The consideration of “birth parents” is shared by all of us in the adoption arena, even if we never have the opportunity meet those individuals who gave life to our children. As adoptive parents, we have all been asked the same question: “How will you present the birth parents to your child?” Most of us probably learned that the appropriate answer was something along the lines of: “It isn’t that your birth mother didn’t want you … she was just unable to parent ANY children at that time.”– or something like that. This answer, I’m told, is even acceptable for a child– like my 10-year-old son– who was adopted at an older age, after having spent a portion of his or her life with a birth parent.

The birth parent concept has always been this far-off thing to me … A name on a piece of paper tied to hideous acts committed against my child; acts that scarred him deeply and make me shudder at the thought. I guess maybe I didn’t think of the birth mom really as human … just an act, an event– something to be recovered from. It wasn’t until I got a picture of her, along with some brief, updated information about her life, that suddenly there was a face to go with the name. There was a PERSON that has baby pictures of my son and memories of him that I can never have. And this person has emotions. And remorse. And hope. And I’m once again humbled by this realization: every one of us– at any given time– is treading a thin line between absolute glory and total destruction. I am no better than she … I’ve simply taken a different path, knowing all the while that I am nothing without Christ.

I am struck by the parallels between this woman, this child, and myself. At the time that she was 16 years old and giving birth to my son, I was 19 and pregnant, and living with a totally charming alcoholic who was nice to everyone in this world except me.

As my son was drawing his first breath, I was wracked with confusion about what my future held. My daughter’s father was threatening to leave me if I didn’t get an abortion (I didn’t and neither did he).

And while my son was an infant and toddler living in a world that was falling apart, I was white-knuckling it every day, just trying to hold everything together. And about the same time she walked out of my son’s life, I took my little girls by the hand and walked out too … knowing all the while that a part of them would always hate me for leaving their father, but that I would hate myself worse if I didn’t. She says she walked away so he could have a life. I say I walked away so that my girls could have a life too.

Years have passed and I’ve married the love of my life. My girls are sweet, happy people; the type of kids that kiss puppies on the mouth and braid my hair while I’m watching TV. The type that leave little presents on their step-dad’s pillow and hide under the bed until he opens them … and have a compassion for others that knows no end. Things are good for us. In fact, they’ve been so good for so long that I think sometimes I forget what it’s like to have things bad. In the meanwhile, our son has risen from this shell he was in as a little child; a shell none of the “experts” thought he’d ever escape from. He chooses to be joyful … the type of kid that doesn’t worry much about yesterday or tomorrow. He enjoys the moment, and each day brings him closer to us.

But in the midst of our happiness, I can’t help but wonder what SHE has been doing all these years. And I realize that I can’t hate her. That perhaps if things had been a little different, she might have walked in my shoes. And– but for the grace of God– I could’ve been walking in hers.

And so, I have only hope for her. I hope she’s had healing. I hope she’s had a shoulder to cry on. I hope she’s had days of sunshine and reasons to smile. I hope she knows Jesus. I hope she has peace. I don’t know if I’ll ever meet her, and if I did, I don’t know what I’d say. Perhaps she someday will walk back into my son’s life, in a different way than before. Perhaps she’ll just be an image to him, not quite real, yet one that I know lives and breathes. One that’s made mistakes and surely paid a price bigger than I could bear. I don’t know what will happen … but whatever happens, I hope that I will handle it with grace. My son needs that.