She was standing - well, propped up and supported by her birth mom - on the table. The room was small and warm with tile floors and one window. Faith was wearing a fleece dress with purple and blue flowers. I remember thinking, She seems happy.
We shook hands and greeted her birth parents. I cooed at Faith and stroked her cheek and she studied me. I don't remember how long it was before I asked, "Can I hold her?" But then I was - holding my soon-to-be daughter. She felt simultaneously stiff and floppy. I cupped my hand around her head and held her close. I bent my cheek down to rest on her head and soaked her in. I kissed her and stroked her head. The Husband was holding Lila and Lila was begging to hold Faith.
What happened next was both my worst fear and a great relief. We had been warned that Faith's birth parents might not be emotional - that they had resolved themselves to this as the best option for Faith and they may not show any emotion. As I held Faith, my mom had obeyed what I believe was a nudge from the Holy Spirit to bring Faith's birth mom into an embrace. In the corner of my eye, I saw them hug and then this mournful wail began to fill the room. Birth Mom was crying, wailing. I felt uncomfortable in the exact way I should have felt uncomfortable. I felt sick to my stomach. Our joy was her heartache. Our beginning was her ending. Our soon-to-be was her almost-over. I hardly knew what to do.
Faith's birth father took Faith back from me which freed me to hug Birth Mom. The same wail, the same grief poured from her, and my heart met her in her grief. Mother to mother. And then she began to repeat in her moaning, "Thank you, Mommy. Thank you, Mommy. Thank you, Mommy."
My heart. My heart. I just held her and prayed. It was horrible and holy. Beautiful and tragic. I was so grateful for those words because I just wasn't sure what the tears before had meant. But now I understood. I have nothing else to compare it to to help you understand, but somehow I understood how she could be thankful and grieved at once.
It was so...humbling. It was so holy.
We have a video of this exchange, but I equate it to the video I have of Lila's birth. I will treasure that video, watch it with a tender heart and cry each time the scene unfolds. But it is not something I will share with anyone outside our family. Lila's birth is a bit too graphic - a body laid bare and exposed. This one is, too. A heart laid bare. A deep sadness exposed.
We have been met with mixed reactions when we explain the circumstances of our daughter's adoption. Most assume, based on what is common culturally, that Faith's birth parents simply did not want her. This is, without a doubt in my mind, the farthest thing from the truth. She was wanted. She was loved.
This assurance brings my heart a strange mix of joy and grief. Joy because I want my girl to know that her birth family loved and treasured her - that there was no part of her that was unwanted. I am so thankful that I can tell her without a doubt that she was loved by them. But I am also grieved because I know that, had their circumstances been different, they would have parented her. It grieves my heart that any parent might not be afforded the resources and rights to keep their child. Faith's adoption was in no way coerced or forced, but if her birth parents were born into my circumstances rather than theirs, she would not be our daughter - she would still be theirs. I cannot, and don't think I will ever be able to, fully reconcile the gratitude I feel that Faith is my daughter and the guilt I feel that she is not theirs.
To be continued...