Why do the most amazing conversations with my kids happen in the car? I swear. They do.
About two months ago, I was riding with my kids and Alivea started asking me questions about her birth parents.
Mommy, do you know anything about my birth father?
No, not much, baby girl. I know he is African American. That’s all I know.
That is all I know. It’s sad. These conversations are sad and hard and I have this strange mix of feelings every time we head down this path. My first thought is that I am going to vomit and my second thought is one of gratefulness. I am so glad that my daughter feels safe and knows that she can ask me these hard questions. She has a lot of questions.
Mommy, do you know anything about my birth mother?
Yes, sweetheart, I know that she loved to sing and dance. I know that she loved to do hair.
That is about the extent of what I know about her birth mother. I literally have an 8×11 sheet of paper with blanks like you would fill out on the first day of school. This sheet of paper is all I have of my daughter’s birth mother, her first mother. It’s all I have of the woman that carried her for nine months. It’s all we have.
I could tell Alivea was struggling with this conversation and what I had told her. She started crying in the back seat. It was a hard cry. I asked her if she was okay and she said through her tears
“Mommy, those are all the things I like. I’m thinking I must have gotten that from her.”
And I melted into my seat. We cried and I reassured her that yes, she probably did get those things from her birth mother.
I was keenly aware in that moment of just how strange this adopted life is. I felt like I was watching all of this from above my car or something. I had this sense that if Alivea was my biological daughter I would be jealous that she had this affection for another woman, for another mother. But it’s not like that at all.
Alivea is my daughter. Through and through. There is no denying that or taking that away. There is no undoing it or covering it up. Alivea is also A’s daughter. Through and through. There is no denying that or taking that away. There is no undoing it or covering it up. And I wouldn’t want to either.
This woman. This woman I have never met gave me the greatest gift in the world. I’ve actually started to grieve for A. I know that she made her choice and she didn’t make it lightly but I also know that her choice had consequences. And not just consequences for Alivea. I live with those everyday. I’m suddenly more aware, as Alivea gets older, of the consequences for A.
The other night Alivea sang in a talent show at church. She sang a portion of Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” She’s never sang a solo before in front of such a large group of people. When it was almost her turn, I was watching her on the front row and she was shaking and I knew she was crying. I made my way up to the front row and tried to make her feel better. She was so scared.
I ended up having to go with Alivea up on the stage and hold her hand through her entire performance. And I cried like a baby through the whole stinkin’ thing. Because I’m a baby and because my baby was singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and because I could feel the love.
I was so proud of my daughter. She did something brave and scary. She did it even though she was scared. She did it even through tears and uncertainty. And I cried myself to sleep that night. I cried myself to sleep thinking of the woman, who gave Alivea life, and yet who is missing all of her life.
I cried because she has not seen the way this little girl carries her baby brother around on her back.
I cried because she has not listened to Alivea and Mia giggle at the silliest things at 10:00 at night when they are supposed to be sleeping.
I cried because she missed Alivea’s performance in the Nutcracker last year.
I cried because she hasn’t been here for the skinned knees and learning to ride a bike.
I cried because she missed hearing Alivea gasp when she saw the Statue of Liberty.
These are just a few of the things she’s missed. She will miss so much more.
I cried because she is missing out on knowing one of the coolest kids on the planet. She is missing out. But with that truth also comes the truth that if she was here, I wouldn’t be. If she was here, my husband and I wouldn’t get to see and experience all of these things. That is one of the hard truths of adoption. Our joy and our love and our adventure and our family- all of those things- are because of brokenness and heartache and pain. We carry those with us everyday.
My husband and I have the best of A. We live with the best of her everyday in the form of this little girl and I have to think that almost 11 years ago when A was filling out this paper, when she was writing down that she loves to sing and dance and that she loves doing hair, that she was probably wondering if her little girl would love those things too. She was probably thinking about all of the things she was going to miss. She had to be aware that the choice she was making was a hard one and would continue to be a hard one for years to come. Every birthday, every holiday, every first day of school. She knew she would miss those. And yet she did it anyway. Scared and trusting, she did it anyway.
We are forever grateful.