Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All the Unknowns

Every two weeks, I faithfully take out my pathetic little camera phone and snap a shot of my littlest. I compose a short text with some updates and send it all along to his birthmother. In 10 1/2 months, I had gotten two replies. Two. That's 34 messages and only twice had they been acknowledged. Both times, his BM stressed how hard this is and how much she missed him, so I'm not sitting around feeling annoyed or bitter about her lack of reply. Simply put, I have no idea what she's going through and I don't begrudge her her silence.

Two text messages. Until his birthday this past weekend during during which we were surprised (and so very excited) to receive a birthday message for him and the first pictures we've ever received of his birth mother and half sister. Treasure, really, in the adoption world. We were so grateful and those pictures will go right in his life book. But you know what? I want so much more for him than 3 text messages and a few pictures.

Daily something arises in his little life and I wonder if it's just his unique personality or if one of his birth parents was like this. I don't have his biological grandparents to ask those fun questions- "Did his dad scream with delight like this as a baby? Did his mom blow kisses to the dog, too? Were either of them this mind-bogglingly large at this age?" I don't know who he looks like - the recent picture we received was more of an artsy profile shot. No idea whose toes he has or which expressions mirror which parent.

All the unknowns feel like a loss to us. I can only imagine what they will feel like to him when he realizes them.

One of the things I pray for daily is that his BM will change her mind about meeting us all. I have these fantasies of us sharing Thanksgiving dinner in 10 years or meeting up every few months to laugh and chat or, at the very least, when we likely need to leave Wisconsin in a year and a half, being willing to hang out at a coffee shop for a few, potentially awkward, minutes so she can meet him before we move very far away. Not to say that we wouldn't return for him to see her- we knew when we adopted here that we were also quite possibly making a lifelong commitment to Wisconsin.

But you know what I want to know? How long has his family been here? What is his sister like? She looks sassy and sweet in her picture, having struck this adorable little pose with her hand on her hip and this huge smile lighting up her face. How is his BM handling the loss of him TODAY? How can we support her and love her?

And possibly the hardest part of all of this is that we will truly never know his birth father. That door closed a long time ago. We may eventually get answers to the pieces of his life puzzle on his BM's side but the other side will always stay dark. There will always be more unknowns for him than for my other son. And having to tell him about that man? I don't look forward to the hurt and confusion it will cause when that day comes but he deserves to know his story.

Before we adopted, I remember a friend of mine with two internationally adopted children lamenting the fact that there will be whole pieces of their lives that don't include her. The first years of their lives in orphanages, their birth stories, the missing newborn pictures. When they first spoke or walk. There was a whole other life these kids had lived.

I cannot imagine how that feels.

Having our little guy come to us at 6 weeks old, we have gotten to experience a lot of the firsts. His brother and I watched him take his first steps exactly two weeks ago. I get to hear him call the dog "God" and I was there the first time he called for Mama from his crib. I've rocked him to sleep for almost 11 months now. I watched him learn to grab things and sit up and recognize us and crawl with passionate delight towards his dad when he gets home at night. He didn't have much going on in life before we met him- pretty much that newborn trifecta of eat, sleep and poop at his foster parents home. We did miss his birth, his coming home, his first smile - but he's rewarded us with about 10,000 since then so I guess we're ok. In the grand scheme of things, we didn't miss much.

I am grateful I'll be able to tell him anecdotes about him as a baby and fill in some of his story. But I also long for the ability to tell him more. To fill in hard gaps. To help him learn how to cleave to God when his human story cannot be enough for him and, to be honest, might be entirely too much to take in. To teach him ways to work through questions of identity and community that will be more confusing for him being raised by white parents.

There will always be unknowns. That's adoption. We welcomed the unexpected and the unanswerable into our lives when we signed all the papers.

We also welcomed deep joy in the midst of the all the questions. I am hoping that as we continue on this path, as he grows more and learns to talk and hears his story, that he will be able to fully mourn the losses and unknowns even as the Lord teaches him to fully delight in Him.

Advent is a season for pondering the suffering in our lives and in the world- and right now, we don't feel much of that. We are in a place characterized more by joy right now. It would be tempting to jump straight to Christmas. But I am no stranger to the idea that our joys are made sharper, more intense by the sorrows we've experienced- I did spend 6 advents and Christmases longing for this child, waiting in sorrow, mourning the loss of Amara. The sorrows our little guy has in store will be no easy thing to work through. We will cry alongside him when he's hurt, we will fight alongside and before him when he is treated unjustly, we will mourn alongside him when the pieces we have of his story only cause confusion.

May we continue to learn to both mourn and delight as the time of his understanding approaches so that he might, as much as possible, learn those things with parents who know them, too.

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