March into My Heart

Today’s Drip: A Friend’s Perspective

My blog just celebrated its six-month anniversary and in honor of that milestone, I have given my friend Karen the opportunity to write her perspective as a guest blogger.  She knows me very well from the hours we have spent together walking on and off the golf course, and the years we have spent as close friends.  We met in junior high school, attended the same university and joined the same sorority, she joined Microsoft a year after I started working there (I only lasted ten years and she stayed for twenty), she was my maid-of-honor in my wedding, and we now live 15 houses apart.  We have watched our kids grow up together, celebrated birthdays by the dozens together, and have both lost dear parents to cancer.

Her genuine surprise after reading early versions of my soon-to-be-published book about my daughter’s adoption, as well as my ChildDrenched posts, was legendary. She was shocked at what I had silently suffered after my mother’s death 18 years ago. Her honest comments resonated with me and I asked her to write them down.  Here is what she had to say, in her own words:

The other day, I pulled out a stained recipe card entitled “Patty’s Mom’s Lasagna”.  Every time I make this family favorite recipe, I think to myself, I really have to rewrite this onto a new card. It is faded and has tomato sauce stains on it. I guess that’s what happens after 30 years of use.  That’s how long ago I asked Patty’s mother for the recipe and have been making it for my family ever since.

Patty’s mom, Merielle, was a kind, thoughtful and lovely person. I have memories of Merielle that span a long period of time, dating back to when Patty and I were in high school and college, eating lunch in the Microsoft cafeteria,  and continuing through wedding and baby showers. I even have a little framed picture of my son, who is now 22 years old, wearing an adorable little teddy bear outfit that Merielle gave to me when he was born.

Patty and her mom had a relationship that transcended what I consider to be the traditional mother and daughter relationship. They were more like best friends or sisters.  Merielle was Patty’s biggest fan, her support system and her confident.  They had a very special bond and most of Patty’s good friends knew it.

Following the passing of Merielle, Patty seemed to be fulfilled with her husband and two boys.  To me it seemed like she was very happy.  I did not know of the pain and suffering she was feeling in not conceiving more children.  Patty was very private about this and so while I was enjoying my own family, having both a son and daughter, I never knew the depths of sadness, loss and longing Patty was feeling in not having a daughter.  I find it hard to put my finger on the difference in a relationship with a son versus a daughter.  You love both with all your heart yet, there is something so unique about each.

When the surprise announcement came that Patty and Jon had adopted a baby girl, I was stunned!  How could my close friend not have mentioned this to me?  How could it be that no one in our community of friends knew about it?  After they brought Sophie home, Patty was more at ease talking about the years that they had spent with infertility and the frustration they had felt in not being able to have more children, specifically a daughter.

Now when I see Patty with her daughter, I can see the joy she brings to her life and the balance her presence has brought to their family.  I am also happy for Sophie because she has truly been blessed with a mother, father and brothers who love her with all their hearts.  She has helped to finally fill the void in Patty’s life after Merielle passed away.  Although Sophie never got to meet her grandmother, Patty is teaching her everyday about unconditional love and continuing to  build the same bond that she had with her own mother.

Maybe one day I will sit down and rewrite the recipe, but instead of  its title being “Patty’s Mom’s Lasagna”,  I will call it “Sophie’s Grandmother’s Lasagna”.

Today’s Drip: Adopting an Older Child can be Rewarding

An advertisement recently came across my computer screen from an online adoption website featuring children looking for adoptive families.  There was a gallery of pictures of kids of all ages, mostly elementary aged, with smiling faces and short biographies underneath.  I imagined the children’s effort to look happy and well-adjusted when those photographs were taken, despite the suffering they may have endured before and after it was taken.  Their hopefulness in finding new parents was evident in their endearing faces.  It made my heart heavy as I wondered how long they have been searching for a family and what they have been through in their short lives.

Shortly after I adopted my daughter, my “heart-of-gold” neighbor, the one who hosted the neighborhood picnic every summer, told me she decided to become a foster parent.  Like me, she had two sons and like me, always wanted a daughter.  We had frequently talked to each other about the daughters we always wanted.  She was supportive and slightly jealous when I adopted a baby girl and soon after, she took on the foster care of an older child as a first step.  She was thrilled when her middle school-aged foster daughter officially became part of their family after a couple of years.  It was such a wonderful experience for my neighbor and her family that she decided to take in another foster child.  I was struck by her selflessness, even though she clearly reaped so much joy from this labor of love.

I recall the first morning that my neighbor brought her new foster daughter, about eight years old, to the elementary school bus stop. She was a couple years older than my daughter and the other girls from the neighborhood, and it was quite obvious that mornings would now be a bit more dramatic. Each morning, this young girl brought a different problem (either with her foster mother or one of the kids) to the bus stop.  It was always a relief when the bus finally arrived to pick up the kids, who usually boarded the bus angry, hurt or just confused.  We all tried to give her a break, given all the big changes in her life, and the neighborhood parents tried to smooth things over with our own kids.

My neighbor had a huge heart and took the time to give her foster daughter the perfect amount of support and stern direction around the other kids.  I could see the frustration on my neighbor’s face morning after morning.  Over coffee one morning after the school bus left, she told me about her foster child’s birth mother and the issues the young girl had recently faced.  It broke my heart and gave new meaning to the entire foster program and the people who support these kids.

My neighbor’s daughter, her first foster child, had no ties to her birth parents and truly needed a new permanent home. The transition from foster care to legal adoption went smoothly in her case.  With her second foster child, my neighbor worked very hard to support the girl’s relationship with her birth mother by facilitating frequent visits, while the mother made dubious efforts to get her life back on track.  On numerous occasions, the child returned to our neighborhood upset, irritable and extremely insecure after traumatic visits with her mother.

My friend endeavored to give her foster daughter comfort and security.  After a couple of years, when it was clear the birth mother would never take responsibility for her daughter, the family began the complicated process of adoption.  Years later, due in part to the consistency of good family values, strong motherly love and a supportive community, my neighbor and her newest daughter were officially, legally and joyously united forever.  I couldn’t be happier for both of them.

Now more than ever, there are dozens of websites hosting galleries of pictures of couples just waiting to adopt.  There are people placing ads in newspapers and posting messages on Facebook in the hopes of finding a child.  I hope some of these couples consider adopting an older child, rather than just a newborn.  It wasn’t something that I considered before adopting my daughter but my neighbor’s situation illustrates the joy that can come from adopting an older child.  There are emotional ups and downs with all children, and older children may test a family’s patience as they adjust to their new surroundings, family units, and friends.   I hope my friend’s story gives a small glimpse of the possibilities, both rewarding and challenging, that foster care and adoption can bring.  She became a hero to both of her daughters and clearly, there’s no higher honor than to be a mother.