For as long as I can remember I never tired of hearing it…right
up to the last year I had with my sweet mom in my 20’s I loved hearing the story
of the day I came to my forever family. Even growing up in the 1970’s & 80’s, a time when I knew of no other children outside of my family that had joined their families through
adoption, I eagerly shared my story with friends. “I came to my mommy in a yellow taxi cab” I would say, though my mom would often giggle and remind me that it was a yellow Mercedes,
not a taxi cab that pulled up to their home with me inside that day. In my younger years I knew that my parents had wanted a child more than anything and that while stationed overseas they began their adoption journey. While they were not next in line to receive a child through the government run agency, the gentle, middle aged social worker (as my mom described him) contacted her about me one day saying, “I saw her and I knew she was for you”.
“All Thanksgiving day I had a stomach ache” my mom would tell me,
“I was so excited because they were going to bring you to us the day
after.” Enter the yellow Mercedes. And so it was…my “adoption day” was always celebrated the day after Thanksgiving.
A day with several small gifts, a new outfit and my choosing of
what we would have for dinner (usually my mom’s spaghetti) my adoption day was a
special day acknowledging the time we came together as a family.
It was not until I was a little older that my mom filled in the blanks about the time before my first adoption day. “Now, the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey would say--
My birthmother, unmarried and outcast by her family had been living in a car with myself (I was a baby at the time) and an older child also in tow. After living that way for a time, having little but gas station food to eat, she chose at some point to leave me with friends and
did not return. Eventually her friends had no other choice than to report things to the authorities and I became a foster child. I have no memory of my time with the family that took me in, fostered me and had hoped to adopt me themselves but my mom met my foster mother once while shopping. She was stopped in the store one day by a woman with a kind face who did not know her but who recognized me. She said they had
hoped to give me a forever home but that the Government felt they had too many
children of their own to take in another permanently. My mother was grateful to them for taking such good care of me, and so am I. What a true labor
of love it is to be a foster parent. I think so much of those who give so freely of themselves to these children who need so much love and also have so much love to give of their
own if only given the chance.
As I became more of an adult, my adoption day became not only a
day of gratitude that we had found each other, but also a day my mom and I would
reflect on my birthmother. How hard it must have been to close the car door without me inside, knowing she would likely never see me again. How sad
it was that life had brought her to a point that she needed to make such a
choice. And how grateful to her I am for making a choice that was the best thing for me.
I did not become a mother until the year after I lost my own sweet mom and it was not until then that I had more questions. As I cared for my own
children, all who came to my husband and I as infants, relishing in the late
night snuggles at feeding times and all the “firsts” that come in a child’s
first months of life, I was a little sad for my mom who did not find me until I
was 14-months old. I remember asking her when I was younger if it bothered her that I was not a real “baby” anymore when she first met me and her reply that she would have loved to have had every minute of my life with me, but that when I came to her,
everything we did was a first. It is true. I think of all the
children in foster care right now, waiting—if they are given forever families,
they will enjoy many firsts as well, no matter what age they are
found. I think of Davion and his wish for a pillow of his own, what a simple first—but there is no doubt that when given the opportunity he will celebrate it! I am sure had life circumstances been different my own birthmother would have liked to share all of my firsts with me as well, but it is my hope she would be happy that I was loved and celebrated by my family on my adoption day and EVERYDAY.
I know there are many people who celebrate “adoption day”, (some
call it GOTCHA DAY—not a term I like --but that is a post for another day) and
how the family chooses to address their day should really depend on the
child. If you have adopted an older child that has memories of their birth family, they may have mixed feelings about celebrating their finalization or adoption day anniversary
Despite the circumstances that led them into the system they may miss their birth family or feel conflicted about their past. Perhaps with older children adoptive parents should ask the child if and how they would like the day to be acknowledged. For me,
it was just part of my story—a story I loved to hear as a child and needed to hear as an adult. My adoption day truly evolved from a day of my parents expressing their joy at the memory of my arrival to a day where I was able to reflect on all sides of the adoption triad
and formulate a greater understanding of the choices by all the adults in my
life that led me to where I was.
I often see mixed reviews on celebrating an adoption day—that it
means celebrating a birth family torn apart or may make the adoptee feel singled
out. You have to do what is right for your family and your child. I
do not go around with a HELLO MY NAME IS MADELEINE AND I WAS ADOPTED sticker on,
it is just a part of my life story. It is part of what made me, me-- but being adopted does not
define me. I can honestly say that I never truly questioned “why didn’t my birthmother want me?” and never embraced what could have been negative feelings of abandonment.
Instead I embraced the love. First the love of my parents who took me in, sight unseen as
theirs in every way…the love of a birthmother who left me to another life out of
what I feel was love, the love of my sister who I do not share a drop of DNA
with but who could not be more of my sister if we did-- and acknowledging my
adoption day has always just been a part of acknowledging all of that love.