We are on the plane heading home and I am exhausted. One of our daughters has fallen asleep next to me – she has flown a lot and realizes that the best way to pass the time is to sleep. Our other daughter is talking, singing, engaging, moving, laughing – she has flown a lot as well and realizes that the best way to pass time is to do what she always does. We are flying back to our small university town in the Midwest after having gone to the White House for the Easter Egg Roll. In fact, we were invited with about 30,000 other people to attend the event. I remind our children throughout the time leading up to the trip that although it is going to be busy with a lot of people, in the big picture we are very lucky to have this opportunity that so few people have.
I know why I am exhausted. In part, it is because we walked close to 20,000 steps each day (our oldest daughter had a pedometer as part of a research project at school) and because I am not a young mom. Both my partner and I spent our twenties and much of our thirties in school so that when we decided to start a family I was in my late thirties. But the main reason I am exhausted is not because of my age or my throbbing feet. I am exhausted because once again I have had one of those experiences I didn’t expect and a reaction that was even more unexpected. Let me explain.
Our children, ages nine and five were adopted. Our oldest daughter is from Guatemala and our youngest child is a Midwesterner. Like most international adoptions ours had elements of openness but there was little information and virtually no hope of contact after the adoption was finalized. On the other hand, our younger daughter’s adoption was completely open and the birth family choose us to be their birth child’s forever family. We try to honor and respect our children’s wishes regarding discussions about birth families knowing that our older daughter does not want to discuss adoption and our younger child discusses it with just about anyone she comes into contact with for more than a few minutes.
So even though we may not be talking about our children’s birth families all of the time they are certainly in my thoughts often. And it was during this particular trip that I realized how very often I think of them. When I thought about heading to the White House I imagined that I would be proud, overwhelmed, honored and perhaps feeling a bit humbled by the experience. And I do believe I felt those things but then I saw our daughters with the White House as the backdrop. The bright sun was illuminating their beautiful faces and my first thought was “I wish they knew.”
The “they” is of course, our daughters’ birth families. And right there, next to the Easter Bunny, I cried. I cried because I wish they knew; knew that we were trying so hard to honor the birth families by giving our children opportunities. I can’t imagine the difficulty of having an adoption plan or imagine the difficulty in choosing the forever family for a birth child. For our younger child I imagine the birth family going through the perspective forever families’ portfolios trying to make such an enormous decision. And I wish they knew that by making the choice they did we understand our responsibility to give our children, not things, but experiences.
And so, there I was on the White House lawn not only hoping to see the President but also thinking about our daughters’ birth families. I wish they knew we are doing our best to raise these two wonderful human beings to know the world is theirs, the sky is the limit, they are loved, and to know that there are two brave birth families who wanted them to have these opportunities.