My Oldest Daughter and I Shared Our First Hug

My Oldest Daughter and I Shared Our First Hug

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Portrait of an Adoption is running a special series called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.  Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents.  Painful and beautiful, these stories will bring you a deeper understanding of what adoption looks like, allowing you to appreciate the many brushstrokes that comprise a family portrait.

My oldest daughter and I shared our first hug

By Amy Conn

Sixteen years ago, I gave up my first daughter for adoption. There are so many parts of that phrase I don’t like. “Gave up” and “adoption” being the main ones. What words would I use?

Something along the lines of: sixteen years ago I was psychologically confused and unprepared for adult life (like most twenty-one-year-olds) and happened to get pregnant in the middle of it...and I found a way through that gave my daughter a chance for a good life and that I could simply live with.

And I wish I wish I wish it hadn’t happened that way.

I recently ran in to my friend Carrie and shared that this summer I met my oldest child for the first time, knowing that she would appreciate the news. She immediately invited me to do a guest blog and I have been teary ever since.  Not many people know I am a birth mother.

I tell people sometimes and don’t consider it a secret, but it feels like a big life story to bring in to casual conversation.  I have another daughter who is now seven, so I’ve answered “yes” to the question “Is she your only?” hundreds of times out of expediency and it always breaks my heart.

Ours is a semi-open adoption, involving annual letters and pictures from my older daughter’s family and, as she has gotten older, letters from her as well. When she was thirteen, she and I slipped into e-mailing rather than snail mail, but I was never sure how much her adoptive parents were monitoring, and after a while her questions morphed from “what is your favorite movie,” to statements such as “sometimes I wonder what it would be like not to be adopted.”

At that point, I contacted her adoptive mother and we had our first phone conversation since the first week of our daughter’s life.  The phone call was generally positive, resulting in clearer boundaries and a feeling that we all had our daughter at the top of our priority list, but it opened my eyes and heart to this whole complex web of family relationships.

In the adoptive mother’s voice, I heard wariness and vulnerability.

Wary of me, I thought?  Of course, wary of me.  Of course.

So this summer, when I received an e-mail from my older daughter saying “my mom might be calling you soon”, I wasn’t sure how excited to be.  A week letter her mom sent a casual and friendly e-mail… “weʼll be in Chicago a couple of times this summer, would love to have lunch with you if you would like...”

The first opportunity was only a week away, and I was totally available.  There was back-and forthing and we made our plan to meet in Millennium Park and walk around and get some food.

Both her parents were coming as was her elder sister in that family.  I decided to bring along my younger daughter, who has known about her sister for some time and literally screamed at the top of her lungs with excitement when she found out about the meeting.

We drove to Millennium Park in our nicest summer skirts in virtual silence.  I felt my 22nd-year-old pregnant self re-inhabiting my body, filling it with stress and shame, almost overwhelming shame.

Forget that I am now thirty-nine and generally sane and confident (generally) and practice both yoga and forgiveness whenever possible.  I was afraid my daughter’s adoptive parents would patronize me in some way, afraid that I would be under examination.  I didn’t even know what to be excited about in terms of meeting my daughter, she was so completely unknown.

My youngest and I waited at the fountain on the corner of Randolph and Michigan and after some quick texts about parking options, I turned around and they were there.

My oldest daughter and I shared our first hug, long and strong, during which my brain and heart and spirit shifted.  I felt her and I smelled her and felt our mutual yearning and my narcissistic, childish anxieties dissolved.

My brain and heart sort of rolled around and all that ran through me was: “this is my child and I am her parent and she needs my love” - simple as that.  In the meantime there was small talk - very gentle and considerate small talk on everyoneʼs part.

An inclusion of my seven-year-old in the conversation, a walk around the Gold Coast Art Fair, some pizza and an explanation of the finer points of the Tour de France.  My eldest obviously looking for similarities to me and to her sister and finding them, both in personality and mannerisms and preferences.

We spent many hours talking about hobbies and school and interests and talents and whose noses are the same and who thinks math is fun… My daughters are full biological sisters and are fascinated with one another.  Watching them talk from my seat across the table was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had.

Her adoptive parents and sister were easygoing and obviously committed to supporting all of us.

