November is National Adoption month.
Does She Know?
Last week I was at a function with my family when an older woman came over and asked about my children. She knew one of my daughters is adopted and quietly whispered into my ear, “Does she know?” I didn’t think she was being rude, just curious. She is from a different generation and culture than me. A time and place where children often weren’t told they were adopted, and parent were even encouraged not to tell, not to talk about it. Secrets.
I nodded and whispered back, “Yes, she does.” The old woman smiled and patted me on the shoulder, “It’s better that way, don’t you think?” Then she walked away.
Secrets…perhaps she has her own.
I sat there for a while after she left and looked at my young daughter, mulling over the question in my head, does she know?
Does she know? Yes, she knows she’s adopted. She will tell you, if it comes up, “I am adopted.” We have conversations about adoption, have read a few books that explain what adoption is, and many nights as we lay together I tell her the story of how her dad and I flew far across the ocean, wrapped her up in a pink blanket and took her home to a big party of waiting siblings and excited relatives. But does she know? Does she truly know what it means, this word, adoption?
No. How could she know? She is young, and busy with more important things like trying to figure out how to cross the monkey bars and how to ride a bike and how to count to one hundred. Her head is full of birthday cake and colorful crayons and soft lullabies, and that’s how it should be. She knows we love her, her siblings love her. She knows we wished for her on a star, she knows we flew high above the mountains and across the ocean to get her, she knows her uncle helped us, she knows her family far away and those close by helped us, she knows about the country she came from, what they eat, how they speak. She knows a word, adoption, but its all abstract to her. She doesn’t really know all of it.
She doesn’t know.
She doesn’t know about the never ending sorrow that must have filled a far away woman’s soul as her belly began to grow and stretch, making room for the mysterious little arms and legs that were budding deep inside.
She doesn’t know about the rivers of joy and sadness that flowed together in the woman’s heart every time the child inside of her moved and danced, a tiny foot sending ripples across tightly pulled skin.
She doesn’t know about the spirit of grief and loss that hovered like an unwelcomed messenger in the sticky summer air, warning the woman that as the dull pangs of labor grew longer, her time with her secret was growing shorter.
She doesn’t know about the millions of tears that were shed and the hundred of kisses of joy and sorrow and thanks and love that were showered upon her before the woman finally wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to another, saying goodbye.
So, does she know the word, adoption? Yes, but does she truly know what it means?
It’s a hard truth, a harsh reality to take in, that love and pain can be so connected. So entwined. So when will my daughter truly know what adoption means? When will she finally learn, understand the whole truth of what this word means?
I think… when it is her turn. Her turn to hold her own child, be it through the miracle of adoption or the magic of biology, then she will know. When it is her turn to gently kiss her child’s soft cheeks, gaze with awe into its sleepy eyes and breathe in all its sweet wonder, then she will know. When it is her turn to wrap her child in a soft blanket and bring it home to meet its family, then she will know. When her heart rises up and she cries a hundred tears of thanks and joy and sorrow and love then she will know… finally, truly know what this word, adoption means.