One of many painful aspects for a child who is adopted after infancy is the lack of baby and childhood photos. Many children who are adopted through foster care don’t have a single photograph of their life before adoption. Often, birth parents aren’t available to share photos with their child’s new family. When birth parents are available, many times they have experienced periods of homelessness or eviction. Even if they had photos at one point, they may not still possess them. In this day and age I tend to think almost every child has a photograph of them somewhere floating around in this world. The photo may have been taken by their old teacher, a former neighbor, the hospital where the child was born. It might just be a grainy old cell phone shot. But somewhere out there most children have a picture. It’s getting your hands on that photograph that is tricky.
My children were adopted through foster care, and like so many other children in similar circumstances, we did not have a single baby picture of them. I knew there were photos out there somewhere. Their birth mom had mentioned she kept pictures in her wallet at a visit once. She had promised to make copies for me to keep for the kids, but it never seemed to pan out. When she moved away I lost hope of getting them from her. I started to wonder if somehow I could get copies from the photographers themselves. I knew of a mom who had adopted a 9 year old through foster care and had been able to track down kindergarten photos from the yearbook photography company at her daughter’s former school. My children weren’t yet school aged, so I focused on trying to find their hospital newborn photos.
My first step was contacting the hospital. This was easy for us because my children’s birth mother had told me the name of the hospital where they were born. Then came the more difficult task of trying to figure out the photography company the hospital used. When I asked a hospital employee in the maternity unit for information, she nastily answered “Well if the child was going to be adopted the hospital probably didn’t take photos!” I decided not to waste time explaining the circumstances and just told her I wanted to try anyways. I had a lot of difficulty finding someone in the hospital who had record of which photography company was being used at the time of my children’s births. I was transferred a lot and most calls were ended with a “we can’t help you.” But I continued to feel certain that someone somewhere could tell me the photography company that was used the years my children were born. I started posting on message boards in our city to see if anyone had delivered a baby around the time my children were born who could check the company name on their photographs. I got the name of a few companies this way, but after calling found out they were not working with the hospital at the time my children were born. I started to lose hope, but still posted on message boards from time to time. I also called the hospital occasionally just to see if the chain of phone transfers could give me any information before ending with another “we can’t help you.”
Finally one day, I got a hit. After several months of searching I got a message from a woman who had been a maternity ward nurse and remembered a partial name.
I googled it right away while at work and found the company. Literally 10 minutes later I was staring at a picture on my computer screen of my newborn daughter. The photography company had asked me a few simple questions (baby’s name, date of birth, hospital) and just like that her pictures were emailed to me. I don’t think there is any way to describe what it was like seeing my daughter as a newborn for the first time. Her perfect baby hands. Her swollen, fuzzy face. She was so beautiful, I wanted to kiss my computer screen. Unfortunately the company who took her pictures was not working at the hospital when my son was born. What I learned from searching out my daughter’s picture is that although some photographers delete their photos after a few months, many photographers keep their photos for years. Somewhere out there in a file cabinet or on a hard drive might possibly be a photo of my newborn son. The search for his newborn photo continues.