INVITING SIERRA TO OUR HOME.
When Blake & I began our domestic adoption process in January 2015, we knew two things & two things only: 1. We wanted an open adoption and 2. We were nervous about an open adoption. But the whole thing was so abstract & surreal, we just plowed through the paperwork & hoped the right emotions would catch up. That was a lot of how the next two years went for me– plowing through & hoping the right emotions would catch up. Was I thrilled we were chosen 15 months later? Absolutely. Was I paralyzed by fear? Also yes.
(The story of being chosen & bringing Emma home only days later was a whirlwind, & you can read about that here if you’d like. I wrote this post just a week after she was born, & I can tell looking back at it now that I was still processing a lot of things– but it’s a detailed reminder of how those first days played out.)
I remember how we agreed in the hospital to message Sierra (Emma’s birth mom) every month for the first six months & then every other month for the next six months with an update of how Emma was doing with pictures. I don’t remember if they gave us guidelines for after she turned one or if they assumed we’d figure it out. We also agreed to meet twice the first year & then once a year after that (We’ve carried on the twice a year plan). Sierra didn’t have our address (I left it blank on the form because it felt like too much in the beginning), but she did have my phone number so she could text me if she had a spontaneous question about how Emma was doing. I remember that being hard. My emotions were all over the place, & now I was supposed to help Sierra navigate all of this too. I felt guilty about all of it & as alone as alone can be. I remembered why we wanted an open adoption in the first place– 1. So Emma would know her first mom & be confident in her love for her & her selflessness in choosing a different life for her. And 2. So we could be a part of Sierra’s life, too. So we could love her, too.
But now, if anything, I wanted space. I needed to learn how to attach to Emma before I could connect with Sierra.
Question: Did anyone have a nurse encourage you after you’d just been through a traumatic labor for your first baby that the next time you gave birth would be better? I remember a nurse telling me those words literally less than an hour after I’d had Collins, & I thought, You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m never doing that crap again, woman!
Those were my feelings about open adoption in the beginning. When someone encouraged me to give it time or that one day it would be our new normal, it just frustrated me. It may have angered me. It definitely made me feel claustrophobic. I couldn’t think about down the road feelings. I was barely surviving current feelings & playing make believe for the future wasn’t encouraging– it only made me feel farther away from where I wanted to be. I just needed someone to understand where I was, but I couldn’t even put the words together to talk about it. Again, it was carrying two completely different sets of emotions simultaneously that kept tripping me up. There was joy & happiness in those days…but there was also fear & panic. And I didn’t know how to carry both. That’s what made it hard.
If I could encourage anyone in the adoption process or early stage of adoption right now, I would tell you your feelings today are valid. They are normal. If you feel like you may harm yourself or your baby, get yourself to your doctor stat, but otherwise, you have to give yourself some space to breathe & navigate without acting like everything is sunshine & rainbows when it isn’t. Adoption is not natural. Connecting to a baby instantaneously when you didn’t birth her is not a given. I promise you it will come, but you can’t force it. Even if everyone else is acting the same as they would if this baby was biological, remember– it’s not different for them. It is different for you. It is different for the baby. Don’t rush around looking for normal or right or comparison. Your story is unique, & that’s the first thing you need to be okay with. And then everything else will be okay.
Needless to say, I never would have imagined I would initiate Sierra’s invitation to come to our home. It was supposed to be at Christmastime, which is an even bigger deal, but things happen, & our time got pushed to last week. And I couldn’t wait! I couldn’t wait to watch Emma show Sierra her room & for Sierra to see pictures of Emma on our walls & to watch her slide down the slide in our backyard. It was all so normal, but it was anything other than ordinary.
If I had tried to force myself to make this happen in the beginning or even two years ago, it would have been hard. I would have struggled with sharing the role of Mom with Sierra– I would have felt inadequate if Emma wanted Sierra to hold her instead of me. I would have wondered if because of my own struggles if I had ruined my relationship with Emma forever. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed she wouldn’t remember when I didn’t respond like a loving mom should. I’m so thankful for the tools I gained to move forward so she & I could move forward together. And now? Are there still some tricky things we have to navigate & some conversations we’re preparing for down the road? Yes. But Emma will never question being loved. Sierra, Blake, & myself are the only three parents who have ever laid eyes on her, & all three of us will show up for her for all of our days. I’m sure of it. And I couldn’t ask for more for Emma’s life. It’s almost too much to think about sometimes that I was chosen to be a part of it all. To be chosen to become her mom. One of the greatest honors of my life.
So what gave me the desire to ask Sierra over? The idea was the tiniest seed that took its time to bloom, but I remember watching This is Us last year (my free therapy), & relating so much to what Randall’s character was going through as an adopted child. I remember thinking, I want Emma to be able to look back on all the big moments in her life & feel Love. Not only from us– but from Sierra, too. And those moments start here, in our home.
I knew Sierra needed to be a part of our home. Because she is a part of our family.