I remember happily chatting with a fellow adoptive mama about my child’s first year when she gently commented, “The first year post adoption is such a whirlwind!” I smiled and nodded, not really knowing what she meant. Now as we approach my son’s first birthday, I can confidently say it is a whirlwind. I knew the whirlwind might hit me. I had read this blog post, I knew there was sadness from this one too but it had not been something I anticipated experiencing this way. I’ve chatted with many non-adoptive moms, and at the end of the first year of their baby’s life, they often relive their birth story, share the moments they knew the baby was coming, the nesting they did, the labor, the hospital, and so on.
For a mama through adoption like me, it’s a bit different. Leading up to his birthday, I’m re-reading his “case”, the very first introduction we had to him. If you’re in the waiting or a parent through adoption, you know that these are the details the adoption professional gives you before you present. Looking back, it’s not much — only a few pages. I asked my husband recently what our son’s first birthday theme should be. He jokingly replied, “Carbs! He loves them!” As I reread his case, I saw that his birth mom listed fettuccine alfredo as her favorite food. I smiled to myself and thought, “I wonder if he gets that from her”. I poured over the details, as I did the first time I saw his case, and realized there was so much I missed or have since forgotten. Rereading those pages is my way of reliving the memories. Maybe I didn’t see two pink lines or carried him in my womb, but I knew him.
I texted her, “He’s almost 1!” In a weird way, she’s one of the people that understands the feelings of his first birthday the most. We both hold a lot of grief; grief that this is how his life looks; grief that family preservation wasn’t possible. But there is joy too. Joy for who he is becoming and who he is. Joy for how much he’s loved by both his mamas. We are grateful that we have a relationship like we do. We have both worked hard to achieve this bond, and as with all relationships, it ebbs and flows. As he grows we know it won’t be about just us any more. We know adoptees need support navigating their birthdays too, as a social worker, I am well aware many adoptees have experiences like this when it comes to birthdays.
This is the first birthday we’ll be celebrating together. That text exchange may be all that we get, but maybe other years we’ll celebrate him in the same room. Maybe some birthdays we don’t even text each other. But this year, on our son’s first birthday — this is something that we can sit in, both the joy and grief, together.