Most days I don’t question why we said “yes” to adoption. Even on the hard days, it’s never a question about our decision, but usually more of a question like, “You really think we’re cut out for this?” And obviously, this question comes out in multiple scenarios, not adoption alone.
Recently, I sat in a room with 25 other people connected to adoption as we anticipated hearing from three adult adoptees, one of which is one of my closest friends. I honestly did not think I would feel many emotions at this panel; afterall, I was there to gather information and hear stories. Boy was I in for a surprise! During introductions alone, I felt at ease being with others who had similar stories, I felt terrified of what our life would be like if our daughter ends up in residential treatment like another adoptive mom’s son, I felt overwhelmed, but inspired when an adoptive mom no more than ten years older than her two boys with special needs came into the room, and I felt scared sitting next to an angsty adult adoptee who was not on the panel. Did I mention this was in the first ten minutes of arriving and the panel discussion hadn’t even begun? I don’t think I’m cut out for this!
As my friend and her two “friends because of sorrow” began to share, I settled in. So much of what they were saying brought me comfort and reassurance. Nate and I are already doing so many of the right things with Gracie. We’re talking about her story often with varying emotions tied to it. Just recently as I was telling Gracie her “when I was born” story, I said, “and your birth mom held you and said goodbye to you in the hospital.” I was proud of myself for sharing the sad parts because even that simple acknowledgement was noticed by her as she uttered an “aw, that’s sad.” At just the age of four, she’s beginning to understand that adoption is happy sometimes and sad sometimes.
I was glad to know that many of the adult adoptee trigger words had already become trigger words for me in these four short years. Don’t tell me it was God’s will that we adopted Gracie; that’s ignorant. And don’t refer to my daughter as my adopted daughter; she’s my daughter. And don’t even think about using the words “lucky” or “blessed” in reference to her adoption; lucky is winning the lottery, lucky is not having to grow up in a different family because of brokenness.
My biggest take-away was hearing research on age-appropriate story-telling. We’re already telling Gracie lots of her story, including her birth mom’s name, the bit of time they spent together in the hospital, and how she has her birth mom’s skin and “great hair” because that’s one of the first things we heard from the social worker. Of course, we always include the part about how both of her moms chose the same name for her when she was born. Obviously, we haven’t given her all the details, and quite frankly, I was ready to leave out some of the bad parts. But after being reminded that this is not my story and it’s one of the few things Gracie gets to keep as hers, I realized she is owed her whole story, even the hard parts. So by the age of ten, before the hormonal teen years, we’ll tell her. All of it. Every word. She’ll know the good, the bad, and the ugly, but all of that is her story. I’m thankful we have a good five or six years before she’s ready for it all because I’m not ready and honestly, I’m terrified.
All in all, I’m thankful. Thankful to have a strong connection with this daughter who I didn’t birth. Thankful to still be in some of the easy years of adoption since I know hard days are to come. And thankful to have an intimate relationship with someone who’s been in Gracie’s shoes, someone who lived the easy and hard days, someone who is now actively processing her adoption and finding health and redemption in it all.