“Grief is like glitter. You can throw a handful of it into the air, but when you try to clean it up, you’ll never get it all. Even long after the event you will find glitter tucked into corners, it will always be there- somewhere.” – Author Unknown
Christmas day was joyful, in fact, this is the first holiday season in a long time where I have been in high spirits. About 6 months ago, I started dating someone for the first time in almost 8 years, I have great communication going with my kids through my open adoption plan, I’m thriving in this season of life, and I am working toward some pretty awesome goals. All seems to be going well. But despite how it all seems, there are moments when everything gets really quiet, and I seem to drift off somewhere only to find myself teary-eyed and convincing myself I need to tuck it back away and move forward.
Christmas Day, I had been spending time downstairs with my family. My sister, parents, brother-in-law, and son were all hanging out together, I was cooking a late breakfast for us all, and we had just finished unwrapping gifts around the tree. Once we ate and everyone decided to break away for a nap after watching The Santa Clause, I found myself pausing as I laid in my bed. All of the sudden, I was in tears. I knew that things could look very different if I had made a different choice. I knew I was missing out on my daughter’s Christmas morning every year for the last 11 years. I also know that despite my very best efforts to be active in her life, she may never understand or agree with what I did. The what-ifs and scary could-be’s circle me as I wallow in my grief.
I miss her. I don’t get to watch her grow up like I get to with my son. My son was adopted by my parents, so while it’s also an open adoption plan, it looks drastically different than my open adoption plan with my daughter and her mom. Both have their pros and cons, but the biggest con is that I miss so much, I miss her SO MUCH. We just moved to a fantastic stage of life where I get to text her. I recently got to take her and my son to a concert. While we were there doing amazingly normal mother-kid things, she gave me her cell phone number. Her mom and I have a great relationship and through the years we have both shown one another respect and trust. When my daughter gave me her cell phone number, I was ecstatic. But a part of me was afraid too.
Would her mom let me text her? Would she be upset that I had her number? Despite the amazing relationship I have with her, my fears and anxiety are still very prevalent. I think they’ll always linger because it’s terrifying knowing that this relationship I have with my daughter is simply an option, it’s not a guarantee. It’s not like her mom would ever one day choose to forbid me to have a relationship with her; but, in the back of my mind, I will always know that I am not guaranteed anything. That’s scary. Our open adoption works because we love one another, and we intentionally choose to prioritize our relationship.
In case you were wondering, my daughter’s mom was not upset that I had her number and after I apologized for not telling her right away and asked permission to continue texting her, she let me know that she was glad we had another way to connect. I’m incredibly blessed that her mom understands as much as she does about birth moms, grief, and the power of open adoption. She believes, just like I do, that it makes all of our lives greater.
On Christmas Day, after my moment of tears, I quickly had to hype myself back up and put the grief away. That glimmer of dust needed to be acknowledged, but I had to continue on with my day as a functioning human being. I chose to text my daughter “Merry Christmas! I love you bunches! Did you get some fun things for Christmas?” and then went on with my day. Nighttime fell and I still had not heard back from her. There it was again: that pause, that worry, that wonder, that glitter of grief. While she did not text me back until I had asked her mom about it a few days later, the point is not that she didn’t answer. She’s a preteen with her own life and she was probably just busy with her Christmas festivities. Also, it’s not my kids’ responsibility to worry about how anything they do affects me.
The point is to share that, even many years after birth mothers place a child for adoption, they can still find grief sprinkled around in the most unexpected places. And we find it where we expect it too. We face a lifetime of grief because healing is not linear and despite what you may have heard, adoption is really hard. There are days when everything is groovy, and I am overwhelmed with joy because my kids are really phenomenal and they are just so much fun to be around. But there are days where a simple text, action, memory, or daily task can cause anxiety or sadness.
I heard someone once say how resilient birth mothers are. Yeah, we are, but is it really fair that we had to be? Is it really fair for anyone to have to be this strong all the time? The reality is, no it’s not fair. But there is hope. There is support. There is a community of birth parents who you can lean on when the glimmer of grief blinds you, or when things just seem a little scary. There are people you can celebrate the highs with, and there are ways to cope with the rest. No matter what your journey looks like post-placement, know that you are not alone.