The way the human mind stores memories and enables memory recall is fascinating, and, well, mind-blowing. According to verywellmind.com, “Episodic memory is a person’s memory of a specific event. Because each person has a different perspective and experience of an event, their episodic memory of that event is unique. Episodic memory is a category of long-term memory that involves the recollection of specific events, situations, and experiences. Your memories of your first day of school, your first kiss, attending a friend’s birthday party, and your brother’s graduation are all examples of episodic memories. In addition to your overall recall of the event itself, it also involves your memory of the location and time that the event occurred. Closely related to this is what researchers refer to as autobiographical memory or your memories of your own personal life history.” Knowing these facts, it is easy to see why almost every American alive on September 11, 2001, knows where they were at the time the planes were flown into the Twin Towers by terrorists. Most of us can recall with great detail where we were, what our surroundings looked like, the smells in the room, and the feel of the cushions as we sank onto the couch in shock. Details about life-altering events are easily recalled with much clarity. This is why when a woman finds out she is pregnant, she can often remember the details that surrounded the discovery. The first time she sees the tiny peanut of a baby on the ultrasound monitor, she is over the moon. She remembers the first time she felt the flutter of movement in her womb, the first time she felt a kick, or when she heard her baby’s heartbeat over a monitor. On the day the baby is born, she knows where she was because she was actually giving birth to that child. Though she remembers the pain of childbirth, she remembers more the magic of her new baby being placed on her chest, and the euphoria of snuggling that brand-new, tiny body.
Mothers of adoptive children have a much different perspective on the days that their children made their grand entrances into the world. When people ask me about my pregnancy or delivery of my kids, I love to respond with “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.” The looks on people’s faces are hilarious! Their eyes widen in confusion, and they often stammer a response. If a person does not know our story, my response sounds ludicrous! It is fun to jest with people, but in all honesty, I would have been delighted to have been there when my precious boys were born, to have had pictures of their earliest memories, to hear their very first cries, to hold them at their tiniest stages. Most adoptive families do not have the privilege to actually be present when their child is born. Children are adopted at various ages and stages of life, and their forever families may not have known about them when they were born. Not every child is adopted as an infant. Some languish in overseas orphanages or United States foster homes until they are older—their infancy stages obscured by time and lack of information. Each adoption story is unique. I believe that every adoptive mother, if offered the chance to go back in time, would relish the opportunity to hold her child on his or her original birthday. Don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly grateful for the gifts of our children, no matter how or when they joined our families, but our family beginnings look different than most family beginnings.
Most of us were going about our daily routines without an indication that our lives were going to be rocked in the near future. We were waiting, hoping, anticipating, and literally dreaming of the day we would meet our children. In the book Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, Jaime Lee Curtis recounts to her adopted little girl about the night she was born. Ms. Curtis’s little girl interjects details of the story of the night she was born, obviously having been told her story frequently. Some parents get the privilege of being in the actual delivery room when their child is born. However, most adoptive parents don’t get that opportunity. They may or may not immediately know where they were or what they were doing on the day their child was born, but with a little effort, most of us can figure out where we were and what we were doing on that day.
I met my son, Joshua, on July 3 when he was almost a month old. When they placed him in my arms, it was the most magical experience ever. Over time, I traced my memory back to June 8, wanting to know what I was doing the moment he was born. While I was technically sleeping the moment he was born, the day before was the lowest point in my journey through depression after the devastating experience of losing a baby through a disrupted adoption, one where I was actually in the room when she was born. June 7 was the darkest day of my life, but what I could not know was that the very next morning, the baby who was to be my son would be born. For me, June 8 was the first day of emerging from depression and beginning to heal and live again. An old quote says that the darkest hour means that dawn is coming. The Bible says in Psalms 30:5 that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” June 8 was the beginning of the return of my joy. July 3 would be the highlight of my healing. I remember both clearly.
When my second son was born, my family was on vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. On the first morning, I decided to check my email on a whim. There was a message from our social worker. A baby was being born, and we were being considered by the birth mother as a prospective family. He was born that night, but we would not find out until a few days later. During the time between the email and THE phone call, we completed our family vacation, but my heart was inexplicably drawn to the little baby boy born five weeks early and laying in a NICU all alone, no mommy present. My heart yearned for him. It was hard to relax knowing that he was so tiny and so alone. A few days after returning home, and the day after my husband’s birthday, our social worker called. I was sitting in our church office when my phone rang. My heart leaped with joy when my brain found out what my heart already knew: he was MY son. My heart reacted to him the same way that any woman feels when she gives birth—an intense longing for my child, a knowing he needed me. The next day could not come fast enough.
