My husband and I adopted our third child from birth parents who were not ready to be together and wanted for her what all parents want: the most loving home imaginable. And by their standards that meant a house with a yard, where their child could swing and splash and learn to play ball.
My daughter’s birth parents know that their little girl has these things, because we have an open adoption. They’ve seen pictures of her peeking out of her cardboard fort, her face covered with chocolate from her first brownie. They know she eats strawberries right out of the garden and rinses them down with water straight from the garden hose, because I send them letters that tell them these things.
That unsettles some people. They’re afraid that the birth mother will come reclaim her child, or that my daughter will be confused by too many parents. But I know better.
I know that Anne and Denny, my daughter’s birth parents, have moved on in their lives. They live in peace, each with a shoebox of pictures and letters as reassurance that the girl they created is growing and thriving.
My husband and I know that they’re good people. We have a photo of us together, four beaming parents and a beautiful baby in the tiny pink and white dress they had bought especially for this day. Someday, we’ll share it with her, along with all of the letters we have exchanged.
One of those letters is from Anne. In it, she thanks us for giving our daughter a future that she could only dream of providing. She continues, “I feel like I have been given a second chance at my own life.”
There are people who say they would shun the birth parents. “They signed the papers,” they say, “they don’t have any rights.” But Anne and Denny didn’t do anything wrong.
They made a mistake that led to a pregnancy, but their mistake became our lifelong gift. Our gift in return is an open relationship that allows them to feel good about their decision.
I was afraid at first that I might be threatened by the existence of my daughter’s “real” mother, or that my husband would feel like he was sharing his Daddy role. My fears were unfounded. My beautiful baby calls me “Mama.” She jumps up and down for “DaDaDaDaDa.”
She took her first steps, hurtling from me to him, and clapped along with us as we celebrated. She buries herself in my chest when she’s shy or startled, and screams for Daddy when she hears his car. We know that her toenails grow funny, that she plays a mean kazoo, and that she will only go to sleep holding her favorite stuffed elephant. We are her real parents.
I like marking her milestones for Anne and Denny. Like me, they think she is the most beautiful baby in the whole world, and since I have yet to write anything in her baby book, it’s these letters to her birth parents that will chronicle her first tooth, her first wagon ride and the first time she mashed cooked carrots into her hair. They’ll also tell her over and over again how much her parents love her.
My daughter will know we adopted her. She’ll know that her birth parents are good people. She’ll probably meet them some day, if that’s what she wants.
As Anne said, “When she needs to meet me, I’ll make myself available.” And we both laughed as she said, “The day she says, ‘My real mother would let me watch an R-rated movie,’ you have her give me a call.”
At the courthouse on the day our adoption was finalized, Anne held our baby in her arms and told her, “Now, you listen to your parents.” And then she walked away.
I will never forget the generosity of this woman, who gave up so much with such grace and wisdom.