Monday, October 6, 2014

Always on my Mind

I was having a conversation the other day with one of my friends who has a daughter from China and I mentioned that it was Vivian's birthday this month.  We talked a bit about our plans to celebrate her birthday and my friend said to me, "I always think about my daughter's birth mother so much around her birthday.  Do you do that?  And I answered, "yes".

But, then I thought about it and thought that really, the answer was no.  I don't think about Vivian's birth mother on her birthday, I think of her almost every day.

Some days I just can't believe the word "birth mother" is even a part of my life.  I certainly did not grow up ever thinking I would have a child that had a birth mother.  I guess I always assumed I would be that for all of my children.

But, now I have a daughter that was adopted.  And she has a birth mother.  And birth father. And that is our reality.

This is all new territory for me, living with another woman hovering around.  She lives somewhere on the other side of the world, except so often it feels like she lives right here with me.

Every adoptive parent has different feelings about their child's birth parents.  And that is as it should be.  It is such a personal thing.  I know there are many people who feel that one of the positive aspects of Chinese adoption is that there are no records of, or ties to, birth parents.  I have to admit, before I adopted, I was one of them.  I figured "out of sight, out of mind".  No confusing scenarios where a child has to navigate relationships with birth parents or half siblings or whatever.  And no one knocking on my door one day wanting their child back.  I don't like to admit this, because now, after years of being in the adoption community and listening to adoptees and birth parents, it is my opinion that this was an ignorant and pretty selfish way of thinking.  It was thinking based more in fear than in love.

I could not feel any different now.  Now that I have Vivian, all I am is sad that there are no records of, or ties to, her birth parents.  Now I hate that there is not a way for Vivian to find her birth mother, or father, or find out anything about them, should she want to.  It seems to me that so many adoptees ultimately want to know something about the people who brought them into the world.  They certainly deserve that.

I have learned that "out of sight" does not at all mean "out of mind".  When I think about how much Vivian's birth parents, and her past, are on my mind I can only wonder what it will be like for Vivian, when she is older.  Will they be on her mind every day?  And if so, WHAT IN THE WORLD will I do or say to help her with that?

Vivian's birth mother, she comes to me often and out of the blue.  Does this happen to any of you, my other friends with children from China?  Sometimes I feel like most people don't obsess about this the way I do.  I wonder, will I still do this when she has been home with us for 5 years? 10 years?

Like a few weeks ago when Vivian excitedly showed me her first "real" homework assignment from school.  She proudly held it up and said, "Picture of me!"

And all of the sudden her birth mother popped in my mind.  And I teared up thinking..... she doesn't know.  She doesn't know Vivian is here and going to school and learning and drawing and making friends.  She doesn't know how smart she is and oh, shouldn't she know?

Or like the other day when I was watching Vivi at gymnastics. And videotaping her doing her cute attempt at a cartwheel.  And then she did one!

And I thought of her birth mom.  Right there in the hallway at the gym the tears came because I thought to myself ...... she doesn't know.  She doesn't know her daughter is here, in America, taking gymnastics and doing cartwheels and being amazing. And I wonder if she was athletic, Vivian's birth mom.  And small.  Or does she get this from her birth father?  And then I just sigh because I just don't know.  And probably never will.

She came to me at the doctor today at Vivian's one year follow up from her heart repair.  As I watched Vivian have her heart checked and heard the good news that Vivian's heart looks perfect, I thought of her and how she doesn't know how brave Vivian is.  She doesn't know Vivian is healthy and her heart is healed.

And again at Vivian's birthday party.  As I watched her smiling and laughing and loving every minute of her first "real" birthday party with her cousins and friends,

I thought of her birth mom.  She doesn't know.  She doesn't know Vivian is happy, and OK, and celebrating her 4th birthday.  And she should.

She should know.  She must want to know.  Sometimes I dream that one day we will meet her.  And I can tell her the one thing I would give anything to be able to tell her because, as a mother, I think it is the one thing she would give anything to know:  I would tell her that her daughter, our daughter, is happy.  And loved.

I know that I will likely never meet this woman.  It makes me sad for me, but it breaks my heart to think of what that reality might mean for Vivian one day.

Sometimes when I watch Vivian, I feel like I am seeing bits and pieces of her birth mother.  A glimpse into what her smile might look like,

a glimpse into what her eyes and her face and lips might look like.

I might never meet her, but the truth is, because I know Vivian, I do know a little about her.

I know she must be smart.
I know she must be determined.
And for sure, she must be beautiful.

And I think of think of those three words that the nanny's used to describe Vivian in her file: "strong in heart".

And I think, it must be .... like mother, like daughter.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Love Affair

There is a little love affair going on in our house right now.  It is a love affair between my oldest child and my youngest.

He is such a good big brother to her.  He has been since day one.  He helps me a ton with her.  She trusts him completely and he takes really good care of her.  A few weeks ago we had a babysitter for the night. Vivian was OK when we left but started crying for me at bedtime.  The babysitter was having a hard time settling her down, so he went in and laid in bed with her until she fell asleep.  It is just little things like that he does all the time that make their relationship very sweet.

My oldest started middle school this year.  He also started playing football.  These two things have really changed his schedule and he spends much more time away from the house than he ever has. On the days he has football practice, he stays at school until practice starts and doesn't get home until 8:00 or so.

We all miss him.  Especially Vivian.  And he misses her, too.

He will ask me to try and keep Vivian awake until he comes home on football nights because he doesn't like to go all day without seeing her. Because she has a pretty early bedtime, she is rarely awake when he gets home. But if she is, she gets so excited to see him.

On weekends, she doesn't let him out of her sight.  She follows his every move and he is so patient with her.

There is no doubt she is his biggest fan.

It's a bit of an unlikely love affair to me because of the age difference between them.  When we decided to adopt, I guess I kind of figured he would be the least involved of the three, and the least interested with his new sibling because they would have the least in common. They are 7 years apart.  I was wrong.

I love watching them together.  Sometimes when I watch them I think back to all of the "concerns" that were often expressed to us by others when we announced we were going to add another child to our family by adopting.  I remember the "concerns" about our other children and how this decision might negatively impact them and how this new child might "take away" from them.

While I know many of these concerns came from a loving place, I never agreed with that thinking. Sure, I guess in some ways there are some changes in our family that others might consider negatives. I will admit that we have had to spread our attention, energy, and resources a bit thinner since adding Vivian.  But I don't see it negatively impacting my kids. Actually, I think it has been the opposite.  It has made them all, including Vivian, more flexible, patient, understanding and less selfish.  I think, sometimes, people underestimate kids and their ability to adapt and to love.

I always felt, in my heart, that adding another child would be a positive experience for my kids.  I'm so glad I listened to my heart because, as it turns out, I was right.

And I think these two would agree.