Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
I Am the Lucky One
By Dr. Meridith Gould
In the past six months since my daughter has been home here in the United States, many strangers have told me, “She is the luckiest girl to have been adopted by you.” I am always unsure how I want to respond in that moment. I know they are trying to be kind and in some way honor me for my willingness to adopt a child.
But it is also a misguided belief that adopted children need to be “saved.” Yes, there are many children — like my daughter — living in African orphanages that need a loving home. And in my work as a gender and education humanitarian advisor, I see firsthand the effects of extreme poverty and its impact on children. But I am not my daughter’s savior.
In reality, I am the lucky one.
Because my life has forever changed. My daughter was adopted from West Africa. We are a trans-racial mother and daughter family of two. I am a solo parent by choice, and I waited a long time to be a mother.
My adoption journey was long and filled with many obstacles. It took close to two years to bring my daughter home, including a long visa delay of five months after the adoption was finalized in December of 2018. I worked very hard for many years to save the money for my adoption.
The majority of my work is focused on girls’ education in Africa, and I always knew that I would adopt a little girl from the continent I care so much about. When my daughter and I meet new people, they often ask why I wanted to adopt a child. I wonder if birth mothers are asked why they gave birth to a child.
For an adoptive parent, it seems to always be the first question asked. When I am at the doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store, at a toddler play place – I am often asked. I often openly say my daughter was recently adopted from West Africa. The wealth of any African nation is its people! And the strongest women I have ever known are African women. My daughter is from Liberia and the country holds a special place in my heart.
I am the lucky one…
Because my daughter’s birth mother is a kind, humble and resilient woman. I don’t know her well, but I was able to meet her on the day my daughter’s adoption was finalized in Liberia.
I had prepared myself for the day and I already knew from the orphanage director that she was a wonderful person. She wanted her daughter to be placed with a loving woman who cares about children. She was so happy when she learned about the work I do, about how much I love Liberia and that I was only adopting one little girl. She was glad that her daughter would be forever loved by me.
Our conversation was life-changing. My daughter’s birth mother was gracious at the courthouse that day. My daughter was only 2.5 years old the day of her adoption ceremony in Monrovia. Her birth mother intentionally sat in the row ahead of us in the courtroom. She wanted to make sure that my daughter wouldn’t recognize her. She was legally required to be there but she also wanted to make sure that nothing would get in the way of the adoption and that it would be finalized by the judge.
After the court hearing, she and I went outside to talk. She gave me a big hug. She told me how happy she was that I was matched with B. She was so happy that I was keeping B’s Liberian name, because B was named after her maternal grandmother.
At the end of our conversation, I told her that she will always be B’s mother. She corrected me and said, “you are her mother.” I then assured her again, she will always be her first mother and that I will love her forever and take care of her.
It was one of the most profoundly loving moments I have ever had shared with someone I hardly knew. I now know that my daughter’s first years of her life were filled with so much love from her birth mother.
I am the lucky one …
Because my daughter was loved so much before she came to me, both at the orphanage and by her birth mother. I am lucky because my daughter has an amazing birth mother. Not all adoption stories are ugly and negative.
My daughter has no memory of her birth mother but when she is old enough, I will tell her how much she is loved by her and show her pictures of her Liberian family. I will tell her how amazing Liberia is.
I will bring her back to Liberia to see her caregivers from the orphanage. I will make sure she spends quality time with her birth mother and sister.
My daughter will always know how smart, kind and strong her birth mother is.
My daughter doesn’t understand yet what it means to be adopted. She knows she was born in Africa. She thinks I also have brown skin like her, which I don’t. She thinks she grew in my belly even though I tell her she grew in my heart.
But when she can cognitively process the information, I will make sure she knows that both her birth mom and myself are the lucky ones. We are the lucky ones that both get to call B our daughter always and forever.
Dr. Meridith Gould is a solo-mom by choice and lives with her daughter in Florida. She works as a Senior Gender and Education Advisor for a UN Agency focusing on children and youth in East and West Africa. She loves to travel and plans to take her daughter on lots of global adventures.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
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