A new look on life

Well, the most recent eye exam didn’t give quite the results we were hoping for.

At the last visit three weeks ago Dr. F was encouraged by the reduction in pressure in our little one’s eye and hoped that we’d be able to avoid further surgery for months, possibly even years. But the pressure has remained the same since then and so our next visit in three more weeks is a combo eye exam/pre-op. At that time Dr. F will determine if the goniotomy was successful enough to try to open the second half of the drain or if it is time to go ahead with the Baerveldt valve implant. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, that news was disappointing.

But there was a really good part to visiting Duke again. Cause these precious little Julbo frames were waiting for us when we got there.

Our little girl has a new look on life. Her strong eye went from 20/60 to 20/40 and her helper eye went from 20/400 to somewhere between 20/200 and 20/125.

And not only does Dr. F (and therefore we) know she is seeing better, more importantly, it appears she knows she’s seeing better.

Cause she grinned as soon as they were on her face. Then she spent a little extra time studying mine. She never once tried to take them off all day. And when she reappeared from her bedroom after her nap, she was sporting her little pink frames.

Something tells me that her little grin means she thinks she looks as pretty as we do.

And you know what I love about my kids? Both of her siblings were supportive of her new look. Of course I wasn’t really surprised about that. These days, about 90% of the time, that’s the way these guys are. Loving life. Laughing. Smiling. Together.

Now, there is the news that we will start patching her strong eye so that the brain is forced to accept information from the helper eye. Three hours a day. Seven days a week. For the next two years.

Can’t say that I’m looking forward to it. Course from what I know about this little girl, she’ll roll with the punches. It’s what she seems to do best. And when she gets a questioning look from someone in public about her patch, she’s got her posse by her side.

When you got love like this on your right and left, who needs to worry about what others might think…

**reworked from a post on my personal blog from last week. It’s been a little hectic around here as late.**

Mean Mom

I have two daughters who were born just over a year apart. They are both smart, funny and beautiful. They love clothes and doing hair and shopping. One is dramatic and fiery and active. The other is practical and sensitive and still. One I have known her entire life. The other, I met in June of 2009.

Both my girls are creative and artistic. Both love dance and music and self expression. One of them dreams of flowers and meadows and princess dances.

The other dreams of Mean Mom.

Mean Mom looks like me. She talks like me. Her eyes and hair and body are mine. But Mean Mom is not me. My daughter always makes this very clear when she tells me about the dream.

In the dream, Mean Mom does one of three things: She leaves my daughter at the store or at church or in the park, she refuses to feed her when she is hungry, she laughs when my daughter cries.

Mean Mom is mean. Pure and simple.

For months after the first Mean Mom dream, my daughter eyed me with wary consternation. “How do I know, Mommy, if I am dreaming or awake?” she’d ask, and I’d feel my heart shiver just a little.

“What do you mean?” I’d respond.

“How do I know you are Nice Mommy and not Mean Mom?” She’d persist, and I’d tell her, once again, that dreams are never real, and that Mean Mom doesn’t exist. Then I’d renew my efforts to bond with her. I’d take her to the park and church and the store, and I’d always bring her home. When she was hurt, I’d cuddle her close and give her band aids and kisses. When she was hungry, I would bring her to the kitchen and let her help me fix a snack.

There were times when I doubted the effectiveness of my laid-back approach to my daughter’s dream. It was such a weird and bizarre thing, this manifestation, this haunting evil twin of mine. I had thoughts of doctors and therapies and years of working to loosen Mean Mom’s hold, but instinct told me love and persistence would win the day. So, I kept on the way I was going, reassuring my daughter until the dream faded and Mean Mom was nothing but a memory.

I have two daughters. One has suffered loss and trauma and betrayal. Cheeky’s past is so full of all those things that it seems the dream reflects her fears, her losses and all that she is afraid of losing again.

Yet, the dream is not Cheeky’s.

It is Sassy’s.

