One of the first things out of the mouths of most well-meaning people (usually old ladies in the Publix checkout line) when they discover my daughter is adopted is, “Oh, what a gift!” Cue automatic cringe. Ask any member of the adoption triad (adoptees, birth families, and adoptive families) and many would tell you they hate that phrase. While I treasure being my daughter’s mother every day, she wasn’t an object to be given. Our daughter’s birth mother made a brave and painful decision to place her daughter with a family that could provide her with a better life. My daughter is a person who will one day grow up to have her own feelings surrounding her adoption journey, not my grandmother’s prized Pyrex collection. What I can tell you though is adoption has gifted me so much, and I’d like to share my top three things.
The Gift of Letting Go
Confession time: I’m a certified control freak. In college I would constantly check my grades, hoping somehow it might sway them in my favor. When in the car, I must drive (you’re welcome for being the automatic DD), and when we purchased our first house, I drove by it every night hoping it might sway the process our way. So as one might imagine, I had to learn to let go when it came to our adoption journey.
The first and the hardest thing for me to let go of was the idea of ever being pregnant. As cliche as it sounds, I always dreamed of being a mom. I dreamed of ways to tell my husband we were expecting and designing the perfect nursery, but as years of infertility struggles trudged along, the more I had to let go of the idea of ever carrying a biological child. I wouldn’t be able to control their in-utero experience or be there for my child’s first moments on earth.
I had to give up knowing exactly when they would make their arrival. While most babies don’t arrive on their due date, most families have an idea of when their newest member will show up. Not us though! Less than a month after becoming home study approved, we were holding our daughter in our arms. Let’s just say there was frantic Target shopping involved.
Learning to let go has had many benefits. For starters, I am a lot more go-with-the-flow in my parenting than I ever thought possible. In the words of Bluey (if you know you know), we are “running our own race.” Very seldomly do I find myself comparing my daughter to other kids, and if her pediatrician is happy, I’m not sweating the small stuff. And you know what, she’s hitting all those milestones without me constantly worrying over them because really, I have no control over it anyway.
The Gift of Community
The second thing adoption has gifted me is community. Like many women, I found it hard to make friends as an adult. Add in moving across the country twice, working remotely, and a global pandemic and it’s a recipe for constantly calling your mom on a Friday night.
My community really expanded after my daughter’s adoption. I am thankful for play dates, and backyard BBQs where everyone there loves my daughter and watches out for her. From moms I met at church to 3 a.m. texts with my sister, I have never had such a tight-knit community. Life sometimes feels like a fever dream of what I imagined it to look like on the darkest nights of my infertility journey. I have never laughed harder or loved a group of people more than I have over the last two years.
Let’s also not forget the amazing professionals who help care for my daughter. From her pediatrician to her preschool teachers, it is amazing to have such a caring group of professionals in my daughter’s life. They weren’t kidding when they said it takes a village!
Finally, I am grateful for the community with my mom. Since becoming a mom, my relationship with her has never been stronger. Throughout my journey to motherhood, my mom has been there every step of the way. She has been the one I’ve called to cry to, share joy with, and ask a million different questions. She was the first one my husband and I told that we were adopting, and frankly, she is my daughter’s favorite person (who could blame her, Gaga is amazing)!
The Gift of Joy
The final gift I’m grateful for is the gift of joy. There is such a unique joy in motherhood. Having my daughter fall asleep in my arms (something that rarely happens now that she is a “Big Girl”) and watching her peaceful face dream sweet dreams is one of the purest things I’ve ever witnessed (I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it).
Watching my husband become an amazing father, who tirelessly gives our daughter the most amazing life is its own kind of joy. They are a perfect pair! They love to laugh deeply together, do crazy dances, and most recently our daughter loves to tell Dada how much she loves him.
There is joy in watching my daughter overcome obstacles. From learning to walk and talk I’ve never met such a tenacious child. My daughter is ready to tackle the world, and I am so thankful I get to go on the journey with her.
And while there is so much joy I’ve been given because of adoption, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is also pain that accompanies it. Adoption starts with pain, but also bravery. My daughter’s birth mother made a near-impossible decision, one myself I can’t fathom. There will be pain for my daughter as she sorts through her own feelings on it, and while I can’t predict her feelings about it, I am so thankful that I will get to walk through it with her.
Adoption has gifted me with a lot of things — perspective, community, and joy — but most importantly it hasn’t gifted me with my daughter. My daughter is her own person, not an object her birth mother decided to give away. So as my parting words, I urge you, well-meaning Publix checkout line ladies, to think before you say, “what a gift,” and instead compliment me on how cute she is dressed because great toddler fashion sense was another amazing thing adoption has gifted me.