Unlike most children who grow up thumbing through hospital photos and hearing stories about the day they were born, many adoptees know very little, if anything, about their “beginning.”
However, I am one of the lucky ones. I have pieced together bits of information from my adoptive parents, their memories of what my case worker shared, and also from my birth parents. Although I’ve always known I was adopted, I never really thought much about my actual birth and the days following until after I met my birth parents and was in the middle of my first pregnancy with twins.
It was week four of bed rest. I started to think about when my twins were going to be born and what their birth day might be like. I imagined hearing their first cries and kissing their cheeks and cuddling and getting to know these little people. Then it hit me: The day I was born is almost completely shrouded in mystery. My birth mother was given gas to put her to sleep right before I was delivered, so she never saw me or heard me cry. My birth father and the other members of my birth family who were present only saw me from a distance. There is no one to tell me first-hand about the events of my life from the moment I was born until I was handed to my adoptive parents almost a month later.
So, with some hard facts filling in the spaces between the periods and still a good bit of imagination, here is how I imagine the “beginning” that spanned from my birth to my adoption.
I can see that crying baby, freshly flung from the womb, wrapped and held by a nurse and whisked away to the hospital nursery. A nurse cleaned her up, wrapped her in warm cloths, and soothed her cries. Her birth father and grandparents looked through the nursery windows knowing they would never hold her. But she didn’t know about them. She had a birth mother on another floor who sobbed and struggled, but she didn’t know about her. She didn’t know how carefully she had carried her to term, praying for her and loving her warm in her belly. That baby didn’t know her birth mother wished so desperately to hold her in her arms, but she feared that she would not be able to let go if she did. She didn’t know that her birth mother didn’t feel she could raise her on her own and that she only wanted blessings for her. She didn’t know how many people in her birth family were hearing of her birth and shedding tears that they might never know her. Despite all that she didn’t know, she was warm and sleepy and every few hours a new kind woman in a white dress and hat came to meet her, hold her, and kiss her cheeks. She cried and pooped and slept. She needed the same things that every other baby in that room needed, and she got it.
A few days after her birth, some nice people from Catholic Charities came to get her and took her to a kind foster family who cared for her and held her and kissed her cheeks and kept her warm. And when someone in their family got sick and a newborn couldn’t be around that, they sent her to another house where the people there cared for her and held her and kissed her cheeks and kept her warm. And when someone in their family suddenly died and they had to go out of town, they sent her to another house where the people there cared for her and held her and kissed her cheeks and kept her warm.
And one day, soon after the Easter holiday, the case worker took her to a house with some kind people who wanted her so desperately. They handed that sweet baby to her Mommy and Daddy and once again and forevermore, they cared for her and held her and kissed her cheeks and kept her warm. That baby was so very, very blessed because every day of her life on this earth to and from this point was bathed in loving care.
The real beginning of this adoption story keeps getting fuller as the years go by. All the time I am learning more about myself, my birth family, and my adoptive family. All the time new insights emerge about the meaning of family, both the nature and the nurture kind. Most of all, I am grateful for the selfless love that God put into the hearts of my birth parents and grandparents to nurture and care for me until I was born; for the careful attention of all the nurses, adoption workers, and foster families; and for the wonderful hearts of my adoptive parents. Living as an adoptee has not always been an easy, clear, or predictable journey. But even with all the mystery surrounding my “beginning,” I have claimed it knowing the truth that there have been people to care for me, protect me, and kiss my cheeks all along the way. I am thankful.
Amy Baer is an entrepreneur, owner of The Watershed Studio, freelance graphic designer, ordained Presbyterian minister, and mom to three boys: twins age 4 and toddler age 20 months. She and her husband Ryan live in southwest Fort Worth. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram and visit her Etsy store.