Meeting Ms. Right
The woman we met was a 29-year-old single mother of four, warm and humorous, with a deep Southern drawl. We liked her immediately and admired her honesty. During a tumultuous divorce, she had had an affair with an African-American man, who is now in jail. "I can't take care of the baby," she said, "and I want him to have a mother and a father." Admittedly, I had moments when I suspected she was giving up her baby because he was biracial, but at the same time, I was confident that we were meant to be his parents and that his life would be everything everyone would have wanted for him.
After the meeting, the birth mother said that she wanted us to be her son's parents. We all hugged, relieved that everyone had found what they were looking for. Three days later, Micah was born. We attended his birth, fed him his first bottle, and the hospital gave me special access to the nursery. When it seemed impossible for the birth mother to let go of Micah at the hospital, we gently coaxed him out of her arms and wiped away her tears. She finally let go and placed him in his car seat and her grandfather took her hand and walked away from our new family.
Another Change of Heart
But a baby's face changes things. Although the birth mother said initially that she didn't want any contact with us, she changed her mind every week. First she wanted to see Micah when we signed the final adoption papers. Then she wanted letters and pictures every six months -- indefinitely. The adoption agency would serve as an intermediary, forwarding the letters from us to her. As we'd never agreed to this sort of relationship, we were overwhelmed by her requests. Now that we all knew each other a little better, she felt comfortable enough to make demands, and we felt guilty enough to do what she asked.
And so, dutifully but sometimes begrudgingly, I have sent our packages every six months. Though the arrangement is not legally binding, it's an issue of integrity. I can never forget the fact that we looked into her eyes, she looked into ours, and delivered to us our precious boy.
Embracing the Future
There comes a time in every adoptive parent's life when she needs to answer some tough questions. Why did my birth mother decide to keep her other four kids and give me up, my son will ask me one day. I struggle with the "you were a gift to us" adoption story. Instead of weaving him a fairy tale, I will tell him the truth: We will never know the real reason, but there's a lot more to his life than his birth mother's decision. I will tell him the history of the proud people from whence he came. If I can give his soul roots in a place deeper than biology, perhaps that question won't carry as much weight.
Micah celebrated his first birthday in New York City at his grandfather's house. When we returned from our trip, the agency called me and said that the birth mother had sent him a birthday package. We hadn't agreed to gifts, so my reaction was to tell the agency to send it back. My sister-in-law suggested that I make a box of things from his birth mother and when it's time to talk to him about his adoption, we'll have all of the pieces of his life that he needs to understand how he came to be. As an adoptive mother, I want to think that his life began with me. Simply put, it just isn't true.
So I kept the birthday package and opened it. Inside, along with Micah's gifts, was a Mother's Day card for me. Though our relationship has its moments of strain, that card reminds me that her heart is in the right place. For now, she will remain our distant and loving pen pal...but I remind myself that I must stay open to what the future may hold.
Kim Green is a writer living in Atlanta with son Micah.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2005.
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