Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meeting Birth-Mom - My Joy, Her Pain, Pt. 1

Not everyone can or chooses to meet the birth parents of their adoptive children. Each situation is so different. I have been privileged to meet at least one of each of each of our children's birth parents. The following is a flash from the past. It's something I wrote immediately following my first visit, nearly two or two-and-a-half years ago, with the birth-mom of my youngest three girls when they were still in foster care. I will call her Brittany.

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When Shawn and I first began our journey towards adoption, our thoughts were only about the children. We wanted to help them, care for them, give them a family to love them. We never thought for a minute about the birth-parents connected to those children.

On that happy, and somewhat chaotic, day when Nikki, Alyssa, and Maya danced through our doorway, our hearts soared. Our prayers and efforts were coming to fruition. We felt Heaven’s smile. Never did we think that somewhere a birth-mother was broken.

The bonds of love began to grow, knitting heart to heart. These were not our children by flesh and blood, but they were ours nonetheless. We helped them where they were behind. We rejoiced with them when they triumphed. We loved them. Tighter and tighter those bonds grew and our joy knew no bounds. Never did we dream that somewhere a birth-mother was weeping.

Once each week our happy schedule was interrupted when we drove to the social services department so the girls could visit that mother. For me it was merely a building where I dropped off the kids and then picked them up an hour-and-a-half later. It was a chore that had to be done. Little did I know that for their birth-mother it was the one bright spot in her week.

Nikki asks a lot of questions. “What’s going to happen to my birth-mom?” was one she asked at bedtime one night after I had once again explained why she could no longer live with her birth-mom. Nikki’s eyes searched my face in the deepening shadows. I was silent. I didn’t know how to answer that question. I breathed a prayer Heavenward. But suddenly Nikki brightened. “I know,” she grinned. “I’ll get to live with her in Heaven!” With that she kissed me good-night and flopped her head down on her pillow. She had her answer and she was content.

Troubled, I rose to leave her bedroom, quietly closing the door behind me. My mind was filled with my own questions. From the little I knew about Brittany, the girls’ birth-mom, she did not sound like one who even wanted to go to Heaven! Her behaviors, her choices and subsequent consequences, reflected that, I thought rather judgmentally. She and I have lived our lives a hundred lifetimes apart. Our lifestyles differ wildly. Our social groups would never mix. We are polar opposites. And yet, I began to feel a tug at my heart, there are similarities too.

In the middle of our two vastly different worlds stand three beautiful girls who were beginning to pull us together. We are, in fact, two mothers who deeply love these girls; two hearts fearing the unfathomable pain of losing our children; two daughters of the same Heavenly Father; two sinners in need of a Savior's love, forgiveness, and mercy.

After a little while, I knew what God was asking me to do. I so wanted to be their only mother, to forget they ever had a birth-mom. But God needed me to push my selfishness aside and offer the gift of salvation to the birth-mother of my little girls. For their sakes, I needed to make sure she knew about Jesus. I emailed the social worker and requested to meet Brittany.

It is not required for potential adoptive parents to meet the birth-parents. Most adoptive parents never do. (This was the first time our social worker had ever scheduled a meeting like this.) But I live on both sides of the adoptive world. My own mother was raised by a foster family. I maintain relationships with my biological family and my foster family and believe myself to be richer for it. Could I deny that privilege to my daughters? Could I be so selfish as to keep them to myself and simply “forget” about the woman who gave birth to them? Is this whole process just about Shawn and me getting kids or is this the way God is reaching down to touch the life of one of His lost lambs?

I didn’t sleep well the night before my meeting with Brittany. In the morning I tried to concentrate on getting odd tasks accomplished. I didn’t do very well. My mind was whirling. My stomach was in knots. Why was I so nervous?

Dropping off the girls was a familiar enough routine. That eased some of my anxiety. But the butterflies continued to multiply in my stomach. “Please, God,” I pleaded, “tell me what I should say.”

The social worker led me down a long hallway to the conference room. I chose a chair facing the door and waited for Brittany to come. Waiting is torture and during that time more questions filled my mind. Would she hate me? Why was I doing this? Why didn't I just take the easier road? What would I say to her? I couldn't very well say, "I love your kids and don't want you to get them back," (Even though it was really how I felt.) The clock on the wall tick-tocked the long minutes away. I rapidly fired off more anxious prayers Heavenward. "God, I need You here!" I breathed.

And then, she was there and she looked just as nervous as I felt. I stood to greet her not knowing whether I should hug her or shake her hand. I gingerly offered my hand. “Can I hug you?” she asked. I embraced her and the tears of pent up emotions spilled out. Heart to heart, mother to mother, each understanding what the other was feeling and enduring, each offering comfort, we stood there for a long while.

“Thank you so much for taking care of my girls,” Brittany began when we finally sat down. She wiped away tears as she continued, “I know they are happy with you. You are giving them what I never could. I can barely take care of myself! I can’t offer them anything. But the thought of never seeing them again…” Her voice trailed off as the tears once more began to flow.

“Brittany,” My voice trembled a little as I spoke, but God gave me the words. “I want you to know that we love your girls very much. But you are a part of them and that makes you very special to us also. We really want you to do well. We want to continue contact with you because we feel it would be best for the girls. And we really want what’s best for them.”

After some more discussion and story swapping about the girls’ personalities and traits of character, the social worker asked if it would be okay for the girls to come in. We agreed and soon the sound of little feet and children’s laughter was heard approaching the door. In burst three bright-eyed girls. The two older girls, Nikki and Alyssa, looked a little confused at seeing their two mommies in the same room, like they weren’t sure who to go to. Maya immediately made her way straight to me, well, as soon as she could get around the long conference table and all the chairs. Alyssa, focused her eyes on me, then slowly sidled up to Brittany and sat in her lap. Nikki kind of stood awkwardly between us for a little bit. Her loyalty to both mothers was evident. Finally, she snuggled into my lap next to Maya. We all chatted happily together for a little bit, the social worker got us all together for a group picture, and then it was time to leave.

It was a long and emotionally draining day, but I am thankful. Brittany kept saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I believe that to be true. When I think back to the way it worked out that we got this particular set of kids, I know that God had this day in mind. His ways are higher than my ways and He knows what is best – always.

Someday soon, when we get to Heaven, I think Nikki will find her mansion right between Brittany’s and mine. And she will be perfectly happy with the arrangement. I will too.

To be continued...