While I was attending the National Families Supporting Adoption Conference in Layton this past summer, I met a 50 year-old woman who had placed her baby girl for adoption through LDS Family Services 30 years earlier. This birthmother had no information whatsoever on her birth daughter. She had no way to know what had become of the child she placed for adoption so long ago. But that doesn't mean she has forgotten about her. I met another woman, not much older than the birthmother, who proudly told me she is an adoptee and she has been so happy with her life, she has never felt any inclination to seek out any information about her birth parents.
There was a woman there--I believe she was in her 40s but I could be wrong--who told the story of how she sought out her birth parents after becoming a mother herself, in her twenties. It was mostly for medical reasons, it seemed like she said. But also, as she watched her own children grow, she felt more of a desire to be able to connect with her biological roots, to be able to understand more about herself, and by extension more about her offspring.
It is a hard thing to ponder, this concept that in giving a child the gift of a loving family, our dream for them, we as birth mothers sometimes get forgotten. Don't get me wrong. I have friends who were adopted and they speak with reverence of their unknown birth mothers. But I also know it would take a tremendous leap of faith for them to be able to make the effort to try to locate, much less contact that woman they revere so dearly. And that is understandable, too, because I know there are broken women who have been so tortured by the grief and pain and especially the shame of their loss that they actually reject the child they loved enough to let go so long ago.
And there is another aspect of that, too. I think of my adopted niece and nephew and wonder how it would be to know their birth parents. Could it be a positive experience? It is hard to know. I know their parents love each of those sweet children't birth parents, but there were moments in the adoption process when we nearly lost those sweet babies, and the terror of those moments is hard to forget.
As a birthmother, much of my life has been spent wondering, hoping that the sweet girl I loved was living the blessed life I dreamed of for her. Of course I lived my own life. And of course my priority was the family I had in front of me. I held onto a hope that some day my birth daughter would want to find me, that her family would want to know me again. But there were times this felt like a flimsy wish. I don't know statistics, but it seems like it is usually in the late teen years, an adopted youth will start being curious about their birth family. Sometimes they will pursue this curiosity; sometimes they won't. Time passes. They don't want to offend their parents, whom they love. They have a good life. Then they start their own families. The concept of seeking out their birth parents becomes more undefined, harder to attain, not worth the effort. The fear of rejection is real and often with nothing to go on, the idea fades into unimportance. I have even heard of cases where a person said if she (the birthmother) wanted to know me, she could find me. Which is almost always absolutely untrue. We are powerless. We take what we can get. Unfortunately, sometimes that is nothing. Nothing but the faith and assurance that what we chose was right for our child.
I don't know why, but 18 was the magic number I held out for all these years. I secretly hoped that once she turned 18, it would be time for us all to get re-acquainted. I must not be the only birthmother who had secret fantasies about what this number would mean, the magical date. I have seen it in other bloggers' posts and in talking to other birthmothers. In fact, I have a friend who believed in this number, also. This friend was able to locate her birth daughter's family through a third party entity that communicates with Vital Statistics. Over the past several months, my friend has wrestled with the question of whether or not she should try to contact her birth daughter (after failing to get any response from the parents). From my previous post, you understand, this is not an easy thing. Recently, my friend became acquainted with a girl who had been friends with her birth daughter. Through this girl's friendship, she was able to view pictures of the girl she placed for adoption so many years ago, learn about her personality, her mannerisms. Unfortunately, she also learned that her birth daughter had not been told that she was adopted. I pray that some day, some how, this dear friend's reunion with her birth daughter will still be possible. My reunion with Abbey was such a gift and a treasure, I want my sweet friend to be able to experience that joy as well.
Wednesday was the last day of our visit with Abbey's family. On Thursday, we intended to do a bit of shopping and then head home. Since I had some extra time while Britt looked for shoes and some other things, I spent some time putting together a book for Abbey with pictures from our visit. I also printed several pictures from the time we had all spent together to give to her family. While we went to lunch that afternoon, I texted Abbey to see if she could meet me, so I could give her the book and pictures. While we were eating, we decided it would be fun to go see another movie while we were there, so I texted Abbey to see if she wanted to join us. She did! You can't exactly visit during a movie obviously, but it was so nice to spend some time with her again, especially since we thought our visit had ended the day before. The following two pictures are my girls riding on a train in the mall after the movie. They loved it!
We then said our goodbyes to Abbey and piled into the van. We were headed for home, but first we needed to stop and get some things we had left at Tim and Nancy's home, where we had been staying. Right before we got to Tim and Nancy's, I received a text from Abbey. She and her friend were meeting each other for dinner and did we want to join them? Her friend would love to meet me. We had talked about the possibility earlier, but it just hadn't looked like it would work out.
Since it was already fairly late and we would have to eat anyway, we headed back up to Orem to Malawi's Pizza at the Riverwoods. The food was tasty. The company was so fun! It was so nice to get to visit with Abbey one last time!
Family is such a blessing.