He needed to be changed, but I wasn’t ready to let go of him so I quickly swapped his diaper while he lay in my lap. His light blue sweat suit was just a little too oversized for his tiny body and the black silk hair on his head stood straight up. He was perfect. He was beautiful. And he had no idea he was the reason for so many tears.
“How am I going to tell her?” I kept asking myself, wondering how I was going to explain to my daughter that he was no longer ours. The brother we had promised her couldn’t come home with us and once again we were a family of three.
We had known this was a very real possibility before we even began our adoption journey, but the knowledge of potential pain never quite prepares you for the pain itself.
“I love you,” I whispered into his little ear. “I have to give you back, Baby. You’re not mine.” Choking back the sobs and fighting the urge to scream, I handed our precious cargo over to the social worker. My husband, Jay, slowly picked up the empty carseat and the two of us left the building.
There are a few moments after your heart breaks but before the sadness settles in where your mind tries to process the events around you. As Jay and I climbed into the car I was struck by the similarities between that moment and ten days before. Except that this time, we were on the other side.
Ten days prior we were filled with anticipation and joy and excitement.
“Hello you,” I whispered to him when his mother handed him over to me. I started to inspect all his unfamiliar features. He wasn’t the plump, pink, bald baby I had handed to me the first time I became a mother. This time I was falling in love with caramel skin and black hair. While this little person did not come from my body, I still shook with tears and exhaustion and absolute joy when I clutched him in my arms. There is a ‘feeling’ that comes when you know you are someone’s mom; the pride of having the lifelong occupation of adoration and advocacy sweeps over you. His little body was swaddled in my lap as my husband and I gazed down at our new son, Albi. Albi was the name she had given him which meant ‘my heart’ - a name so perfect for a child who already held the love of so many people.
“She already loves him so much,” his birth mother said to the social worker. I reached over and grabbed her hand. “Yes,” was all I managed to get out. We all sat in silence, wiping away dripping tears and celebrated the beautiful child before us.
Now, while this is a true depiction of what happened in that moment, make no mistake, adoption tales are much more than fluffy stories about couples receiving a desperately desired child.
For in order for one to receive, another must give.
While my husband and I sat there in bliss, prepared to smother the world with our love, another woman sat there wondering how she was going to pick up the pieces of her broken heart. It would be dishonest of me if I didn’t admit I was acutely aware of this. Worse than that - I was terrified of her love for his baby.
After five years of wanting, trying and aching for a child - Jay and I knew someone was missing. A life was meant to join our team and after processing the loss of the babies my body couldn’t hold onto, we knew the Captain of our little team would have to come from someone else. We were game to deeply love another soul and felt so blessed adoption was going to give us that opportunity.
But I couldn’t put away the memories of the ‘feels’ that came with being pregnant with my daughter. The deep, intense love that grew for her as the days passed with her in my belly were the same intense feelings Albi’s birth mother would have felt while she carried him.
I mean, he grew under her heart. That leaves a mark.
So we were not entirely surprised when we received a message on our final day of the revocation period that our fears were confirmed: her love for him was too strong, the hole was too big, the need too much.
Yes, there were great similarities between that day and ten days prior. Because amongst the heartache and sadness, there was also anticipation and joy and excitement - and while it wasn’t us who were able to experience those emotions this time, we were able to find a small piece of peace in the knowledge that our Albi, our heart, would spend his life deeply loved.
The ride back to town was silent, save for the occasional sob and once we entered our home I fell into a very dark hole.
But this isn’t the end of our story.
You see, only 24 hours later our phone rang again and we were asked to step back into our Albi’s life. There was no decision to be made, our hearts had made it for us before he was even born.
Sitting in the little apartment Albi’s birth mother lived in, my life changed forever. Not only because I was gifted with a child I already loved, but because of the lesson I walked away with.
“I am a good mother,” she said to me tearfully, her familiar brown eyes piercing my heart. “I love him and I want him - but I can’t give him the same things you can.” If love was enough, she said, then she would be enough too.
It was on that day I experienced the complete ferocity of a mother’s love. Because she grew a person under her heart and that leaves a mark - and that mark, her mark, would be a scar as she let me raise her son. I vowed in that moment that my lifelong occupation of adoration and advocacy would not only be for him, but also for her - a woman who loved my son so profoundly that she let me call him ‘my son’.
Indeed, sitting in the little apartment Albi’s birth mother lived in, my life changed forever. For I learned one of life’s hardest truths: that in order for one to receive, another must give. *** For all Birth Mother’s, you are loved and appreciated beyond words. Happy Birth Mother’s Day