On my daughter’s fifth birthday, my husband didn’t know it but he exposed an open wound when he thoughtfully said, “every April 2 must be the toughest for her.” It really got me thinking about her birth mom, pondering and aching for her loss. I’m not sure why now and not earlier, but the pain of it all hit me harder than I’d expected.
I mean I’ve always thought about her birth mom on some level, wondering where Maddie gets her dimples, her laugh, her sweetness and all of her beautiful attributes. But this year, maybe because I’m able to more clearly see my daughter for the person she’s become and going to be, my heart sank for this woman and the difficult decision she had to make five years ago.
Every year we celebrate our daughter’s life and look forward to all of the wonderful things ahead, her birth mom is probably reliving the day she gave her up. There has to be enormous regret and sadness about the path she didn’t take and the person, a part of her, she never got to know. I’m not judging her. I’m incredibly grateful to this woman I’ll probably never know for allowing me the privilege of being Maddie’s mom. If not for this woman, my life would certainly be less fulfilling, less rewarding and very different.
As I sort through my own feelings and sensitivities around the birth mom, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to message the loss of this special person to my daughter – also a sensitive and inquisitive person. In truth, I think I buried my feelings for the birth mom because all of my focus has been on Maddie. How to protect her feelings. How to say it without upsetting her. I’ve been contemplating this since the beginning, with every adoption book read, every question asked, and every few months when I notice something about my child that makes me want to speak up. I’ve kind of obsessed about when to tell her, where to tell her and how to tell her. This conversation makes the birds and bees talk seem easy. I’ve read many a blog, book and advice column available on this milestone conversation; and what I’ve decided is that while I might use some of the information, I’m going to tailor the conversation to Maddie and speak from my heart.
I’m going to pull out her adoption photos and tell her our story, which we’ve told before, and then build the conversation around my daughter’s beautiful face and talents. Wonder where your smile, hair and eyes come from? Your birth parents. Wonder where you get your athleticism and creativity from? Your birth parents. Rather than focusing on what I don’t know, which is just about everything, I’d rather focus on what I do know. That Maddie is who she is thanks to her birth parents and us – her family. Although made by her birth parents, we are always going to be her parents. I’m sure there will be more questions I’m not anticipating, but I’m hoping this is the right way to start the conversation.
I’ve read incredible stories of how adoptive parents have chosen to honor their children’s birth moms through letters, drawings and other ways. I’ll let Maddie choose her own personal way when she’s ready; but for me, the best way I know to say thanks is through a letter, one she may never receive but that’s heartfelt.
"Thank you for choosing to bring Maddie into this world when it wasn’t the easiest or most selfish choice you could have made as a young, single woman of 25. Thank you for taking her to the Yemet baby house in Aktobe, Kazakhstan, where we became family for the first time. Thanks for sharing a Kazakh heritage of warmth, intelligence and determination with us. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to be the parents of a kind, charming, friendly, inspiring, creative, beautiful, athletic and fiercely intelligent girl who has brought us nothing but love and happiness over the years. We love Maddie more than I could ever express in words, and you should know that she’s an incredible daughter, sister, friend and person thanks in part to you."
--Melanie Hill, adoptive mom to two Kazakh beauties