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It happened as
it has so many times before. A close family friend was asking questions about
my daughter’s other family. It’s natural, I assume — this curiosity people have
about where she came from, particularly about the woman who carried my daughter
for nine months and then handed her off to me.
want to know who she is and why she made the decisions she did. And while hers
isn’t my story to tell, I try to always make it clear that her decisions were
not borne from a lack of love. If anything, the opposite is true. She
sacrificed in ways I will never be able to comprehend, specifically because she had so much love for this
But it was
during one of those conversations with this close family friend that she asked, “Do you think her mom regrets giving her up?”
And I cringed.
Both because I had no idea how to answer such a question and because the way in
which it was phrased absolutely gutted me.
Forget the straight
use of the term “mom.” I realize that I am the one who creates the confusion
there, forever referring to her as my daughter’s “other mom.” Because — she is my daughter’s mom. It’s just that I
am too. We are both her mother, in different ways. And I try diligently to
always be the one who respects that, which means I also try not to get my
panties in a bunch when someone else drops that “other” I so consistently use.
I can’t expect
everyone else to understand the intricacies of a relationship that confuse even
me from time to time.
ignore the “giving her up” part of the equation, despite the tensing reflex
that phrasing will always incite in me. Because she didn’t “give her up.” She chose me. She handpicked the person who
would serve in the role she didn’t feel as though she could, for reasons that
were all her own. She made the best decision she could in the moment, and it
was a decision borne from a pure and selfless love I will forever be
in awe of.
was not abandoned or thrown away. She was not “given up.”
She was loved.
In reality, no matter how right an adoption may be — there is loss there.
Still, it was
the question of regret that truly knocked the wind out of me. Because the
problem is, I’m not the person who should be answering that question. And if I
am being perfectly honest, I don’t even know that it is an answer I personally
want to hear.
The thing I
never could have fully prepared myself for with the adoption of my daughter was the guilt I would feel in regards to her other mother. In my head, before
actually living through it, I had always believed that adoption could be this
beautiful unification of a family, where everyone involved got what they needed
in the end.
In reality, no
matter how right an adoption may be — there is loss there. And as my heart
soared in the delivery room, holding my little girl for the first time against my
chest, I was painfully aware of the heart that was simultaneously breaking
right next to me.
was nothing in the world I could do to ease that hurt.
More than once
in the week between being
asked to take my daughter and her actually entering the world, I asked her
other mommy if she was sure. I offered to help her find programs or ways to
keep her little girl, if that was what she wanted. I implored her not to think
about me or the connection we had quickly formed in the making of this
decision, but to instead think about what she truly wanted, and what she would
want five, 10 and even 15 years from now.
easy. From the moment she asked me to adopt her baby, my world lit up at the
possibility of finally becoming a mother. It would have been extremely hard for
me to walk away at that point. But I think, even then, I knew it would be
harder to one day feel responsible for another woman’s regret. So I needed her
to be sure. For both of us.
The thing was,
she had her reasons. And after plenty of long talks, it became clear she was
resolved in this decision.
So I stopped
asking, instead choosing to embrace the blessing that had literally fallen into
my lap, even as the
joy I felt stood in stark contrast to the grief I knew she was experiencing. How do you
navigate that? How do you process the fact that your greatest joy is coming at
the expense of another human beings greatest loss?
When I look in my daughter's eyes and feel my heart swell with love and pride over the amazing little person she is becoming, I am reminded of the fact that her other mommy has to miss out on those moments.
She told me
once that there was a point in the middle of pushing, with me standing there
holding her hand and waiting for our little girl to enter the world, that she
thought to herself, “Maybe I’m making a mistake. Maybe I could do this. Maybe I
could keep her.”
It was a
moment that passed quickly enough, as she got through the pain of labor and
reminded herself of all the reasons she had decided on adoption. But that
moment was there. And I can only imagine that there are times, even now, when
she still wonders ... what if?
But does she
have regrets? And if she does, do they have more to do with feeling as though
she is missing out on pieces of this little girl’s life? Or do those regrets
revolve around me — around the times when I may not do things as she would have, when I may not live up to the mother she had hoped I would be?
I don’t know
the answers to those questions. I don’t know
if I want to.
complicated, in a way I never before could have really understood. And every
day, when I look in my daughter's eyes and feel my heart swell with love and
pride over the amazing little person she is becoming, I am reminded of the fact
that her other mommy has to miss out on those moments.
And I can’t
imagine there wouldn’t be regret
There may be regret. And there is probably sadness and hurt and anger, frustration and jealousy and ugly feelings that probably come out more than I
will ever know or see.
But I can’t
speak to any of that because I have never walked in her shoes. I have never
experienced what it is to be on the other side. And those feelings, whatever
they may be, are hers. Any analysis I may attempt to make would be only pure
is no simple answer. No matter how many times the question may be asked of me.
The only thing
I know for sure is that there is love there. And beauty.
And loss. And joy. And heartbreak.