From the time Sassy was three until she was nearly five, Mean Mom was almost as real to her as I was. When we began the adoption process, I read books on bonding and attachment, and it occurred to me that Sassy exhibited many of the signs of a traumatized child. She did have a difficult birth experience. As I lay bleeding out, she was whisked to the NICU where she was poked and prodded. It was twelve hours before I was stable enough to see her and touch her and speak her name. Sometimes, I wonder if those hours cemented a thought in her brain, a chemical memory, perhaps, of betrayal. One way or another, I have always felt that I had to work harder to connect with my fiery girl. She loves passionately, but she has such a hard time being vulnerable.

Does that hark back to being ‘abandoned’ at birth, or is it simply a product of her personality and temperament?

I will never know, but the juxtaposition of my daughters’ dreams is interesting to me. Cheeky was abandoned by the world’s standards. It would seem that she should be the one dreaming of a mean mother who leaves her behind and laughs when she cries. Instead, she dreams of dancing and flowers and all things light and wonderful. Sassy, who was simply whisked away to be cared for by competent and caring hospital staff, is the one who suffered through months of thinking an evil mom lurked somewhere in the shadows waiting to snatch her away.

Why is that?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself often lately.

But the more I ask it, the more I realize that it doesn’t matter.

Mean Mom was here, and now she is gone – a blip on the radar, an odd chapter in my daughter’s life.

A battle we fought together and won.

And, I guess that is what parenting is really all about. Whether we adopt our children or birth them, we must be committed to fighting for them and with them, no matter the struggles, no matter the reasons for those struggles. There should be no thought that what our child brings to us is a product of who she once was or how she once lived and that her troubles are, therefore, not our responsibility. There must simply be acceptance and the understanding that her past is our past whether we lived it together or not. Only in embracing that truth can we discover the miracle of love – that it isn’t built on one defining moment, but on millions of mundane ones piled one upon the other until we are left breathless from the sheer wonder of it.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. May you find joy in the good times and peace in the trials, and may every mundane moment with your children be a miracle.

The Best Stuff’s Never Planned

The family photo shoot was certainly planned. The outfits, the hairstyles, the location, the photographer, all planned.

The head bonk, however, was not. And I love it.

The day before we left for China, five year-old Rose flew by herself to Idaho to stay with her grandparents. I snapped this picture at the airport, blinking back tears. My baby wouldn’t be the baby anymore. The next time I saw her, things would be different. Hopefully better, but different.

What if her new sister had issues that would now take the lion share of my time? What if I’d tempted fate and messed up the good thing we had going? Would this changing-point-in-our-lives moment be something Rose would thank me for someday or need to hash out with her therapist?

It’s been over three years now. Almost four. And the joy I see pass between these two little girls, even when they’re hitting heads (literally and figuratively), warms me through and through. Cholita, our baby number 4, was planned. Ditto with the trip to China. Finding Rose a best friend was unplanned. And I love it.

Artyom and Chrissie

For almost a whole month, I’ve been thinking about 7 year old Artyom who was sent back to Moscow on a one way, nonstop flight with a note pinned to his coat that explained that his adoptive mom no longer wished to parent him. I’m not going to go into how I feel about what she did because I’ve already hashed all of that out on my blog but it’s pretty obvious to most that this child had problems that his family were not equipped to deal with. If there’s a silver lining to his story, it’s that his next (and hopefully last) family will be MUCH more aware of his needs and better able to dedicate the patience, time, and resources to give him what he needs to thrive.

All children deserve to thrive.

Chrissie is trying very hard to thrive right now. She’s hooked up to a ventilator in a hospital in San Antonio with her mother near her side. Right where her mommy’s been since April 19th when Chrissie first arrived at the hospital to fix a heart defect that her new family knew was “incompatible with life.” They had all of the information they needed and they made the choice knowing full well that she’d need serious help to survive.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I’m not sure I could have made that choice. I know they didn’t do it to earn the admiration of people like me but they sure do have my admiration and respect anyway.

