 11 times in 24 hours (or so the website tells me.) A woman who carried her for nine months with love and care, and a woman who carries her and tucks her into bed at night with love and care.
Tonight, Zoe needed a little extra attention at bed time. I put her to sleep, but a few minutes later she was crying again. She wanted to be held, rocked, loved just a little more.
I was tired—Sundays are a long day for this ministry wife.
But I thought of her birthmother, and my promise to her to give her daughter all of me. I thought of the privilege I have to watch this little girl grow up—a privilege her birthmother would give anything for. Something that she and God together chose ME for, though I have done nothing to merit such an unfathomable blessing.
And I picked her up and sang to her and rocked her to sleep again.
“We love you, Zoe,” I whispered.