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.
Truth Permits Us Space to Hold Duality
By Lakshmi Iyer
The ring lies on the ledge inside the shower stall. I remember to bring it outside when I am done. I wipe it dry and inspect it in the flickering bathroom light. Teal and silver, it is nondescript. I slip it on my finger, it is loose.
I slide it into my pocket when dressed and walk outside. I hand it to my oldest child. The ring is her birthmother’s. Kay treasures the ring in the way I treasure the earrings my mom gave me. I often find it on her bedside table where she puts it before going to bed.
Some days, I find it in the shower stall. A few years ago, I would have put it away in my jewelry safe, a spot for all things precious and untouched. Now, though, I let it be, a tenuous connection to my child’s birth mother and by extension her other family.
The chat app on my phone dings. I open it to find a note and a picture. A photo of a side table with knickknacks, I know holds immense value to the sender, my children’s birthmother. Amid the items is a framed picture of our family.
A rush of affection for Mommy B overwhelms me. I type back a string of hearts. Over the years, our communication has migrated from leaving comments on blogs, to being connected on social media to now being on favorites list on our phones.
My children, all three of them, send her cat memes. She sends them pictures with filters that feature cat ears and whiskers. They connect over visuals, silly jokes and frivolous cartoons.
Shortly after lunch on a Sunday afternoon, my head woozy after a long luxurious hair wash, I want to nap. Instead, I stand in the kitchen baking brownies for the first time. My children crowd around me.
One child captures the moment on camera, another hands out ingredients and the third watches curiously. An hour later, warm brownies still in the pan, all of us crowd around the kitchen island to sing an off-key birthday wish to their other mother who lives on the opposite coast of the US. I send her the recorded video and get a response back in real time. The distance is real but technology bridges the gap.
The afternoon mail brings with it a yellow manila envelope. Inside is a piece of cardboard to support a precious sheet of paper from getting bent or crumpled in transit. It is my daughters’ great grandfather’s (by birth) death certificate. One that bears his full name, pertinent details about his life and his death. Also, in that envelope are photocopies of important documents from his life chronicling his service and the legacy he left behind.
My eyes well up knowing how much this piece of paper will mean to my children when they are adults trying to connect the dots and trace their family history past the immediate generation. Our family is blended, their birth family being the roots and the branches a curious mix of birth and adopted relations.
Most days, the communication is sporadic. It comes in bursts when we have news to share, events to talk about and pictures to show. My daughters have grown up in front of their birth family’s eyes.
They have gone from toddlers to middle schoolers. I have grown into my role as a mother. The journey has been one of acceptance, discomfort and growth. I have watched my daughters’ other mother grow up as a woman, take a stand, follow a dream, battle demons and bloom where she has put down roots. She is a friend, a sister, a daughter, a mother who roots for our children in ways no one else can.
On long walks around our development, my daughters and I talk about genetics, we talk about how it impacts how they learn, how they grow and what to expect over the next few years. We also talk about nurture and how that could exacerbate or mitigate what genes bring to the table.
We talk about race, we talk about puberty, we talk about things mom and daughters talk about. Sometimes, these conversations cause me to stumble as I explain adoption trauma and how it has impacted their brain. I pause, regroup and talk in age appropriate ways about the things that may someday cause them to see life differently than their sister.
I talk to them about trust and love. I vocalize love incessantly, repeating and reiterating that Appa and Amma will be there for them no matter what. I know that they need to hear the words, feel that love and know in their hearts that they matter.
I love this easy flow of words without the need to hold back, censor or fudge information rightfully due to my children. We pore over their DNA report identifying which parts of the world their ancestors came from.
They delight in knowing they have bits and pieces from so many places around the world. They mock my homogenous report, all one solid block of color when compared to their rainbow chart.
My children sometimes listen silently, digesting things other eleven-year-olds do not have to think about. Some days, they talk with an understanding that makes the mom in me proud. Other days, they struggle with holding too much in their head and hearts. When words fail, we acknowledge the sorrow and end the day with a hug.
We understand as a family that this journey is not the easiest but it can be rewarding. Truth sets us free. Truth permits us space to hold duality. Truth allows us to make space for sorrow within joy and joy amid the sadness. It is truth that will see us through.
This too, is a portrait of an adoption.
Lakshmi is an alumna of the Yale Writers Workshop 2018. She has a certificate in creative writing from Simon Fraser University. A business analyst by profession, she raises her children in the Northeast US with her husband. Her work has appeared in Mutha Magazine, The Huffington Post, Chicago Now, Adoptive Families, Centered magazine and The Verve. She also has essays in two anthologies – I AM STRENGTH (Blind Faith Books) and Desi Modern Love (Story Artisan Press). Her debut children’s book “Why is my Hair Curly?” was published by the Red Panda imprint (Westland Books – An Amazon company).
She blogs at www.lgiyer.com and is often found tweeting @lakshgiri
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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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