I’m thankful that there are people like Chrissie’s parents who will do this in spite of all of the emotional risks and I’m thankful that Chrissie orphanage in Serbia didn’t downplay or minimize (or completely withhold) the severity of her heart condition. If they had, an unsuspecting family might have easily fallen in love with her sweet smile and brought her home. But other than love, would they have been able to give her what she needed? Would they have been able to dedicate the physical, emotional, financial and medical resources necessary to give her the best hope of a full life? A life beyond her preschool years?

Could you do it? Could you adopt a child like Chrissie?

I couldn’t.

I know my limitations. If I’d been handed a child like Chrissie, I would have done my best and it would have been a fantastic effort and I’m pretty sure that nobody would find any fault with it but I’m almost certain that it wouldn’t have been as good as the mom and dad she has right now.


Because this family knew what was coming and they were prepared for it while most of us would only be able to respond to it.

Proactive vs reactive.

Two children.

Two countries.

Two adoptive families.

Two totally different outcomes.

Hopefully, they’ll both have happy endings.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Stepping Out In Faith
an adoptive momma (China) at 1001 Tears… on stepping out in faith and trusting God throughout the adoption process

This side of surgeryadoptive momma (China) Kristi at Fireworks & Fireflies… describing a week after surgery, from the hour before her daughter roused from the anesthesia to the doctor’s report

1st Day of Schooladoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… the first day of school for a newly adopted second grader

{My Hero} Ten Days After Surgeryadoptive momma (China) Steffie B. at Never Too Many… an update ten days after open-heart surgery

Surgery for Cassandraadoptive momma (China) Karen at Always In My Heart… on an upcoming surgery for an eleven-year-old with spina bifida and her memories of surgeries in China

Racing Towards a Cure for TSCadoptive momma (Korea) Carissa at My Everyday Miracles… an informational post on tuberous sclerosis complex as this momma prepares to walk for a cure

Alex’s Check-Up at the SB Clinic
adoptive momma (Russia, Siberia and the Ukraine) Christine at Smiles & Trials… their check-up at the spina bifida clinic

Cleft Bottle Projectteen adoptee (China) Julia at the group China teen adoptee blog One World… on the Starfish cleft bottle project

What Gets Your Goat?adoptive momma (foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys… navigating the world of special needs – inside the pharmacy

Explaining "I Did Not Love My Adopted Child" to My Very Real, Very Loved Daughter

A final guest post, contributed by KJ Dell’Antonia (aka Lola Granola). KJ is now a regular contributor at NHBO, so you’ll hear from her monthly beginning this month.
KJ is a writer and mother to four children. Her youngest, Rory, was adopted from China in July 2009. She blogs about real life at Raising Devils.

In the the wake of the Torry Hanson case, I wrote a piece for Slate Magazine (where I’m a regular contributor to the DoubleX section) that my editors there titled “I Did Not Love My Adopted Child,” or, if you came to it from the first page, “I Didn’t Love My Foreign Adopted Kid at First, Either.” I liked the second title better – and actually proposed changing the first; I wanted to call it “Adoption Sucks – But that’s No Reason Not to Do It.” But the title held, and it worked – I don’t have any way of knowing exactly how many people read that piece, but certainly “a lot” is probably an understatement. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted what I wrote to be as helpful to people as Melissa Fay Greene’s essay “Post-Adoption Panic” in the book A Love Like No Other was to me. I came back to her words so often in the difficult months after we brought Rory home that the book falls open to her pages. I treasure her description of her son: “a fit-throwing, non-English-speaking, snarling Bulgarian four-year-old,” and I recited, like a mantra, the advice she attributed to a friend “You can just pretend to love him… Just fake it.” That’s what I hoped for, and I think I succeeded – at the very least, I encouraged people to believe that it’s ok to work hard for the happy ending – but, of course, I have to live with my words, and their title, forever. And the big question, asked by everyone from commenters to friends to a caller on Talk of the Nation, is – how are you going to explain this to Rory?

