I want to tell you a story about heartache, love, compassion and mercy.
Before I get started, however, I have to tell you that it does have a happy ending. In fact, the ending is better than I ever could have imagined it would be. We can’t often imagine the possibility of a happy ending while we are trudging through the challenges of life and adoption! I hope this story might give someone else the hope that they need as they navigate through their own story.
There was a time when I couldn’t even speak his name.
I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and financially. I shed many tears in the quiet moments of the day and even more when I was alone with my thoughts and fears after dark.
Our daughter’s birth father had taken steps to oppose our adoption, and it was ugly.
We weren’t involved directly, thanks to a wonderful attorney, but we received every court document, every transcript, and of course a monthly bill. We listened to the court proceedings when we could and received the first phone call the attorney made when he left the courtroom. I had moments of intense anger and days where I felt completely confused by everything. It felt at times as though I was living in the midst of a crazy nightmare.
At this time I also had an infant to care for and a husband to love, and I was very determined to be the best mother and wife I could. Many worries and frustrations were diffused by a trip to the park, a long walk, or time spent relaxing with my family. I could write an additional article about living happily whilst coping with stress. Simply put: family, service, time, and prayer contributed greatly to my ability to live happily during this time.
(I have to add, at this point, that if this article were being written by our daughter’s birth father and his family, they would likely relate similar feelings and experiences. I have no doubt they felt a great deal of animosity towards us. I’m sure they were hurt and confused as well. I would never want to assume or imply that we were the only ones struggling through this.)
The details of that time, though important to understand, are not the purpose of this article. In fact, it is difficult for me to share them. However, I want you to have an idea of where we were years ago as the story unfolds and we make our way to a much better place.
Through this entire process, at the advice of our legal counsel, we had no communication with our daughter’s birth father and his family. We agreed it was better that way. They were clearly bitter and upset and we believed that nothing positive could come from them knowing who we were. They were involved in online communities and with national media organizations. We felt grateful time and time again that we were not involved at that level.
Several years ago we received a letter. It was angry and accusing and full of hurt. It was upsetting to us, and caused us a great deal of fear. Our daughter’s birth father had found us, and though we had long imagined the day when we would have a relationship with him, this was not how we’d envisioned it. I read the letter numerous times and felt as though he were sharing years of hurt, knowing that he finally had our direct attention.
We sought the advice of our attorney, our parents, our daughter’s birth mother, close friends, ecclesiastical leaders, and God. We prayed and pondered and talked and talked and talked. We finally replied to the letter. We pored over every word, wanting to make sure that we said just the right things. Our letter was brief and in a nutshell said that we were ready to play, as soon as we could play nicely!
We weren’t sure what would happen next, and it was months before anything did. The next communication was a simple note and a request to send a birthday card to our daughter; her 7th birthday was coming up. We agreed and provided our address. We were fairly certain they already had it—but we wanted to show that we were indeed willing to cooperate.
I’d be lying if I said that hitting “send” on these emails didn’t fill me with anxiety. We wanted them to be well received, and we wanted to be able to continually feel confident with each small step.
A birthday card came in the mail shortly after that exchange. I believe that this was the true beginning of the healing for me. This was the turning point that allowed my heart to begin to truly open. The card was sweet and contained a handwritten message for our daughter.
Her reaction made an enormous impact on me. We hadn’t talked to her much in years past about her birth father, and truthfully, she hadn’t ever asked. In the months prior to her birthday, we had mentioned it casually a few times, but it never piqued her interest much. When the card arrived, we said, “Eliza Jane, we received a card from your birth father—how great that we have his address now!” She grabbed the envelope, saw the smiley face sticker on the back, and said, “He put a smiley face sticker on the back—I think he’s gonna be good!” She ripped open the card and read the sweet messages. We laughed when she said, “At least he didn’t write in cursive, because I can’t read that very well.”
And just like that, a bond formed and a relationship took root. She accepted him without hesitation. We knew we would need to do the same. It would need time and attention, but it only got better.
Our daughter, in all of her innocence, was more correct than we even could have predicted…
“He’s gonna be good!”
To be continued . . .