March into My Heart

Today’s Drip: Thoughts of the Birth Mother

It has been ten glorious years since our darling daughter entered our lives through the blessing of adoption. We were fortunate to have been chosen by an amazing birth mother who gave us an incredible gift, for which we can never show enough gratitude. I am still astonished by her trust in  people she barely knew, and who lived across the country, to be parents for her child. I will be forever grateful for her thoughtful decision and sensible selflessness, as well as our extraordinary luck. As we approach Thanksgiving and the other holidays of the season, I often wonder how our daughter’s birth mother is doing, ten years later.

It was the birth mother’s choice if she wanted to stay in contact with us and the daughter she gave up. We offered to send her pictures and updates as our daughter grew into the young lady she is now, through the adoption facilitator who helped us find each other. Since she requested a picture of our daughter one year after her birth, there has been no further contact between us. At the time of the adoption, she was unmarried with two children under the age of three and knew she couldn’t handle more children at her young age, especially given her plans for her future.  She had hoped to continue her education and start a career. According to our facilitator, she married the boyfriend we met and she had another daughter, she kept, a year after our daughter was born. I hope she accomplished all that she planned for herself and her family.

I often wonder what my daughter’s life would have been like had she not joined our family.  The age old question of nature vs. nurture is especially thought-provoking when it comes to adoption. How much influence did we, as her parents, have on who she is, what she loves to do, and what she hopes for in the future? Her birth parents clearly gave her good athletic genes as she loves all sports and seems to excel at almost everything she tries. As with our own biological children, I hope that we have done all we can to nurture her natural talents and support her artistic and academic abilities.  I take my responsibilities as her mother especially seriously, since I was entrusted to care for her emotionally, physically and spiritually. And, I look upon that responsibility as an honor.

I ask how different she would have been if she grew up somewhere else. My guess is that life on the west coast is extremely different than it would have been in her native state of Missouri. Like a naturally-born Pacific Northwest native, she tires of the rain and complains when it gets too hot in the summer. She loves outdoor activities like hiking, skiing and swimming in lakes. Clearly, her love of the mountains is born from living in Washington State and visiting the surrounding states we travel to for skiing.

I also wonder if my daughter’s personality has been affected by who she lives with.  Certainly her big brothers have influenced her capacity for tough recess games with the boys like tag, dodge ball, and soccer.  Their over-protectiveness of her will certainly influence the number of dates she accepts as she grows into the teenage years! As a preteen, her confidence around other teenagers is entertaining for everyone involved. I take some credit for nurturing her musical aptitude on the piano via private lessons and her participation in a local girls’ choir. My husband has given her the love of baseball through her attendance at countless major league games in her young life.  But where does she get her fascination and love of everything in nature?  She watches Animal Planet, PBS, and the History Channel at every opportunity and is amazed by every scientific topic, all forms of life, and even gross anatomy. There’s no one in our family that shares those interests with her. We merely marvel at her attentiveness, yearning for learning, and constant curiosity.

Some adoptions are “open” providing opportunities for the birth parents and the adoptive parents to stay in contact as the adopted child grows.  They can develop a relationship and compare notes that may help everyone understand the child’s interests or abilities as she grows up. I have mixed views on open adoptions. My daughter is fully aware that she is adopted but has not yet asked much about her birth parents. I hope that she feels welcome to meet her birth parents, whenever that seems appropriate.   I want that to be a choice that she makes herself, rather than making, or letting her birth mother make, that choice for her.

Someday, we may meet her birth mother again and uncover many of the mysteries that have unfolded over the last ten years. Until then, I will continue to enjoy every minute of my daughter’s life either on the tennis court, in a chair lift on top of a mountain, or just in the car on the way to a birthday party. I will also continue to be grateful to her birth mother, wherever she may be and whatever she may be doing, for the opportunity to raise such a gifted, loving child.

Today’s Drip: Taking a Risk or Risking Regret

I was watching “Ellen” recently when the musician Pink was a guest on the show. She had a baby girl 16 months ago and named her Willow. She described the experience as “life changing” and from everything I’ve read, her daughter saved her marriage. I enjoyed seeing someone like Pink embrace being a new mother, even the diapers, and giving credit to Willow for her happiness. I will not highlight the fact that her marriage was saved by having a child because I don’t believe that’s a healthy strategy when a marriage is in trouble, for many reasons. However, I loved one of the her last comments in the interview with Ellen: “Now my husband can’t call me a freak because someone is dancing with me.”  It warmed my heart because she obviously made a connection with her daughter that seemed similar to the one I made with mine.

I spent many years trying to have a daughter after my two biological sons were born.  I loved my boys beyond words, but it was my dream to have a daughter too. To make it worse, my husband referred to our family as the blue team (three members, plus the male dog) and the pink team (me). After adopting our daughter, I felt finally complete. We both love the music, the clothes, the slumber parties, and just spending time together. Adding a member to the pink team was critical to my happiness and although the adoption process was not easy, ten years later I am so grateful for the experience of having a daughter. I would have regretted it had my husband and I not been so determined.

Shortly after adopting my daughter, I was approached by at least four friends considering adoption for very similar reasons to mine. They each had two boys and wanted a girl. A number of them encouraged by my success strongly considered adoption, rather than taking the risk of having a third boy. Some worried that three kids would overwhelm them. Others wondered if their husbands would be supportive through the process. I was a positive but cautious advocate for adoption and tried to be completely honest about the experience I had. All adoption journeys are very different so I couldn’t guarantee a good outcome. I could only express my sincere gratitude and love for my daughter, and encourage them to take the steps toward fulfilling their dreams.

As I look back, none of those friends went through with adoption, I wonder how they feel so many years later. I don’t think less of the women who let the opportunity slip by as the years went by. There were probably good reasons why they never went through with it. In many ways, it’s a daunting task with some risks and possible disappointments along the way. Those women seem happy as their sons grew into teenagers and young men, but I can’t help wondering if they feel some regret. I can’t imagine my life without my daughter, now that my sons are in high school and college. My relationship with my daughter is very different than my relationship with my sons. She has different interests and needs from me, as her mother. My sons have always shown their love for me in wonderful ways, but my daughter wants to spend time with me.

Adding a baby at age forty, it will be awhile before I can call myself an empty-nester, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel that my life is complete having raised my sons and now my daughter. It was what my mother, my role model, had and it’s what I had always dreamed of.  As a mother, I know I can look back on my life experiences and never wonder what it would have been like to raise a daughter. I know my mother had a different relationship with me than she had with my brother, and it never took anything away from her relationship with him.  It was just different.

As my daughter grows into her tweens and talks about it, her friends understand adoption a little more. They embrace her as normal, just like them. One of her friend’s mother recently told me how “special” my daughter was because she was adopted.  I agreed. She also said that she had always hoped to adopt her second child, but never got the chance when her marriage fell apart. She has a daughter now but always hoped for a son. Her dreams were different from mine but since they were never fulfilled, her sadness is unmistakable.

Adoption seems to be a quiet topic; people rarely talk about their experiences. I hope to change that. Through this blog, and my upcoming book about my adoption journey, I hope to encourage women and their spouses to consider adoption to complete their families when pregnancy isn’t possible or there are specific goals for their lives.

So, to end this blog where I began, with a musical reference, here’s a quote from a song by Tim McGraw: “I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin.”  I like the message embedded in the lyrics of this song: Don’t miss out on making all your dreams come true.