An Adoption Social Worker's Reflections on World Adoption Day

5:51 PMHeather

I remember being a little girl and how I loved my baby dolls. I remember carrying them all around the house, particularly my favorite doll named Chrissy. Chrissy had long auburn hair that you could make shorter by pulling a string. She was not a little baby doll, but she was made to resemble a chubby little toddler. She had big blue eyes, and she was a constant companion. I remember dressing her in my actual baby clothes, like the little delicate pink dress with the smocking and lace trim, and I remember pretending she was for real and I was an actual Mommy. 

I can never recall a time when I didn’t want to be a Mommy. I assumed a day of marital bliss and actual babies in my arms who would need me and love me and listen to me and follow me and hug me and kiss me. 

I remember changing my major in college from entrepreneurship to social work. I remember feeling the call to help other people and do something giving and life-giving with my life, just as my father had done with his life. This decision quickly led to the goal of working in the field of adoption. 

I remember my first internship with an adoption agency. I remember meeting young teens and young women who suddenly found themselves facing motherhood long before they were anticipating it and ready for it. 

Such a juxtaposition to the eager, hurting potential adoptive parents with rooms waiting to become nurseries, arms waiting to be filled, and love waiting to be shared.

I remember that those adoptive mothers were once little girls whose arms were full of baby dolls and whose hearts were full of dreams and assumptions that they, too, would naturally morph into marriage and motherhood. 

I remember the feeling at every single adoptive placement during my career in domestic adoption. Every time when a brave, courageous young woman cried long silent tears as they signed their relinquishment papers. I would sit, with notary stamp in hand, ready to bear witness to their heartbreaking and permanent and irrevocable relinquishment of parental rights. The legal documents included a page where they wrote, in their own words, why they felt making an adoption plan was in the best interest of the child they had conceived and carried and nurtured for nine months. The child they held, after delivery, looking with love and longing at the little face they knew they would not raise. 

I would sit, silently praying for composure, as I would remember.

I would remember my birth grandmother, beautiful and young and vibrant, who died from polio when my father was six. I would remember my birth great-aunt who then became the mother. I would remember that transfer of motherhood… that transaction forced by circumstances… every time I witnessed those more deliberate transfers of parenting.

I would sit, watching the brave birth mothers, feeling the cruelty of the fact that one mother’s loss would become another’s mother gain. These adoptions. These babies. Whose future was secured and birthed through the pain of intentionally choosing grief and heartache.

I would place my notary stamp and sign my name and date the documents and I would remember.

I would remember the anxious parents, just a few rooms away. Whose very dreams and future and hopes were tied up in the decision of someone unable to parent for various reasons, yet possessing a wisdom to make a plan for their child’s well-being. I would remember the parents who waited, with bated breath and great angst, with the full knowledge that the birth mother they had come to know and respect and love and admire was facing her greatest loss, from which would come their greatest reward.

I remember the words and encouragement and sometimes the hugs that I would offer to the birth mothers. I remember how my heart clenched every time, as the birth mothers would walk away, often still unsteady from the pain of child birth, with shoulders sagging under the weight of their emotions, and with a determination that put one foot in front of another.

I remember the feeling of great conflict, as I would then enter the room to inform the adoptive parents. 

It is done. This child is yours.

I remember standing in the placement room, with camera in hand, to capture the moment. To capture that moment, when frozen in time, one mother full of love and determination and reeling from loss would place her most precious of treasures into the arms of another mother—also full of love and determination and often guilt over the pain of the birth mother.

I remember all those moments of conflict.

I remember how the delicate newborn, with their angelic baby bath smells and balled up little fists, bore the burden of connection between two families. The ones so fresh and new and wonderful, who were wrapped in the love of two mothers, united by purpose and brought together by adoption.

Two mothers with an equal love for the very same child who was born from one mother’s womb and born into another’s mother’s heart.

I remember how self-conscious I felt, bearing witness to this most intimate of moments. When one mother says good-bye and another says hello.

I remember the tears shed by both parties, as they held tightly to one another, bound forever by the cherished little one that they could both claim as their own. 

I remember every one of those moments. I remember the awkwardness to find words. I remember how uncomfortable each person felt, full of sensitivity and concern for the other side of the equation. The adoptive families, full of joy and wonder and excitement, yet restraining themselves for the sake of the grief right in front of them.

I remember the grief of the birth parents, who found consolation in the joy that they knew was felt because of their selflessness.

I remember.

I remember bearing witness to this most strange and profound and sacred of moments when loss and grief and heartache and uncertainty morphed into joy and hope and dreams fulfilled.

I remember that this is the way of God.

I remember that this is a picture. That these moments and memories all point to another time.

When one side felt loss and grief and anguish and pain and heartache and rejection.

So that the other side could feel hope and joy and acceptance and belonging.

I remember these mothers. These birth mothers and these adoptive mothers.

And I remember that they all, every single one of them, point to a Father.

Who gave all that he had and who endured the greatest loss in order to achieve the richest gain.

When life is full of pain and suffering and longings unfulfilled, I must remember.

I must remember that the mysterious ways of the Father often includes the pain before it can include the reward.

I must remember that mourning leads to dancing. That ashes lead to beauty. That the moments when heaven most clearly touches earth are those intersections of loss and gain.

For surely they often come in tandem. Taunting each other in a great tension that feels like too much to bear.

I must remember well the lessons learned from adoption.

I must remember both sides.

I must remember that emptiness leads to being filled.

And giving all you have leads to the greatest gain you can imagine.

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