A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one post in a series of posts that will share the story of how I came to know and grew to love my daughters who were adopted at fourteen years old, mere days before they aged out of the adoption system. It does not reflect my feelings now. If you are joining me in the midst of the series, you can access the whole story by clicking on The Silent Months on the top menu bar of my blog. I choose to share my story to address a topic that is taboo in the adoption community. I share it to normalize the feelings that so many feel and yet are too ashamed to share. I share it to provide support to those who feel alone because there’s a big white elephant in the room, and no one can talk about it. I share it in support of adoption, in support of every single precious child waiting for a family, every one of which deserves to be loved and is lovable, every single one. Why can’t we talk about it? The feelings are real. The process of attachment can be easy and it can be painful, and the more we support parents who experience the painful side of adoption, the more we help the children. There are far too many disruptions, especially of older children, and if we as a community can come to see the feelings and the process as normal, perhaps we can provide support to those families and in doing so, help the children. Adoption is rooted in pain and loss, and often the process is painful. AND it’s okay. Before you offer your criticism, please read, Eliza Today, A Preface, and God’s Heart and Workers for His Harvest Field .
We pulled in the driveway and drove up to the house where Eliza was staying. Children were playing outside in the lovely September sunshine. We didn’t see Eliza so we walked to the front door. It felt like I was floating, unaware of the ground beneath my feet, yet I felt shaky and anxious too.
The woman whom Eliza had been staying with greeted us warmly at the door with a gentle, loving smile. There was no judgement in her eyes, just love and a hint of sadness for the child whom she had grown to love and was leaving her care. We walked up the steps to their living area, and I turned toward the door looking for Mark, almost reaching for him.
Then I saw her. She was standing in the doorway, smiling nervously at her Daddy. She looked lovely. Her long bangs were pinned plainly to the side, and her bright eyes searched me for answers. She looked at me, smiling, questioning. I walked over to her and hugged her, and she hugged me back. I stepped back from her, taking in her presence again after the long month she had been away. Mark was talking to the couple who had been taking care of her. They told us she was excited when she heard she was coming home to live with us again.
We talked about her visit, the farm the family had house sat for while Eliza was there, and the kitten they had given her which had died the day before we came. We had intended to bring the kitten home with her too.
The pain and loss this precious child had experienced again, in her life, and really so much of it at my hand, was staggering to me, and filled me with an intensity of feeling I hadn’t felt for a long time. It was sorrow and regret for the pain I’d caused, admiration that she had made it through. Eliza had survived, and I was amazed at how strong and grown up she seemed. She showed us her bedroom, and where she kept her things. We visited for a while and then we said goodbye.
Eliza sat in the back seat, and I sat in the front seat with Mark. On the ride up, I had thought that I would ride in the back with her, but nerves overtook me, and I climbed in the front seat, selfishly craving to be near Mark. Somehow we had to address why we had told her we thought I couldn’t be her mother, and why we had come back. Words failed me.
Eliza talked and talked in the car about her stay, and asked so many questions about her brothers and sisters. Soon we pulled into the parking lot of Olive Garden, and we went into eat.
This time I sat next to her on the bench. We chose our food, and ordered our drinks, and then the questions came. Eliza’s face was serious, her eyes sad. “Why you say you not come back? Why you come back?”
There were no words to ease her pain, or to undo the hurt we had caused her in our biggest debacle of parenting ever, yet we answered honestly.
It was I who spoke first. “We came back because you’re our daughter, and we need you. We love you. I don’t really know why we told you we couldn’t be your parents. Somehow we thought someone else could be better for you, that you would be happier in another family. But then it hurt too much, we missed you too much, and we knew that we had to come and bring you home. We’re so sorry that we hurt you.”
Then Mark said, “Eliza we love you. The kids love you and miss you. Everyone can’t wait to see you.”
Her eyes were wide and understanding, accepting. She was quiet a moment and then looked up at us again. “You miss me?”
Tears filled my eyes, tears of pure love and respect for this child I had hurt, for my daughter who was happy that I had missed her. “Oh yes! We missed you. We’re so sorry Eliza. We should have come sooner for you. We should never have left you at all. We were so confused and wanted what was best for you, and we didn’t know what that was then, but we do now. No matter what happens ever again, you are our daughter, and we love you. Whatever happens in the future, we’re going to get through it together, forever, no matter what. We’re family. And we love you.”
I was in awe of her ability to accept our words, at her bravery and willingness to try again with us.
“I miss you. I miss my family.”
Many times throughout the meal she asked if we really loved her. She asked us over and over again, as if with each confirmation, she could begin to trust the love a little more, as if each affirmation of our love thrilled her, and she couldn’t hear it enough. Joy began to radiate the tentative smile she had worn, and warmth and confidence began to spread across her face like the sun begins to fill the sky as it rises slowly over the mountains.
We finished our meal and went to the ladies room together. It felt good to be together again, mother and daughter, doing simple mother and daughter things.
When we got in the car this time, I sat in the back with her. She sat in the middle, and I sat on the side. Within a few minutes, she was in my arms resting her head on my shoulder. I brushed her hair back from her face and kissed her forehead. I noticed the dry skin on her legs. I had cream in my pocket book, and she let me rub it on her legs as we drove home.
We sat like that the whole way home, Eliza in her mother’s arms, and I, holding my daughter and feeling the love that I’d longed to feel for far too long.
Somehow amidst the pain of almost letting her go, my need to be forgiven by Eliza, and her amazing ability to give me that forgiveness, a deep and special love began to grow in my heart and an acceptance of this precious young lady God had given me. An aching longing to mother her filled me once again, and a deep bond began to blossom within both of us because we had come through the winter together and had made it to the spring.
“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
I had my daughter back with me, and it felt so very right.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11