Ten tiny fingers.
Ten kissable toes.
And wide eyes that drank in every detail of our moments together….like she knew they were few.
Fourteen years ago today my first daughter was born. Immediately she was whisked across the room to be cleaned, weighed and poked and prodded (what a welcome, huh?). And the nurses, doctor and others huddled around me. With medical complications the few moments after Ashlynn’s (the name I gave her at birth and what we will use here to protect her family’s privacy) birth were confusing and we were far apart….how much of our life would go on to be, I suppose.
When I finally held the sweet-smelling little bundle my heart was shattered into a million pieces. Here she was, this little creature who had done acrobatics in my belly, whose hiccups kept me awake at night, who found comfort in my heart beat. And she wasn’t mine.
Her parents waited anxiously in the hallway. The arms she would run to for love and comfort were aching to hold her.
I wanted to mean something to her. To be special to her, but in those moments I knew our intimate connection was already broken. I could feel her slipping away.
Somewhere in the middle of the night it seemed everyone in the hospital was busy or asleep except Ashlynn and I. I laid in bed with her nestled in my arms. I counted her fingers. I kissed her toes. And I told her all the things I’d never have a chance to say….I whispered “I love you” over and over again. Her brown eyes seemed to stare straight into my soul…like she was trying to memorize me as much as I was her.
And for just a moment I began to think of myself as her mother. What it would be rock her in our home. To kiss boo-boos, braid her hair, and dance together. I imagined hearing the word mommy and my arms forever full of the first blessing God placed in my womb. Clinging to her in the quiet room, I wanted it. I could do it. I would be her mother.
The clang of the door and the nurse coming in to check on us. Snapped me back to the reality of where we were and all that I was about to lose. Quick to help, the nurse took her so that I could sleep and with her she carried my dreams of motherhood.
Ashlynn was adopted by an amazing couple. Her parents are the people God chose for her. And they have been gracious to allow me a glimpse into their world, her world.
A few weeks ago I sat breathless in the driveway.
Hardly able to move I stared at the paper in my hand. Aware of every curve in her handwriting, every indent left by her pen. I drank in every detail before I began to read the letter.
She is not my child this young woman straining against childhood reaching for adulthood.
We once shared blood, breath, heart beats, time and space. And yet this is our first communication.
Oh the rich and glorious blessings of open adoption.
From 3000 miles away her blue ink on white page writes straight to my heart. Her words. Her personality. Her.
And in that moment something healed a little in me.
For years, um 14 years to be exact, I have lived with a fear that this child I gave up would hate me. Would have no use for me. Would not want to know me.
This hole in my heart…the one shaped like her…would gape open for my whole life.
Much of open adoption is painful, or at the very least uncomfortable, for me. Glimpses of a bond I gave up. Reminders of mistakes and scars. Questions. Raw emotions wrapped up in precarious relationships…where hope, fear, hurt, and loss meet joy, love, and grace in a whirling funnel cloud of life.
When I chose open adoption I had no idea what it would mean to live on the outside of my child’s life. I saw only the benefits of the openness — access to medical questions and histories, truth about decisions and placement, knowing that the child was well and happy. And those are huge, amazing, life-changing benefits and when phone calls start with statements like, “I’m filling out medical forms. Are you ready?” I chuckle at the awesomeness of God and the wonder that is my life.
But yet, being a birthmother (for me) is much like that moment when the nurse carried that baby out of my hospital room. A hollow empty space and time where, love wants to live but has nothing to cling to. Where memories mix with loss.
The what ifs and some days delight me and scare me. Will I ever hold her? Know her? Will she ever let me be part of her life? Will I forever feel this ache of loss and love?
There in the driveway, letter in hand, for a moment the ached eased just a little. This child once mine reached out and I became a blubbering mess of a woman. This moment of grace took my breath away.
Today, as I celebrate her birthday. I pray for her. Prayers of strength, courage, love and joy. Of faith and grace and thanks. And I revel in the memories of the moment I got to be her mother.
Happy Birthday Baby Girl!