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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Gift

Today I want to write about a very special gift.

First, some background. I adopted my daughter from Russia the day after her 11th birthday in 2004. The intervening years have been a roller coaster ride of good times and bad, of challenges and victories, of setbacks and progress.

Like many children with a history of trauma and time spent in an orphanage, she doesn't always think or react the way a child with a more stable, loving upbringing would. She has attachment issues, and forming appropriate relationships is a challenge for her. It has taken me years of research, reading, experience and talking with therapists and other adoptive parents to sort of understand how her brain works.

But despite everything that has gone on, her adoption has been a gift. It wasn't a gift from her birth parents, who neglected and abused her and who ultimately lost their parental rights. But her adoption was a gift to me nonetheless. The gift was in being able to help, and watch, my daughter learn to deal with her traumatic past, a past that will forever haunt her to some degree. She has had to learn to love and to be loved, to allow me to take care of her, and to realize that she deserves a loving mom and a wonderful life. She is a wonderfully kind and compassionate young lady (now 19 years old). She loves little kids and animals, especially dogs. Her gift to me has been allowing me to help her grow from girl to young lady, from one who was unable to give or accept love to someone who now believes that she deserves to be loved, from someone who saw no future to a young woman looking forward to a bright future.

Recently I experienced adoption from the other side of the fence, when my daughter became pregnant at the age of 18. She isn't in a position to raise a baby, so she decided to put the baby up for adoption. As an adoptee herself, she rightly worried about her baby daughter suffering from the attachment issues with which she has struggled. But a friend of mine, a developmental psychologist, has reassured us that the baby shouldn't be faced with attachment issues since she will not spend time in an institution, being passed from caregiver to caregiver. She will be raised in a stable, loving, two-parent home. Her needs for affection, food, clean diapers and other essentials will be met on demand rather than according to a predetermined timetable as in the orphanage. The adoptive parents have been educated about attachment issues and how to help their new daughter form strong bonds with them. They have received instruction from the adoption agency, and they have read books about raising an adopted child. I shared my hard-won knowledge about attachment issues with the mom. And the baby went home with them when she was just two days old.

Giving a child up for adoption is a challenge for most mothers. It is not an easy decision to make, no matter how wonderful the adoptive family is. My daughter's head knows that she did the right thing. Her heart, on the other hand, still aches from the decision. Signing the court papers formally and irrevocably relinquishing her parental rights was a heartbreaking act.

I hope she realizes that her selfless actions were a wonderful gift to the family that adopted this baby girl, a family that longed for a child to love. It was a gift to the little baby as well -- the gift of the best chance at a wonderful life given by the young woman who grew to love her over the 10 months of her pregnancy. And although she probably wouldn't want to admit it, it also was a gift to herself. Now she can pursue her hopes of going to college, something she would have been unable to do had she tried to raise the baby herself. I told her recently that since she has made the painful decision to put her baby up for adoption, it is now up to her to take full advantage of the opportunities open to her. And by choosing an open adoption, she will be able to watch this little girl grow up, to follow her progress and to be part of her life. The baby will one day know her birth mother and the love she has for her.

Adoption is a gift. It is a gift to the child who is adopted and given a loving family. It is a gift to the adoptive parents, who are given the opportunity to raise and love a child. And although it may not seem such, it is a gift to the birth mother, who is able to offer her child an opportunity for the life she is unable to provide at that time in her life.

I am incredibly proud of my daughter for the gifts she has given the world, as an adoptee and as a birth mother.