It’s a curious thing, adoption. Even open adoption. Because as the biological parent, you must walk away trusting that the people you’ve chosen to be your child’s parents are the best. You read their letters, look at their pictures, possibly interview them (I didn’t have time – you can read about that here), and then walk away hoping they will be who you think they are and do the things you think they’ll do.
You trust they are who they say they are, and they will do what they’ve agreed to regarding your requests. But you don’t know. You could walk away and they could walk away with your child in their arms, and that could be the end. It requires a great deal of trust. Trust that must come fast and furious. Trust that gets you through the rough days. Trust.
Placing my daughter for adoption taught me about trust. It taught me to put trust in people I didn’t even know. And without being fully aware, it taught me to put trust in God. Trust that He would answer my frequent prayers that walking away wouldn’t be our final chapter. That placing this precious baby girl for adoption wouldn’t be the end. That I would see her again. Somewhere on this side of heaven if possible.
Learning to trust taught me to wait patiently. And it taught me to savor every moment. To see every day and every thing as a gift. A precious gift to hold lightly. It is the reason I take so many pictures even now and jot so many notes (I wish I could say I kept a diary but mine is more like little scraps of thoughts and memories kept in notebooks. So many notebooks. Scribbles and stories. Images and ideas.)
My daughter just turned thirty two days ago. And thirty years ago today she was adopted and went to live with her adoptive parents. I remember how difficult it was to make my legs take those steps. To walk out the hospital door. Tears blinding my eyes. Praying that I wouldn’t have to see her parents walking out of the hospital with her in their arms. I wanted the best for her, but I knew that watching them leave together would be unbearable.
We can see each other as often as we’d like now. But in the early days, our plan was just that I would send gifts and letters each year on her birthday. The adoption agency explained that asking for more than that might be asking too much. At the very least I wanted her to feel extra loved and remembered on her birthday each year so I agreed. Letters, photos, and gifts on her birthday. Every year.
I prayed that her parents would share those gifts and letters with her. And they did. They also faithfully sent pictures and letters each year. I was so blessed that her parents recognized my need to know how she was doing more often than once a year. They graciously sent pictures and letters a few times a year so I could also relish in her personal milestones. And more than anything I am so grateful they agreed to let her “meet” me when she asked at age nine. Trust works two ways and I had earned their trust as well.
Without their generosity it was possible I would have had to wait until she turned eighteen to see her. As an eighteen year old myself, eighteen years literally felt like an entire lifetime to wait. And then it is possible she wouldn’t want to see me. All I could do was hope. And trust.
So every letter, every picture, every drawing, and eventually every visit was a gift. Moments to cherish. Moments to soak and savor. It all felt like winning the lottery and living on borrowed time wrapped together in a big, beautiful gift.
In the beginning I just hoped and prayed that she would be happy and well and that she would want to meet me someday. In the middle I had the blessing of being included in life events like choir concerts, soccer games, bat mitzvahs, and graduations. And as an adult she has become both a daughter and a cherished friend.
Recently she got engaged, and I had the privilege of being on the “short list” of people who were first to learn about it. Thirty years ago, I didn’t know if that would happen. Thirty years ago I had to let go and trust.
Learning to trust in such a difficult situation was a gift. And a blessing.