Post contributed by Lilly, adoptive mom and author of Pancakes and Beet Juice
As we welcomed home our daughter through the help of Adoption Advocates over Christmas of last year, our home was flooded with wonderful gestures of kindness – from food, precious keepsakes and all of the necessities that an adoptive family who was called about a surprise hospital referral two days after Christmas might now need at the house. At a time when it felt as though there was nothing we needed in the world besides our new baby, our joy grew exponentially each time we saw our community celebrate with us in a special way.
One of our most memorable gifts was from my adoption mentor. At our initial informational seminar with Adoption Advocates, I wrote down a quote from the social worker, “Find the well with water in your community and keep going to it.” There are a lot of ideas, myths and stories on adoption. Finding a friend or a support group that has actually walked the road puts things into perspective. I was so fortunate to have a mentor in the adoption process that had already been there for me in countless ways growing up as my high school drama teacher. I trusted her advice and knew her family’s special love for each other with both biological and adopted children.
After many Facebook messages and cups of tea at her house, I was so excited to finally send the text that we had our call and were headed to Austin! She knew the feelings of caution, optimism and love for our family were only intensified as we wondered what emotions of grief and anxiety our birth mom might be facing, and how difficult it was to try to keep it all together on our drive and day at the hospital. Her advice to me was to love the baby through all of those feelings and, if at all possible, try to meet our birth mother in person and take a family photo.
Open adoption is different to many families, and while our connection to our birth mother is always with us, my mentor helped me realize that nothing can replace this moment in time and a photo to show our little girl that on the day she came home with us, we were all there. We were all part of the decision. We were all filled with new purposes, with peace and with love for our child.
Proud of myself for completing my assignment (who doesn’t like to still impress a favorite teacher), I texted my mentor two of the family photos, one of us all looking at our little girl and one with us all looking at the camera. I kept them on my phone and, before long, the moment was lost for now in the shuffle of the realities of bringing home a new baby.
As the wave of visitors subsided, I was happy to welcome my mentor over for another visit. She had with her a square package wrapped in brown paper. Inside was this gorgeous rendition of our moment with our birth mother at the hospital, artistically rendered in watercolor by Steven Kalstrup. A long time lover of the arts, it is the perfect example to me of how artistic interpretation can express more about a moment in time than a photo itself. In this version, we are in our own world, protected for a moment by our secret hospital room and no one but a few close friends and family members knowing about our new family. We each look to our future, my husband and I at our daughter and our birth mom to the new life ahead of her. I love that this portrait of our family, including our birth mom as the strong woman that she is, hangs over our daughter’s bed for her to see each morning as she meets the day.
There are a lot of storybook parts of adoption and a lot of harder parts, too. Our relationship with our birth mom, while open, is like a river, changing through the seasons of life as two busy moms coming to terms with their new roles in life. No matter how our relationship curves, ebbs and flows, I am never wavered in my love and gratitude for her. I am so thankful we have a little piece of that feeling so beautifully displayed in our home. My greatest gift though, was the support and love from another adoptive mother and the educational resources from Adoption Advocates as our family began this journey on just a feeling. While we’ve been so thankful for everything we received with our new baby, the gift of having someone who knows and cares for your journey is the most needed and appreciated gift one can bestow in adoption.