I’m not sure I’ll have to – at least, not in the sense of her suddenly being confronted with this from out of the blue. Because the thing is, like Greene, I was faking it, and – because unlike Greene’s son Jesse, Rory had had a mother, a loving, devoted foster mother who I hope will always be a part of her life – I firmly believe that, at least on some level, Rory knew it. That’s what I think of, when I picture Rory reading my words. She knew I didn’t love her. And she knows I love her now. And I’m even more determined that by then she’ll know I’ll love her now forever.

She was there, after all. The awful truth is that, although she was every bit as miserable and anguished and angry as I described her, she was ready to love me, or at least to need me. She had just been torn away from everything she ever knew, and her foster mother told her to love me – to love us, to go to us, to adopt us as her own – and she was willing, probably because it was her only hope. I was the one who didn’t meet her halfway. She knows that there were moments when, as she sobbed hysterically (actually, with her, it was usually firetruck screams of rage) over something – no, she can’t play with my phone, no, she can’t drink all my coffee, no, she can’t stand on the trash can, no, she can’t flush the toilet over and over and over and over, no, Wyatt shouldn’t hit her but she hit him first, I saw her, no, she can’t just take Lily’s doll, no, that’s not her cookie, she already ate her cookie – and I knew, because I’m not stupid, because I DID read the books and I DID think about what we were doing and I DID think I was prepared – that she was really screaming about being taken away from everything she’d ever known and loved – she knows, in short, that there were moments when all she needed was comfort and I put her down and I walked away. Those were most emphatically not some loving moments.

And she knows that I don’t do that any more.

So what I think is that that’s part of our story. I’ll have to be sure to put words to what might have otherwise gone unspoken, and that forever, when we talk about that summer, it will be the summer when we were learning to love one another. That I will have to, when I talk about our becoming a family, use love the way I used it in the article – to mean our secure and ongoing connection. I will tell her that I was always committed to her, and that even in the hardest moments, I would never have sent her away, never have hurt her, never have let her have her world torn apart again, and I will tell her that I never meant to fail her, but I know that I sometimes did, and that the fact that we learned to love each other anyway will always be one of the abiding miracles of my life. I think our love will be even stronger for having all that out where we can see it and own it.

And it will also be the summer when she fell asleep on the tag-a-long and fell off the bike, and ate Doritos at the pool, and learned to swim and jumped off the diving board for the first time. Because, you know, I write about this a lot, and I think about this a lot, but mostly, we just live our lives. I didn’t love Sam the day he came home from the hospital nearly the way I love him now; I hated Lily for coming between me and Sam, and for all the fierce love I feel for Wyatt now, when he was a newborn I’d have left him by the side of the road if I’d had to do it to save Sam and Lily, who I’d known and loved for so much longer–and I write those words, and I don’t worry about them reading them someday. Love grows. That’s what it’s meant to do. And then it never, ever goes away.

A different family could tell a different story – I loved you before I met you; I loved you before you were born, I have always loved you. For me, that would mean that I loved the idea of my children as much as my children themselves. That’s not us, that’s not me, that’s not our story. That’s not what I mean when I use the word love. I did not love “my adopted child.” But oh, I love my daughter now.

So, thanks to everyone who cared enough about us, and our progress, to ask. I could say a lot more about this. I could write a whole book about it. Stay, I guess, tuned – but know that Rory went to bed tonight with a bunch of kisses, an extra hug and a smile on her face. Of course, when I said “I love you, good night,” she said “Meow,” but I didn’t take it personally. Everybody knows cats can’t talk.

special needs?

I am a most ordinary person.

I drink Diet Coke with my McDonald’s French fries. I love Target and People Magazine. I drive a mini-van for goodness sakes.

