Thursday, July 9, 2015

Watching Goodbye

There is nothing, nothing, that can prepare you to watch someone say goodbye to her child.

No amount of training or imaginings or books about loss or stories of fellow adoptive parents or birthparents can come close.

A year and a half ago, this all felt different. We knew about our son's birth mom, heard about her pain, her sadness, even in the midst of certainty of her decision. But we didn't actually know her. We hadn't hugged her or seen a picture of her. We didn't know what her voice sounded like or how wide her smile was. We didn't know why she made this choice.

Now we know.

And while I'm overwhelmingly glad to know these things, to have these mysteries solved, I also sometimes miss the ignorance.

Because in the ignorance, I could not feel her pain.

In the ignorance, she was just a member of the "adoption triad", someone we treasured in spirit, whose courage and bravery we honored. But she was not particularly real to me or to my son. Intangible, somehow.

And with the new tangibility comes new pain for all of us.

To sit across from a woman who looks you in the eye and thanks you for loving her sons. To watch her glance down at the baby in her arms and hold him tight, unsure if she will ever choose to see him again, if it would be too painful to answer his questions. To hear her whisper words of love and heartache and watch a tear fall, landing on his little hands before she hands him to you to take home.

This is to see pain at its deepest.

So maybe I've been a little quieter about this adoption. Maybe there has been a little more of the bitter than the sweet in these early weeks because I cannot remove that image of mother and son in the moment of goodbye. I don't think I ever will, nor should I. I pray that it will, in the hardest moments of parenting him, remind me of her deepest sacrifice, her hardest choices, her unfathomable pain- and my deep, humbling privilege in calling him "son" alongside her.

And sometimes I think "Is that what God's face looked like? When he said goodbye to Jesus?" Was it that mixture of deep anguish and hope that I saw on her face? Is what she is feeling a small taste of God's own huge sacrifice?

I can't ever know but it makes me pause this time around with the enormity of what adoption means.

And, in the pausing, thank God that, despite all the pain, he has brought us all together- the beautiful woman, her precious sons - our family, that looks more beautiful than we could ever imagine but that will also have deep scars underneath the beauty. Scars of goodbye and loss and grief.

Sometimes in the church we like to paint adoption with rainbows and unicorns, but this is hard stuff, friends. Deep, soul wrenching choices that last a lifetime.

So while I treasure the coos and the first smiles and the sweetness of his big brothers holding his hand or kissing him gently on the head, I treasure it with the knowledge that their first mother is missing it. And while we cuddle him and teach him to call us mom and dad, she waits for texts and pictures, living in the reality of life after loss, her arms empty of that little boy she cuddled not even two months ago.

I am grateful for God's comfort and hope on the days when her loss feels bigger than my joy.

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