Over the past several months, our family has been in a season of positive adoption exploration.
For you other adoptive mamas out there, you know what I mean. Adoption, though it’s been an immense blessing for our family, comes with a unique set of parenting challenges. Those challenges tend to come in waves, like the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide. Some waves last longer than others, and some may feel violent and destructive.
Our precious oldest child’s burden has been light during this season.
Adopted internationally at age 18 months, our sweet girl has seen waves that threatened to swallow her whole. This current season, however, has been easy. Rather than riding waves, our adoption journey recently has largely consisted of just collecting seashells on the shore. Our daughter is in a season of healthy identity, joy, and secure attachment. If that’s not where your precious family is right now, you’re not alone. I’ve walked that road. And I firmly believe that your waves will recede, too.
Our daughter’s security has allowed us to spend this season actively and intentionally pursuing her history and heritage. As a family, we made the choice long ago to consistently be open and transparent about adoption. However, there are simply some conversations that cannot happen, and activities you cannot embark on if your child is not in the right state of mind. Last summer we had multiple opportunities to connect with our daughter’s history, and we’ve been astounded with the outcome.
Our “adopt-i-versary,” as we call it in our family, occurred this past month. My daughter has now been mine for 11 years. And we were able to celebrate in the most breathtaking way. We hopped on a plane to Denver for a “family reunion”.
Except this family was neither mine nor my daughter’s biological family.
For the first time in over a decade, my daughter and I were reunited with the founders of the orphanage where my daughter lived for 16 months of her life. The ones who held her, fed her, and soothed her cries before I could. We were reunited with the nurse who cared for her in the orphanage when she was sick. And we were reunited with several other families who had adopted children from the same orphanage, some of whom we were already blessed to know, and some that we hadn’t yet met. My sweet girl has no memory of any of these people; she was only 2 years old when we flew out of her home country. But I do. I remember how they loved her. I remember how they told me what my daughter does and does not like, and how they encouraged me when I felt inadequate.
There is something stunningly powerful about connecting with those individuals who cared for your child when you weren’t on the scene yet. And there is something stunningly powerful about connecting with other mamas who are raising kiddos like yours. Those who tread on the same red dirt and tore up the same red tape that I did seem to recognize my heart in a way that most cannot. This is no small thing.
Similarly, my daughter was able to forge true friendships with other kids and teenagers who once lived in the same house that she did. Many of them actually lived in the home at the same time. In some ways, it was as though these children had known each other forever…talking, laughing, and singing like old friends. Still, my sweet girl gently reminded me that meeting so many different people she was “supposed” to know was overwhelming, and we retreated on our own once or twice. Even several years into this adoption journey, I still forget that certain things or people or events can be deeply healing one minute, and overwhelming and trauma-triggering the next. It’s a delicate dance that we do.
Now with summer entirely in our rearview mirror, she says that this reunion was the best thing we did. I’d have to agree. It was every bit as meaningful to me as our biological family reunions, if not more so. It grieves my heart that I cannot answer all of my daughter’s questions about her history, but I will spend my days ensuring that I give her everything that I am able. I can introduce her to those that cared for her from the time she was just a tiny baby, those that watched her learn to crawl and take her first steps. I can (hopefully) give her friends for life with whom she has shared experience. An introvert myself, I often neglect to nurture social connections of many kinds…only one of which is connections with other adoptive families. I won’t make that mistake again.