Back when we were just starting out on our adoption journey, I began to hear bits and pieces about the ‘Waiting Child’ program that the CCAA has in place for children with “special needs”. I assumed that this program was for kids who weren’t ‘normal’. For children that would probably have too many needs for a family like ours to parent. Especially considering our four other children who were already at home. “I don’t have the time or the energy”, I thought.

Plus, I have a real fondness for all things ‘normal’.

What I did not know at the time, but soon learned, is that the children in the waiting child program are normal. Not only normal, but healthy. And wonderful. The more I researched the waiting child program while we were waiting for our non-special needs referral, the more I realized that adopting a child with special needs was something our family could do. Easily.

There were definitely some needs that we felt would be too much for us, but many of the needs seemed very manageable. A few seemed even, dare I say it, easy. It took Chris a few months to come to a place where he was ready to consider taking on the additional responsibility of adopting a child with special needs. He, as the head of our household, had to consider all the logistical aspects of what it might entail. But God calmed our fears and soon we moved forward in faith. We submitted a medical needs checklist and waited to see God’s plan unfold.

On February 7, 2005 I received the call of a lifetime. It was our agency’s Special Needs Program coordinator. And she had a referral for us to consider.

Isabelle at referral

That referral was a tiny 7 month old girl with a minor heart defect. We knew immediately that she was our daughter and accepted her referral. We have never looked back at the traditional non-special needs program.

Adopting a waiting child has been such a multi-faceted blessing for us and for our whole family. We didn’t start out on our adoption journey as a rescue mission, but indeed we did rescue a child. A tiny girl with a hole in her heart that needed to be repaired. And we were, with the help of our insurance and a wonderful children’s hospital, able to have her heart repaired to normal. Now we can watch our ‘normal’ child grow up with the love and safety of a family she might have never had in China.

Luke 6:38
“If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over.”

Since bringing home Isabelle in 2005, we have brought home her sisters Sophie and Vivienne, and her brothers Jude and Shepherd. All waiting children. All with differing special needs. And we have been blessed exponentially by being able to provide each of them with the medical attention they need while watching them grow and flourish as they find their place in their forever family.

Every night as I go to bed, I am grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to parent these children. I have been blessed. We have all been blessed. Our children have learned that children with medical issues or disabilities are more than their ‘needs’. Each and every one is precious. And, above all, every bit as deserving of love and a family as a ‘normal’ child. We have all been forever changed by our decision to step out of the boat and follow God’s prompting to consider special needs adoption.

Isabelle today

Certainly not every family is cut out for the waiting child program. And for those that feel lead to stay in the non-special needs program most definitely should. It’s a decision each family must make thoughtfully and carefully, it is a lifetime commitment to parent any child.

But for our family, the blessings have far outweighed the risks. We can’t wait to bring home our next waiting child. Whoever they might be, whatever their special need, we are certain of one thing. We will be blessed to be their family.

1 Corinthians 2:9
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

**I wrote this post when we were waiting to bring Jude home in 2007. But our story is as true today as it was back then. So I thought I’d update it and share it here. I hope you enjoy it.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

I Had High Hopes!adoptive parents (China) the Ferrills at The Ferrill Bunch… on last week’s visit to the hematologist

{The time has come for Andrew’s surgery} and Andrew’s Progressadoptive momma (China) Steffie B. at Never Too Many… on her son’s open-heart surgery this past weekend

Hospital Pics and What Faith Can Doadoptive momma (Columbia and Serbia) Lorraine at All Are Precious In His Sight… her daughter was on life support last week, but is stable now, so please stop by and offer some encouragement

At Which Point I Employ Sarcasmadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… a recent conversation about albinism at Chinese school

Labelsadoptive momma (China) AmFam at American Family… looking past the labels to truly see her little girl, realizing that it’s not about “fixing” her girl

adoptive momma (China) Wife of the Prez at Room For At Least One More… her daughter starts speech therapy this week

How Far We’ve Comeadoptive momma (China) Cheri at Loving Lia… an update affter two years home with their daughter, whom they originally thought had a brain cyst, but found out after adoption that she has cerebral palsy, seizures, institutional autism and verbal apraxia

There IS Loss

A recent post by TongguMomma has really had me thinking A.L.O.T.

