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.
The Unexpected Reunion
Each summer, I have a reunion visit with the beautiful girl that I placed for adoption sixteen years ago. This year, I knew K’s visit would be more important than previous visits, because her mom, Carrie, and I had discussed introducing K to the people that were the most supportive during my pregnancy and adoption with her.
I planned to have a barbecue for K to meet the doctor that delivered her, the therapist that helped me come to terms with placing her for adoption, numerous friends and family and most importantly, we would also be celebrating her 16th birthday. I had never gotten to celebrate a birthday with K, so this celebration was going to be awesome!!!
My immediate family and I are not very close, so I was skeptical about them coming to our barbecue. My brother, who lives outside of the United States, was visiting and I knew he would be staying with my parents. I hadn’t seen my brother in five years.
I texted my dad several weeks before the visit and told him K would be here, but that there was no pressure for them. They were welcome to visit if they wanted to meet her. My mother has been the reason for the resistance all these years.
She has never healed from the loss of her own child she was forced to place for adoption in 1970 during the Baby Scoop Era. I can’t imagine how painful it must be for her to witness the enduring, intimate relationship that I have with K and Carrie. It must be painful but wonderful at the same time.
With anticipation and excitement building, Carrie and K finally arrived on a Friday evening. We got to enjoy dinner and we all lovingly doted over Liam, K’s nephew and my grandson. Aunt K and Liam played and laughed while my older children, D and E, talked with Carrie and me about their lives.
All seemed so right with the world. Being together again after a year had passed was as normal as breathing. I know this sounds very strange to those that have been touched by adoption, but our story is truly a gift from God and I cherish the friendship I have with Carrie very much. She is an amazing woman and mother.
So the big day arrived. Saturday. The day of the barbecue. We had until 3:00 pm to get things going and prepare for our guests. My son, D, had been running back and forth between my parents’ house and the park to help set up the pavilion for the celebration. D told me later that he had said something to my parents about K’s visit and again invited them to come to the barbecue to meet her. No response.
Earlier in the day, K and I had been talking, and I told her that my mom not wanting to meet her was about my mother, not about K. I explained to K that my mother has a hard time with adoption as a whole due to the tragic situation that was forced upon her when she was younger. K seemed to understand but I could see the disappointment in her eyes. It broke my heart.
I knew Carrie and I had all the love in the world to give her, but there is something about your grandparents that cannot be filled by another love. As a grandmother now to Liam, I understand this unique love.
Our guests began arriving. There were so many loving and supportive people that showed up that day. K got to meet some of my aunts, and cousins, and dearest friends. It was amazing. Everyone congratulated us and talked about how beautiful K is and how loving Carrie is.
People told me how proud they were of me for placing K and how I couldn’t have picked parents. There were many hugs and happy tears. I thanked everyone for being so amazing during such a difficult time in my life and they all told me they were so very proud of me. In my small town, there aren’t many adoptions and surely not ones that are as open as ours is!
For me, the most emotional part was seeing my therapist show up to the barbecue. This woman, JP, had been my rock, my confidant, my shoulder to cry on, and she knew all of my secrets. When I saw her, I immediately felt as if I was back in her office sitting on her couch in a therapy session. For a period of ten years earlier in my life, this woman had been with me, helping me through the hardest times.
When I saw JP walking toward the pavilion, I walked up to her and immediately began crying and fell into her arms. I didn’t think about the fact that she may not even recognize me since I’ve lost over 130 pounds since she saw me last.
I’m sure she was wondering who this crazy woman was that just walked up and started crying. She immediately recognized me, though, and through our long embrace, we both cried and talked about how much we had missed each other.
She kept telling me how proud she was of me and how amazing I looked. She reminded me of sessions where I would discuss my weight and my desire to lose it — but until I could resolve the guilt and shame of placing K for adoption and the fact that I didn’t know my other kids were being abused before they ended up in foster care — I couldn’t begin to care for myself the way I needed to.
