On Rachel's birthday I was struggling with my emotions. I finally sat down and wrote. That is my way of processing what I am feeling. I always feel better after getting words down on paper (or a computer screen). I decided that the piece I wrote was too melancholy to post on her birthday, so I saved it for today. Be warned - you may need a hankie, because it is kind of sad...
Birthdays Are Bittersweet
Today is my Rachel's 4th birthday. My baby is 4 now. She, of course, is convinced that she is BIG. And, like all birthdays, the change from one year to the next is always a little bittersweet. Last night Rachel and I celebrated her last night of being 3. She put on her pajamas for the last time as a 3 year old. She did her last 3 year old tooth brushing. And I read one last story to my last 3 year old. We snuggled in her bed and sang Happy-Almost-Birthday-to-You. And then I went out to the living room and blinked back tears.
When we were going through adoption training, one of our social workers explained that birthdays are often hard for adopted kids. That made sense to me. It would be difficult to know, on an emotional level, that the person who gave birth to you chose not to keep you. That loss would seem especially huge on the anniversary of your birth. What the social worker didn't explain is that birthdays can be hard on adoptive parents, too.
Like many people, I grew uphearing my mother tell my own birth story every year on my birthday. I listened to her tell how excited she and my dad were to be having their first baby. How as soon as she saw me she know that I was "exactly what she had always wanted." Year after year those stories piled up layer upon layer, filling me with the knowledge that I had been loved and wanted from before my very first breath.
Last night, snuggling with Rachel, I wanted so much to be able to tell her sweet little stories like those. But I couldn't. I don't know the name of the woman who bore her. Or where she lived. Or if she labored all alone. Or even if today was really the fourth anniversary of it all or just somewhat close. I don't know why she chose not to raise her newborn, whether it was because of gender or disability or some other reason entirely. And, truly, I feel nothing but gratitude toward her for the decisions she made. But I know, and someday Rachel will know, that the birth of this tiny girl was not "exactly what she had always wanted." And that leaves a sad spot in my heart. One that is tender to the touch.
I think birthdays remind me of what adoption really is - a tangled web of joy and grief, sorrow and blessing. And in our house, the birthday cake batter may always be salted with tears.
So today we will celebrate Rachel and all of the joy and laughter she has brought to us. There will be presents and a pink birthday cake and as many pictures as she will tolerate. And I will tell her the stories of all of her birthdays so that layer upon layer, she will be filled with the knowledge of how much she was loved and wanted from before we ever saw her face.
And tonight I will go outside and look at the moon and tell Rachel's birth mother "xie xie". Thank you. Your baby girls is exactly what I have always wanted. I promise.