Right after I read her post, which I keep going back to just to read the comments, I received a very unexpected piece of mail. As in, snail mail, all the way from the East. Long story short, we had ordered a care package through a well-known service back in early February. We included a SASE in the package that was supposed to be for our waiting son to send a note back to us. I don’t know what happened … something was lost in the translation, he didn’t want to write us (which is completely acceptable and understandable if that is the case), he was never given the SASE and the offer to write us … I don’t know and probably never will.

Interestingly enough, the SASE contained a copy of the document we had sent the care package provider with 8 questions on it—the one that was supposed to be sent back to us by the provider and was supposed to be translated. The questions had been answered, and they had been answered in Chinese … with Mandarin characters … which I nor DH can read AT ALL. I will not go into the details of how I was able to get this translated, but I finally did get a translation thanks to another adoptive parent and her very kind co-worker.

I will admit I had butterflies in my stomach the other day as I opened the email titled “Translation Enclosed.” What would it say?

I immediately scanned down the screen to read the answer to the one question for which I most wanted an answer: “How does [our waiting son] feel about being adopted? Happy, sad, excited, scared?”

I will not share the answer in full, but I will tell you it included the words happy and sad.

And I cried.

I have lay awake many nights thinking about all of the LOSS our waiting son has faced, much of the details I don’t know and probably never will … but some I know enough to feel actual pain in my heart for him because of the details I do know … and yet, I am not him … and I know the pain of the losses has been and will continue to be far greater for him … I don’t think these are losses one can ever truly “get over.”

He is not finished experiencing losses associated with the fact he was abandoned by his first family. He is in a very loving foster family. And he is not going to be staying there … and so that is a loss. A loss I do not think of without tearing up. I have photos of them together. I have words that convey the relationship they share.

And I am crying as I type thinking of that loss, and my part in that.

You may wonder as me, Why can’t he stay?

I can’t answer that.

I wish I could.

If only life were that simple.

Along with so many other questions: why couldn’t he stay with his first family? I know enough to know there must have been and still most likely is much pain from that loss. For both our waiting son and his first family.

As I thought of TongguMomma’s post more in light of what I read on that translated email, I thought of the many comments, which I so appreciated and devoured really. I just don’t know why all of the loss and pain exists in the world (well I do know … because of sin and our fallen state as people) … but I know God does make beauty from ashes … and for some of us, especially our children who were adopted … He TRULY DOES make beauty from ashes … and He heals wounds.

And yet some wounds … leave scars … and they are evidence of the pain endured.

I can see how our son’s losses will never be far from his heart. He is not a baby. He already has a Mama. She is in China, taking care of him now.

I am a stranger to him. Nothing more really. An image perhaps. An ideal maybe. A person who is causing his world, his life as he knows it, to be completely torn apart.

I can call myself Mama to him when we finally meet … but he already has someone in his life to whom he calls out Mama. We’ve sent photos and more photos and still more photos along with letters and some gifts for him and his foster family.

But our gain of a son will come with much loss for him … and his China Mama … and so many others before her.

I am thankful for Sk*ype and email and connections and knowing other adoptive Moms whose older children were adopted through the same SWI. Those connections are PRICELESS to me, not because they are so much about me … but because they are a lifeline to his past and can hopefully remain in his present once he is here … home with his new family.

How will we help him cope with all of the loss, part of which is being brought about by our adopting him? Honestly, right now, I can’t see very far ahead. I know we’ll first and foremost recognize his losses. That HAS TO BE a first step on our parts.

