Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Both of my sons were adopted, but you won't see any letterboard pictures on my Insta feed. We don't have any amazing professional videos with a song that makes you cry playing in the background. We didn't take pictures of all of our friends and family on the courthouse steps releasing balloons and cheering. There's nothing wrong with any of those little rituals of celebration. They just weren't our style.
Don't get me wrong, the days that both of my sons were adopted were important days. Memorable days. I became their mother legally on those days, and I hold those dates close to my heart. Hanging up the phone after finalizing with my youngest son's home state thousands of miles away. Walking out of the courthouse after finalizing my oldest's adoption here in our county. Looking over at their faces, breathing a heavy sigh of relief.
Finally. No one can take you away from me.
But adoption days are always two sides of a coin. One side, my greatest joy. The other side, another parent's final, forever loss.
On the day that my youngest son was adopted, there was no first family to update. His birth father has not responded to our attempts at contact, and his birth mother passed away many years before his adoption day. Thanks to the many flaws in the foster care system, I have no contact information for any other relatives, not even his siblings. And so this momentous loss was really just the formalization of the loss they endured many years ago. None of them will ever know his new name or see how happy he is with us. They will never even know if he's alive, or safe. There is no one for me to express my love and gratitude to, no one to receive my jubilant updates on how much he's grown, how beautiful he is. And the most painful part of all, the part that keeps me up at night and pierces my heart sometimes when I look at his sleeping face: his birth mother would have given anything to be in my shoes, and she's not. His adoption happened because she died, and no one from his first family was able to fill her shoes. There is no celebration to be had in that. None at all.
On the day that my oldest son was adopted, I texted his birth mom. On the advice of another birth mother, I didn't update her that he'd been adopted that day, not wanting to hurt her heart or appear to be bragging. I passed along some updated pictures of him. "Hope you are well, thinking of you often. Wanted to pass along some pictures of him, he looks so much like you. Looking so grown up!" She never responded. There has been so much pain in their story, and she has not yet left the dark place that she was parenting from. My hope is that one day she will be free of that darkness, and that the three of us, she and myself and OUR son, will have some sort of relationship. But that day is not today, and on adoption day, I never heard back from the woman who made my son. His name changed that day as well, his choice, and the beautiful middle name that she had chosen for him and that I had honestly loved, was dropped forever, along with her last name. Her loss of her only son was finalized that day, and that's a part of his adoption day that I cannot celebrate.
We celebrated those days in our own way, with couch snuggles and dollar tree splurges for presents and giant dinners out because those are the things our family loves to do (my teenager makes dollar tree items look like knick knacks from Home Goods, it's a talent). On those special days, I tried to make each child feel how much I loved them, how incredibly lucky I felt to have their spectacular shooting star selves in my life.
I also held space in my heart for the huge losses that took place on those days. Entire existing families had to be legally nullified so that ours could be legalized. And as much as I might try to bridge those severed ties for my sons, the reality is that those first families will never be as they were, will never be healthy and whole as they should have been since the births of those two boys.
Two adoption days. Two sides of the same coin. Let's try to see and honor both sides.