A few days ago a very beautiful and touching story hit the internet and quickly went viral. It was on multiple sites and was about how one set of hopeful adoptive parents had traveled to meet their newborn baby for the first time, but here was the hook. They had a professional photographer in tow. The result was a touching and beautiful set of pictures telling a unique, but all-too familiar story of becoming a forever family for those of us who have gone through the process. Anyone who is waiting to be blessed with their own child through adoption or has formed their family through adoption would be hard-pressed not to be moved when looking at this series. You can see the story here: http://www.people.com/article/adoption-journey-touching-photos-olson-family There are two that struck a particular chord with me. In one, the soon-to-be adoptive mom is waiting in the airport and you can just feel her hope, fear, and prayers in her body language. The other depicts the two hopeful adoptive parents as they sit in their own, empty hospital room and if you have been where they are in that moment, you can just imagine what is going through their minds and hearts at that exact moment the photographer snapped that image.
Looking at these images brought me back to the anxious and hopeful days my husband and I spent in the hospital when both my son and daughter were born to their amazing and brave birth mothers. But it also started me thinking about whether or not this should have been done in the first place. Don’t we, as the hopeful adoptive parents, have a responsibility to our future children’s birth parents, to give them respect, space, and dignity during a time that we can only imagine to be the most difficult, stressful, and emotional in their lives?
I never presume to tell anyone else how to run their lives. We each have our own stories and our own journeys to walk. I do want to share my personal opinion on this topic as I am seeing a trend toward wanting to document this time in the hospital as part of the adoptive parents’ journey as a celebratory, joyous, and happy event. While all that might be true on our side of the equation, we can’t and shouldn’t ever forget that at that very same moment our lives are possibly changing forever, yes, for the better, there is another individual whose life will also never be the same. However, in her case she is letting go. She is placing into our empty, waiting arms a baby that she has been caring for, nurturing, and yes, loving for the past nine months. We can try to understand this pain, this separation, this grief, but the truth of the matter is that we will never fully comprehend the complete and utter sacrifice that is happening in that room.
Sometimes we, as the adoptive parents are privileged enough to witness this sacrifice firsthand. I was not present in the delivery room when either of my children were born. I did, however, see both my children’s birth mothers say goodbye to them. It is the most beautiful and painful thing I have ever witnessed and done in my whole life. And as hard as it was for me to go through I know my own emotions did not even come close to what those two women were going through those few days in those two hospitals.
Before our children were born, our agency had discussed the ‘hospital experience’ with us. I will be honest, I was very upset when I was told that this time was not about me. I had to grieve the fact that I would not have the ‘typical’ celebration that most new mothers get in the hospital room after the baby is born. There would be no flowers, no balloons, and yes…there would be no first pictures snapped of our ‘happy little family.’ Adoption is different. There is no denying this truth. There are beautiful differences, but there are also difficult differences. The hospital experience for us is different and I would argue that is HAS to be different.
Did we take pictures after we first met our son and daughter? Of course we did. But we waited until we were alone in our room. There were no family members coming to the hospital to ‘celebrate’ the arrival of our baby. The hard truth is that those babies were not ‘ours’ yet. We can love them, we can nurture them, we can fall IN love, but once again, the facts of adoption are this: legally they are not ‘ours.’ We can’t and shouldn’t forget about the other room. There is the sweet, but there is also the bitter. Birth mom is there and is still hurting. There might even be birth dad, who is also hurting. And you never know who might be hanging around in the hallway or the waiting room, also grieving the loss of a baby who might have been a grandchild or a beloved friend’s baby. There is loss and grief on this day that can’t and shouldn’t be forgotten.
I am an adoptive mom and I know these truths we sometimes have to talk about are hard and they hurt. We say, ‘it’s not fair.’ And you know what? It isn’t. We didn’t ask for this pain. But then I remind myself that the woman in the other room didn’t ask for her pain, either. I write this to hopefully make those of you who have yet to bring those little bundles home to not only think about what you are bringing in your baby bag, but also think about your actions and behavior before you go to the hospital. As I said before, I would never tell anyone what to do. But it is my hope that all of us adoptive moms and moms-to-be are kinder and more aware in our community. That we strive to raise children who are this way, as well.
There is a time for everything under the sun and you will have plenty of time to celebrate once that baby is here and home in your arms, safe in your home and your heart!