As I see the grief come out still for our daughter, who was living an unimaginable existence in an SWI where she was losing weight daily and dying from heart disease … I realize that no matter how meager one’s existence is … it is that person’s existence. And even losing that existence brings about grief and feelings of loss and pain. Even this loss, her loss of a very meager existence, is VALID.

Thankfully, for our son, his existence is not just being in a place where he is sometimes fed, sometimes clothed and hopefully sheltered. No, his existence is full of love, sacrifice, hope and healing. And as much as it brings me physical pain to think of taking him from that, I know my pain in no way compares to what his pain has been and will be.

The Photo

There is a picture on my computer. In it, a man holds two little girls. His head is bowed, his right hand lifted toward the sky, his left arm wrapped firmly around his charges. The girls are squirming bundles of energy. A matched pair, they look to be identical twins. The photo can’t hide their anxiety nor can it hide the man’s gaunt cheeks and thin frame. The picture was snapped by an adoptive mother visiting an orphanage in Ethiopia, and it showcases a moment that not many adoptive parents will ever get to see. It is the last hug, the last prayer, the last goodbye.

I cannot look at the photo without crying.

These are my nieces. This is their biological father. This moment is the last they will share together.

My sister received the photo via email and forwarded it to me. I called her, and we talked about the image. The conversation will probably be lost to time, but the feelings we shared, the mixture of joy and sorrow, it will live in both of our hearts forever.

In the wake of that conversation, I find myself thinking about my daughter’s birth family more than I ever have before. I have heard it said that we should not romanticize our children’s birth parents. I have heard it said that we should not tell our children that they were given up because of love, and I have found myself persuaded by this argument – if you tell your daughter that her birth mother loved her enough to give her up, you will make her question the security of her life with you.

I see the logic of that. I understand the reasoning. I even buy into it to an extent.

But I cannot buy into it fully.

And that, I guess, is my problem.

One day, I think Cheeky will ask – Mom, why was I abandoned? How did I become the girl in this picture:

What will I tell her? That her birth family could not care for her? That they may have already had a child and could not afford to have another? That laws that limit family size might have forced her birth mother’s hand?

Any of those reasons may be true. All of them may be the truth. Maybe none of them are.

I don’t know. I will never know.

But I do know this: Sometimes love means holding on and sometimes it means letting go.

My husband and I were talking about our new nieces. He was surprised to learn that their biological father was still living. “How can someone do that?” He asked. “How can someone say goodbye to children he has raised and loved for three years.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since that photo arrived in my in-box, thinking about the birth father’s gaunt cheeks and thin frame, his hand reaching toward Heaven.

What if I had no money, no food, no house?

What if keeping my children meant that they would never get an education, never go to college, never get married? Worse, what if keeping them meant their stomachs would never be full? What if keeping them meant watching them slowly fade away?

What if giving them up was the kindest most selfless thing I could do?

Would that mean I loved them less? Or would it mean I loved them more?

Sometimes in a quest for honesty and authenticity in telling our children’s stories, we feel compelled to state the facts and nothing more. Perhaps that is the way it should be.


But there is a photo on my computer. My nieces and their birth father in the last moments they will share together. In Birth Father’s face I see sadness and anxiety, desperation and hope.

And, in my mind’s eye, an image plays over and over again – a dark-haired mother setting her pale child in a box and walking away. I think if I could have seen her face, that woman who walked into a crowded train station with a baby and walked out without one, I would have seen sadness and relief and hope and more desperation than I ever want to feel.

It is true that I do not have all the facts, but it is also true that my daughter’s story is about more than facts. It is about being abandoned and it is about being found. It is about miracles both big and small. It is about sacrifice and about sorrow. It is about all of those things.

And, yes, it is also about love.

My love.

Foster Mom’s love.

Even Birth Mom’s love.

When she asks, and I know she will, this is what I will tell my daughter – I can’t know for sure why your birth mother couldn’t parent you, but I do know this – sometimes it takes more strength and more love to let go than it does to hang on.