Before I Begin
At first, my goal was to write a letter to our adopted children. However, the words felt deeply personal, and I struggled to put into words just how I feel about them. As the contents unfolded, the words changed shape and, instead of a letter to my daughters, it became a letter about them. It became a letter to other adoptive parents walking through life trying to understand the complex realities of our adoptive children.
Parenting adopted children is a structure built by blocks of grief, understanding, and detective work. We try to rebuild a foundation despite not fully understanding how it was formed in the beginning. My daughters’ lives have been grafted to the lives of our family, forming new branches of our family tree. The beauty they bring–the joy–has been incredible. Understanding the journey they walked before we knew them has come like pieces to a puzzle that we work diligently to hold onto until we have enough pieces to form part of the picture. It is a delicate walk.
Our family came together as a result of brokenness. Tragedy formed our union, but it left our children with deep wounds. When our adopted children came to us, their lives had already begun. Both of our daughters came from foster care. Both of them have lived a significant amount of life without us. Both have lived in multiple homes. Both of them have the shared experience of joining a new family.
A Letter to My Adoptive Children
My beautiful daughters,
I want you to know you are a gift. You are brave. You are fighters. I am so proud of how hard you have worked to overcome so much.
Years ago, when daddy and I started our journey to find you, we knew you were somewhere. I cannot explain it, but we just knew our family was not complete. The years since have been riddled with fumbles. As you know, our lives together have been challenging at times, but our love has continued to blossom and grow. You have continued to risk being loved and loving back.
I often think about what life was like for each of you before you met us. My mind wanders through the years of life you girls have lived before you came into our home. We know some, but there is much that we just don’t understand. I think about our first meeting. You were both so young. One of you held eyes that embraced us from the moment we first saw each other. You were full of hope and optimism. You were trusting and warm. One of you looked at us with trepidation. You studied us and memorized every part of our face with a focus that was palpable. It was like you were looking through us. You called us Mommy and Daddy with a readiness to fall into the new home, but a distance that showed us your love would be hard-earned. It was so amazing to see the difference between you. Those first meetings were so telling.
You were both so small. I think about your journeys, especially your years before you became sisters to each other and siblings to your brothers. I wonder what it was like for you. Of course, I think through what we know about your lives in homes that you lived in before ours, but I often think about what it would have been like for you, the first time you heard about us. What was that like? At 5 and 3, what was it like to have someone tell you that you were going to meet a new family? That you were going to move, yet again, into a new home? When they told you that ours would be your forever home, did you have any concept about what that meant? Thoughts of that time of your life always lead me to think about the tremendous amount of grief and pain you had already experienced. It breaks my heart. I will never understand why you were given the start to your lives that you did. While I don’t understand, I will forever admire the strength you have and how such a tremendous loss has shaped who you are.
My precious daughters, your lives have opened up parts of my heart that would have been forever closed if you had not come into my life. Thank you. I have been blessed by motherhood through biological and adoptive children. While motherhood as a whole has shaped me, there is a tremendous difference between mothering biological and adoptive children. No matter how you came to us, be it birth or adoption, you share so much of the same love, and that love feels deep and true in both situations, but there is a difference. I guess part of it is that your brothers have only ever known me as mommy. They had the gift of only having to learn to trust through consistency and have never had to navigate the heaviness of loving more than one mommy and then saying goodbye. Through the years, learning to walk with you in the pain that the loss of your birth family and subsequent family(s) has been a tightrope at times. Your grief ebbs and flows, but is often silently present. I can see it in your eyes. Thank you for trusting me with your pain.
You both came into my life needing a safe place to live, learn, grow, love, and be loved. I hope you know how thankful I am to have you. I realize that our desire in adopting you stemmed from love; in contrast, you had no choice in the matter. You were placed with us. You didn’t choose any of this. Over the years, you have chosen us, time and time again. You have both bravely shared the hard truths of your early years with us, entrusting us with your hearts. Adoption can be full of grief and hard realities, and you have been learning to work through the pain as it comes with strength and dignity. I am so in awe of you. You are strong and courageous and I am so thankful you are mine.