The visit ended with another long and intense hug; really long and really intense.  So far, that’s it.  A few gifts exchanged, a few follow-up “thank you so much for the visit” emails.  A small release on the pressure valve of pent-up longing for one another.

And for me, a hopeful future full of opportunities to love her tangibly rather than intangibly.

By Amy Conn

Comments

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  • Amy, thank you for contributing to this column with your story. We birthmothers are so much the same emotionally, in our strength, our guilt, our not wanting to lie but not wanting to tell the whole story in a casual way. My daughters are full siblings of our son we relinquished for adoption, so we have that in common, too. Seeing your children together and enjoying their similarities are joys that never go away. I've been able to see those relationships grow for over 20 years now and it always gives me a sense of peace. I'm happy for you that you have experienced it and will continue to do so for many years.

    Bless your daughter's parents for understanding and supporting her need to know you and your younger daughter. Yours is a story of hope and strength ... one of the really good stories. I know that doesn't diminish one bit of what you went through and continue to go through, but as I said once before, we know it's not about us. It's about our children and their future. Thank you again for sharing and showing that birthparents care.

  • In reply to lauriegayle:

    Laurie, I want to thank you for all the lovely and supportive comments you have written to my guest posters during this series. You and another commenter, Jiyer, have been truly great about this! Carrie

  • Amy, I think you can use the word "entrusted" instead of "giving up" or "relinquishing." We as adoptive parents can never forget that our children have been entrusted to us by the ones who gave them life - and we nurture and guide and love them in a way that, we hope, will do their birth parents proud.

    As a former foster mother who holds my foster daughter, Nina, close to my heart years after she has reunified with her birth mother, I am so glad you got the opportunity to physically hold your oldest daughter and share the emotions that words cannot express. And I can so well relate to that feeling of peace you experienced when you saw your children together. When Nina comes home to visit us, and I see her playing with my son, there is a feeling of peace and completeness in my heart like no other.

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    In reply to jiyer:

    WONDERFUL choice of word options!!

  • Thank you, Amy, for sharing the story of meeting your daughter again after 16 years. As an adoptee, your story brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy for you and your daughter that this reunion happened and I hope that you can continue to build your relationship with her in the coming years. It's an important bond that should not stay severed. Your description of the emotions you experienced was so powerful. I hope other birth mothers will read your story and have the courage to reach out to the children they relinquished. I've talked with my birth mother by phone, but my birth has remained a secret to others in her life, so it's not likely we will ever meet in person. As sad as that is to me, I think it is probably as bad if not worse for her.

  • Another day, another tearful lunch at my desk while I read these stories. As a non-adoptive parent, I am both fascinated and moved by all of these stories. The emotions are so strong, and each writer seems to articulate those feelings so eloquently. Amy, thank you for sharing your story. It was very brave of you and difficult, I'm sure, to write it.

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    Amy, this gives me such a good vision on what it is like for a birthmother... a GOOD birthmother. Sadly my foster/adopt daughter will not be so lucky. Her bithmother abandoned her in the hospital and has been on the lam since. She is now 8-years-old.

    I have always wished for the day that we could have met face to face or even exchanged letters to give my utmost thanks for the gift we received. Had she not made it to the hospital, my Miracle would probably not be alive.

    Birthmothers are truly special in their own rite and I am thankful. The children are thankful even if they don't know it.

    Good luck to you and your older daughter with the many years to come.

  • In reply to MeekoMommy:

    Thanks, MeekoMommy, for your nice comment about my use of the word "entrusted.'

    Also, I can relate to what you are saying about your daughter's birth mother. I have a foster/adopt son, and although his birth mother did not abandon him, she is not writing to him or me like I had hoped. I do have enough information, however, to know that she has a good heart and that she loves him, in her own way. I can see why writing might feel hard or hurtful for her - and I pray for her well-being and a hope that she might meet my son some day and look into his eyes that are a carbon copy of hers.

  • These are such great stories! Thank you to all of you for sharing! Know that you are our heroes - you contribute to the most basic fabric of our existence. You made the choice many of us wonder if we would have had the courage to make had we been in your shoes. You are awesome, selfless, amazing, courageous women! Thank you for your gift of life and your second gift by sharing your stories.

  • I'm sitting here crying at my desk. You wrote beautifully and with gut-truth honesty.

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