I am not alone in my reminiscing. A few other adoptive mamas eagerly shared their stories of what they were doing on the day of their child’s birth. One sweet lady recalled that she was grocery shopping in a Harris Teeter grocery store when her phone rang with the news that a baby had been born and that she had been picked to be his mommy! She said she wandered aimlessly around the store talking to her social worker before she actually got in the car, drove home, and made fast preparations to drive to Pennsylvania to get her boy!
Another family fostered and then adopted a little girl. When they traced their steps back to the date of her actual day of birth, they realized that it was already a special day for their family. It was their family’s baptism day, and the family was baptized together! When they realized the link between their spiritual story and their daughter’s birth, it was awe-inspiring. To make things even more awesome, this family fostered my son prior to us being chosen to be his parents. The day they placed him in my arms was actually on their future adoptive daughter’s birthday.
One blessed family was actually in the hospital when their daughter was born. Just a few short hours after her birth, the baby girl was placed in their arms while they waited in a private room. They got to be there waiting with anticipation for their daughter! They have pictures and memories of those precious early hours and used the titles of mommy and daddy with their brand new baby daughter. I rejoice with them at this priceless gift of time and memories.
Friends from college, Mallory and Steve, recount their story of what they were doing the day their son was born. Mallory was standing in the hallway of her home when their son’s birth mother called from the local hospital. She said, “Are you ready? Because I’m in labor.” Her husband Steve was teaching at a local school, but she was able to get in contact with him before she left the house, and he beat her to the hospital. They had the wonderful privilege of being with their child’s birth mother throughout the entire labor and delivery. Steve was even able to cut the baby’s cord. They never dreamed that God would allow them that awesome privilege.
Laurie and Travis already had five biological children and a set of “almost adopted” twin girls when their twin daughters were born. Eleven months earlier they had fostered and were in the process of trying to adopt a set of premature twin girls, one with severe special needs. The birth mother of the first set of twins had a relationship with Laurie and called her the day the second set of twins were born. Laurie recalls that she was at a party when the girls’ birth mom called that she had the babies and wanted Laurie to meet them as “Grammy.” For Laurie, it was truly love at first sight. She never could have predicted that she would eventually be their “Mommy” instead of “Grammy.” The babies were also extremely premature and had some health problems. When the babies went home, “their biological parents attempted to parent [them] but were unable to do so. Laurie had…maintained an open relationship with [them, and]…occasionally, [she] would babysit Joy and Jessa, allowing the younger sisters to bond with their older sisters, [Halee and Balee]. One afternoon, Laurie was watching the little twins when their biological mom called and asked if Laurie and Travis would consider keeping the girls. Laurie and Travis were stunned, but they already adored Joy and Jessa, so the decision was easy to make. Joy and Jessa officially became Kimreys in June 2015. Laurie says that twins times two have been quite the wild ride, but they are darling precious children.”
Good friends of ours had a whirlwind experience on the day their son, Dawson, was born. They had just returned from an 11-hour drive from Florida the previous day where they had met the expectant parents. But instead of being at their home church in North Carolina, they were at a friend’s wedding in Virginia when the phone call came that their child’s birth mother was in labor almost a month early. “The panicked parents-to-be raced to Florida. In God’s providence, [their home] church had already planned a baby shower after church that day. The church family pulled together to make the details happen. Detail-oriented folks took care of home and pets. Seasoned mothers sorted the baby shower gifts into what they would need for the following 2-3 weeks…Shortly after a quick stop at home, Zach and Melody left and drove overnight. After having already spent 26 hours in a car, they were exhausted. Melody was car sick the entire trip, throwing up every few miles. They arrived at the hospital in Florida at 10 a.m., very stressed and very excited. Their lawyer took them to meet their son’s birth mother and their son, Dawson Lee. In that instant, everything was worth it. Melody, Zach, and Dawson spent the next two weeks in a condo in Florida to fulfill interstate adoption regulations. The entire time they were there, Melody was so sick, throwing up frequently. After three days, they took a pregnancy test and were shocked to learn that she was pregnant. Later, they would learn that Melody became pregnant the same week they said yes to the adoption [of their new son, Dawson]. The kids would be 7.5 months apart in age.”
I love to hear the beautiful stories of how God builds adoptive families. The variety is amazing. The common thread of adoption is what weaves our stories together, creating an intangible bond. We may not actually give birth to our babies, but we still experience a wide range of emotions, and we can often recollect many details of the days our children were born. I know for me, my favorite stories are of the days our boys were born and the days they were placed in my arms. To God be the glory great things He has done.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.