All parents say this, but most start at age zero. We started at 18 months. I try to be grateful for what we DID get – her first words, her first day of school, her first “I love you mommy!”, but sometimes, like on her birthday, I just feel pissed that I didn’t get all of those other firsts that happened before we met her, and I didn’t get the mother of all firsts – her actual birth.
Bio and some very fortunate adoptive parents often take their child’s birthday as a time to reflect on their pregnancy and the day their child was born. They remember how they felt with a human life growing inside of them or the birth mother they met prior to their child’s birth, how they agonized through labour and how that torture changed to delight the minute they saw their newborn child for the first time. Not me. I don’t have any of those memories. Oh, I remember and will forever, the day I first saw my daughter, don’t misunderstand me. But on her BIRTHday, I often wish that I had some little thing to share with her about her actual birth, some small detail, or lots of small details, that make it her special day to mark her entry into this world. The story of that supremely unique moment when she first joined the universe is not ours to fondly reflect on, nor share with her. At some point (perhaps even already) her birthday will also be a time for my daughter to reflect on her own losses, the holes in her story about the day she was born – her missing birth mother and father, the lack of details of her actual birth. It will be hard for her and I am not entirely sure there will be anything we can do to help her with that. I tried to initiate a conversation with her tonight about her birth mother, I asked if she thought her birth mother was thinking of her because of her birthday. She chatted about whether I thought her birth mother was in heaven or hell (not sure why she has assumed her birth mother is dead, as we don’t know that information , so I reminded her so). She then told me she prays that her birth mother is safe (heart melt) and also prays that her birth mother doesn’t get itchy skin (we have a strong focus on keeping Baby Girl’s skin moisturized to avoid the itching that drives her crazy if we don’t). Then she said she didn’t want to talk about her birth mother any further. I questioned her extensively as to why, and finally got her to share that she was scared that her birth mother might one day return and try to take her away from her family.
Seriously heavy birthday talk that I doubt bio parents have on their kids’ birthday eve. I reassured her up and down and all around that it was not possible for her to be taken from our family by ANYONE, not even her birth mother, but who knows if I actually calmed her fear of that. I just ended up feeling – what else? – guilty, that I had stirred fears and sad ideas in her head.
So, on your birthday week, my darling Baby Girl (who is not really a “baby” anymore, as you often remind me) I will celebrate YOU and try to ignore those missing bits of your history. I will thank God and the universe for bringing you into my life and making me a mother and giving me an education in character that no school or textbook ever could. I will celebrate your triumphs – overcoming adversity at such a young age, your ability to still laugh, smile and have fun after the trauma you have endured. I will celebrate your tenacious spirit of love and hope and your never-ending quest to make people thoroughly entertained by you. I will celebrate your brilliance, despite the odds that say that children with your harsh beginnings don’t often develop to their full potential. I will celebrate your health, despite your lack of a start in life that would create a foundation for good health. I will celebrate your strength of character (even when that same strength of character is causing temper tantrums in the middle of SuperStore) because I’ll take a girl with guts and determination and independence ANY day over a shrinking violet wallflower. I will celebrate your kindness, demonstrated in so many ways but especially in your frequent offers to share ANYTHING you have with ANYONE. I will celebrate your curiosity, even on question #268 of the day when it’s only 9:15am, because I know that this is part of what makes you so intelligent. I will celebrate your love of music, singing, dancing and your general joy of life, because you so often put a smile on my face when you sing along with all the words and bop your head to the latest Top 40 song on the radio, when I have never even heard the song before. I will celebrate what a privilege it is for me to even know you, let alone be your mother.
Finally, I WILL celebrate your birth itself, as hard as that is and despite my absence at that momentous occasion, because without that birth, I would not be the luckiest mamma in the universe.
My amazing daughter, at age 5 and forever more, you are my sunshine, my hope, my joy, my thunder, my rainbow, my destiny. Love just seems too inadequate to describe my emotions. I wish for you a lifetime of birthdays that celebrate the incredible gift to life that you are.
Happy Birthday MY Baby forever. I love you to infinity and back again. xoxo