In my daughter's nursery is a photo of her birth mother, my husband, and me on the day we all went to court last year. That court date was one of the hardest days of our lives. Ella's biological mom was there to officially terminate her parental rights. We were there to obtain custody of our soon-to-be daughter.
In the photo we are all smiling---but I can only imagine all the thoughts running through each of our minds and the heaviness and anticipation in our hearts.
That day was a tremendous beginning and simultaneously, a devastating ending.
This photo is now held in a lovely, multi-colored, striped frame and is placed on one of the walls in my daughter's nursery. The three of us appear to be friends meeting up for coffee---but truly we are strangers who are joined together with a common goal: to do what we believe is best, in that moment, for a little baby girl.
One evening when my husband was out of town, I had one of my girl parties. This time it was for my girlfriends from my health club---a diverse pack of women, mostly in their forties and fifties (I'm the spring chicken of the bunch), who love to laugh. We had some food, wine, and great conversation. One of my friends came into the nursery with me to while I changed my daughter's diaper. She spotted the photo and asked if that was Ella's mom in the picture, and I said yes. Soon my other girlfriends came in one by one to look at the picture. I suppose they were curious. As each woman entered and exited the room, she was quiet. I'm not sure what that means or what I should think about their silence, or if I should even dare to think about it.
A few times a week, I will point the photo out to my daughter and we will say hello to her first mother. It's a sweet, careful routine. I want my daughter to know who her birth mother is. I want her to be familiar with her face. I already tell my daughter her adoption story and that her first mom loves her very much and always has and always will.
People very much misunderstand birth parents. And we cannot lump birth parents into a category or box. I cannot even begin to tells you how my heart aches when I hear someone say, "Are you afraid she'll show up on your doorstep?" or asks me, "Was she on drugs?" The worst question I have ever heard is, "Why didn't she want her baby?"
I should respond, no, I'm not afraid of her showing up at my house. If she did, I would open the door, let her in, and welcome her. Are you on drugs? Oh, and of course she wanted her daughter. What do you think placing a baby for adoption is? A hateful choice from someone who doesn't care one ounce about her own flesh and blood, the baby she carried for forty weeks?
I will tell you right now that I love and will protect the privacy and dignity of my daughter's first mother. This woman gave my daughter life. This woman is on my heart, my thoughts, and in my prayers every single day. And she's a real person. She is not just the image in the photo in my daughter's room, and she's not the assumption anyone makes.
Like many adoptive moms, I am determined to do what is best for my child, and I'm forever defending and educating. Adopting transracially has created a situation where I'm not only facing adoption stereotypes, but racial stereotypes as well.
God orchestrated our adoption situation, the birth of our child (a child who belongs to two families---in different ways), and hearts that love her---including her first mother's. I wish people would stop and think for a moment before opening their mouths in judgement and assumptions. I wish, like my girlfriends did, that silence and reverence were practiced more often.
I am honored that my daughter's first mother chose us to parent to baby. It is a privilege to raise my little girl. And the photo hanging in my daughter's nursery is a constant reminder that adoption is complicated, beautiful, and most of all, indefinable.