The weight was a wall that I had built up to keep people away from me. After all, I had lousy taste in men and if I was fat and repulsive, they wouldn’t come near me, right? That was my thought process. That and the idea that until I was emotionally ready to let K go, I kept the weight on.
I realize now that the weight I carried bore a significant, emotional representation of who I was during the past sixteen years. A guilt-stricken, grief-stricken, emotionally damaged woman that saw no light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, I can finally say that I have come to terms with placing K. It was nothing I did wrong. I could have raised her, but I loved her enough to let her go and keep her safe. I wanted K to be with a family that could protect her from the type of situation that harmed my other kids. I wanted her to have a mother and a father. Mostly, I wanted K to be a kid and have the best life. She already carried so many responsibilities before she was born. That wasn’t fair to her.
At the end of the barbecue, we made our way back to the hotel where K and Carrie were staying for the weekend, and we discussed all the people and put faces with names and told K why each person was so important to me.
She asked me again about my own immediate family and whether they would be coming to meet her. I told her I was sorry, but I didn’t see them coming around anytime soon. At the end of the night, we said our goodbyes and made plans for Sunday brunch before K and Carrie would head to the airport. This part I hated. There’s never enough time to spend with her.
Then, at midnight, the call came in!! My son jumped up and ran into my bedroom. “MOM!!! Wake up NOW!!!” Half-asleep and fearing the worst, I jumped up and said, “What is going on?” D showed me a text between him and my mother.
My mother wanted to meet K. I was shocked!! I told him to ask her if she was absolutely sure. Her response was “Yes D. I want to meet K. Nina.” It was about 11pm so D and I tried to call Carrie and K to share the good news. Of course, there was no answer because they were both asleep, but D and I were wound with excitement, anxiety, and a little fear. This was the unexpected reunion.
I felt like I was going to be taking my child to a wild pack of wolves. I have protected K and my mother from each other for 16 years and I really never thought my mother would want to meet her. I didn’t know how this was going to go. I was in momma bear protective mode.
Carrie, K and I had breakfast at the hotel Sunday morning and discussed K meeting her grandparents and her uncle. She was thrilled! I told her that if we needed a code word to use as an escape route to let me know. She agreed and we jokingly made up silly words to use. I was so very nervous. Carrie seemed to take it all in stride. If she was nervous, it didn’t show.
I checked in with K, and she reassured me she was doing fine. I think I was tense because of the rocky past with my parents and the circumstances surrounding K’s adoption. I was worried my mother would say something to K that could significantly affect her self-esteem. At the first sign of trouble, I was ready to grab my baby and leave! Momma bear activated!!!
To my wonderful relief, the visit was amazing!!! I even asked my dad at one point if I should be worried about my mom’s health, because it was not in her nature to be so nice and loving! He just shook his head and said “she feels like it’s time to meet her.” Mom and dad showed K baby pictures of me and my siblings and of my other children, E and D.
My mom talked about how much K looked like E and D, and Mom even tried to find similarities of her own with K, such as their mutual love for Thai food. My dad and brother joked with K about all the dumb things I did as a kid and how my brother used to practice his wrestling moves on me.
We talked about the pets we had and how many snakes we found in our house since we lived next to a grain store. It really was an amazing visit.
It was so touching to see my mother overcome such a traumatic adoption experience of her own and be able to meet her granddaughter for the first time. I only saw my mom tear up once, so that was a relief. I knew if she started crying, I would too.
Carrie was able to get a picture of all of us together, and for K’s sixteenth birthday gift, I had the photograph printed up on a canvas, and I mailed it to her.
I don’t know how much longer my parents will be here with us, so I am forever grateful that K will have these wonderful memories of meeting them. I hope she was able to get some questions answered and really feel like part of the family. It felt so complete having her there to meet everyone.
M works as a Victim Advocate and her passion is helping others escape abusive situations. She is a proud mother, birth mother, and grandmother.
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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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