We were heartbroken for her. And so each week we were anxious to hear how she was doing.
It was a few days before Christmas. We were living in an apartment and looking for a house and we were pretty sure we had just found a perfect one. I was trying to wrap things up at my job and I was taking my newborn baby into the office some days and driving him to my mom's house some days. We had no tree because we were hoping to move soon. We had newborn baby gear and boxes all over the apartment. And we were exhausted, of course.
When I got home from work on this particular day, I eagerly opened the package that the agency had forwarded onto us. Inside was a picture frame (which now holds our first family photo -- taken there in the agency conference room minutes after she placed him with us), a gorgeous scrapbook she had made for us of her pregnancy and her five days with him, and her detailed journal of everything she did and thought and felt while she spent her time with him. If I remember correctly, it was about 11 pages long. I remember reading it and weeping at the depth of love she had felt for her baby. And the depth of grief she was experiencing at his loss. It seemed incomprehensible that someone could be so strong in the face of such a trial, but she was optimistic about her life and his. And selfishly, that gave me comfort. I just treasured her journal, knowing it would be so wonderful for him to read someday.
We continued to write letters for a few more months and then after the adoption was finalized (Buddy was 8 months old), we asked her for her email address. We figured the agency couldn't dictate our actions at that point, so on the day of Buddy's blessing, we sent her our first email. My email address includes my full name, and we attached a transcript of his blessing, which also included his full name. This was all a big deal because we were treading into "open" adoption and we didn't have anyone telling us this was OK.
Not too much later, we asked our caseworker if it was acceptable to have a post-placement visit with Buddy's birth mother. We had never known anyone to do this, but he said the agency was slowly becoming more open to openness and he encouraged us to do whatever we felt was right. To be honest, it seemed awkward NOT to see her again. But we didn't know how to bring it up with her. Several more months passed and one day she told us that sometime when we were in Utah visiting family that she would love to see us. Interestingly enough, we had a trip planned to Utah soon, so we made arrangements to meet at her house for an afternoon BBQ. Buddy was 17 months. We figured it might be "hard" or "awkward" to be there in her parent's home. Keep in mind, we didn't know anyone else who had done anything like this. She has since told us it was hard, but we had a fantastic time and felt so comfortable spending the afternoon with them. Finally well past Buddy's bedtime, we drug ourselves from her home and left. We worried we were being selfish and hurting her more than was needful. But in our hearts, we knew that what we were doing was right.
We had another visit on my 30th birthday. Buddy had just turned three. And then we had another visit when Buddy was almost four. Both of those visits came at extremely critical times in our adoption journey to find Sambo. I think I've blogged of them before.
G and I started getting the itch to hang out again over a year ago, so we invited her and her new husband to come visit us. She was newly pregnant and not feeling so great, so they declined. But let me just tell you, we were so thrilled about her pregnancy, so we totally understood. And we understood her need to hold her family close and enjoy at least that pregnancy without involving us too much.
A few months ago we got an email from her husband. He has always been extremely supportive of us and from the first time he met Buddy (2 years ago), he sincerely loved him. He is a genuine guy, so when he asked if they could come visit sometime -- anytime -- as a surprise for her 30th birthday, we started making arrangements right away. We suggested they come for her birthday, which was also Thanksgiving week.
I don't have a birth mom. His birth mother doesn't have a birth mom. So we have this strange need to come up with an explanation of who she is by comparing her to other relationships we have. It's impossible to do that because this isn't like other relationships. The interesting thing is, Buddy doesn't do that and he also doesn't confuse who she is. Very interestingly, his brother, at age 2 also gets it. Never once while she was here did either boy try to undermine our parenting. (Buddy does it all the time when grandparents are here so that was a big shocker). He had so much fun and was so comfortable with them and he tried SO hard to please them. But he didn't think she was his mom. And trust me, when Buddy is confused or stressed everyone knows. He most definitely was not. It was a relationship you can't totally understand, apparently, unless you're a part of it.