I remember the day we brought our daughter home from the hospital. It was just a few months shy of 15 years ago. It was a surreal day. A mixture of joy, terror, excitement, and apprehension stirred in me like a hurricane over the Atlantic. We had chosen the road of adoption and she was our firstborn daughter. The day before we were two people in their early 20s, married only a few years, and living the good life just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. We stayed out as late as we wanted, slept in for as long as we wanted, even picked up and jumped on a plane to another city whenever we wanted.
But this day? This day our entire world would be turned upside down. We would never be the same again, and for good reason. The moment our daughter was born she was brought from her birth mother’s delivery room and placed in our arms. My wife held her for the first time. She was the first person to change her diaper. I was the first person to feed her. Our emotions ran high that day over our brand new baby girl. They still do today, almost 15 years later. We love her deeper than we could ever imagine loving another human being.
And that’s probably the very reason I’m so uneasy over her wanting to meet her birth mom all these years later.
Let me be clear — my uneasiness, sometimes terror, and freak out has nothing to do with her birth mom. From everything we know of her, she’s a polite, responsible, and caring person. She’s never been anything but respectful of us and our family. Heck, she chose us to adopt her daughter. Over the years we’ve known very little about her, even where she resided. When our daughter was born, she chose to have a closed adoption with us because she respected our family and she knew she had to go on living life. It was easier this way.
We’ve never been afraid of her, or worried she would do something that would put our daughter, or us, in danger — ever. I feel it necessary to say this because oftentimes, birth parents get a bad rap. Sure, there are plenty of situations where birth family members may be unsafe (trust me, I know a few), but normally (yes, normally) this is not the case.
I’m not freaking out over my daughter wanting to meet her birth mom because of her birth mom. I’m freaking out because of me. Yes, me! This is my own insecurity speaking. My own worry. My own fear.
You see, I’ve been the one on the front lines of raising my daughter for more than a decade now. It’s been more blood, sweat, and tears than I can keep track of. She calls me daddy. Even at 15 years old, she’ll still get up out of her seat in our living room or the movie theater and come and sit next to me, burying her head in my shoulder if there’s a scary or uneasy scene on the screen. When we’re in public, she holds my hand — willingly. On her phone, she has my name saved with hearts around it. She’s my little girl, my princess. Even though she can almost look me in the eye, she’s so tall, I still see the baby girl learning to walk — the timid toddler who would cautiously step off a sidewalk when she’d walk with us out of a store or restaurant.
Not that meeting her birth mom would erase the past 15 years of this. It wouldn’t. Again, her birth mom would never harm her or our family. It’s just that, when you’ve invested so much over so long, your heart is on the line. That’s one of the most beautiful and tragic realities of adoption. You’re your children’s parents — plain and simple. But they have another set of parents, too. They have birth parents. And whether or not they are safe, unsafe, cordial, involved, unreachable, unavailable, or nonexistent, that doesn’t change your own insecurity. It’s not just something adoptive parents go through. Traditional parents worry their child will leave and find something better, too. They shed tears over their investment, too.
I guess you could call it the great curse of parenthood. While I know I have nothing to worry about, I still worry. I still fear. I still feel uneasy, insecure.
I don’t know when it will be — maybe soon, maybe not — but my daughter will meet her birth mom. There will be tears exchanged. There will be laughter and that awkward silence when neither party knows what to say. And I will be freaking out a little. I will be afraid. But I will also be celebratory as I watch my little girl embrace the woman who gave her life. Who gave her to us.
My hope is that that very moment washes all of my fear away.