We arrived at the office after hours, pushing a speaker button to be let in. My husband and I walked down the hallway without speaking, unable to even put words to this moment. I remember how surreal it all felt, approaching ever nearer to the room where we would meet our daughter for the first time.
Earlier that week, my husband and I had finally received the call from our foster care adoption caseworker, the call we had been waiting months to receive. All the classes, agency paperwork, and home study interviews were about to be worth it: there was a precious 18-month-old girl waiting for a home and we had been chosen to be her parents.
Finally the day, the hour, the moment, was here. We had driven an hour and a half to the agency office to meet her, play with her in the meeting room for an hour to help her feel comfortable with us, and be able to take her home.
I remember the thought hitting me, “This is the last moment of your life that you won’t know her.” From then on, she would be a part of our lives, having made a permanent mark on our hearts. I wanted to savor this moment for all that it meant, and to bask in my gratefulness – and I wanted to sprint down the hall and grab her in my arms as quickly as I could.
And then, there she was. She was reserved, and we learned that this came both from her personality and also from navigating her life circumstances at such a young age. We started by hesitantly trying to interest her in the different toys in the room, and gradually felt more comfortable as she began to respond positively, if shyly. She eventually deigned to sit on our laps and have her picture taken. The hour playing in the meeting room sped by, and we fell in love more every minute.
We shared the pictures with our families and friends immediately. The love and encouragement our emotional hearts needed poured out as they celebrated this amazing day with us. What a blessing to have our loved ones be as excited for us as we were about this little peanut joining the family. And over and over again, everyone kept repeating how much she looked like me. My parents exclaimed that it was like seeing pictures of me as a toddler. Even still today, she gets confused occasionally when trying to determine whether a picture is of her or a younger version of me.
When adopting a child, whether you have biological children already or not, a piece that is understood and (dare I say it) mourned – however little or much – is the knowledge that there will be no passing on of your genes, that your children will not have your eyes or your grandma’s smile or your husband’s nose. For a couple like us that knows biological children will not be in our future, it was a hurdle to overcome. Not a hurdle in the sense of something that would have kept us personally from adoption, but an issue that needed to be explored in all of its emotional implications, processed, and eventually put to rest.
And I say adamantly along with that, all four of our adopted kids felt like “ours” from the beginning. They took our last names, but have genes and histories from another family, which we honor and celebrate as well. Yet, as any adoptive parent will declare, they are ours. Not like ours, but ours. Our love for them isn’t less because they aren’t biologically our children, or because we didn’t experience pregnancy and birth with them. They are blessings that filled the empty corners of our home and our hearts.
Yet, I was surprised at the thrill of pride that came (and still comes) when someone pointed out the physical similarities between my oldest and me. Even if I know those aren’t technically my features she has, to see a connection between yourself and your child, to know that a part of you is being passed along to the next generation, is a deep and ancient joy.
But there was so much more to notice than her brown eyes and light brown hair. Beyond her appearance, this peanut has many other attributes I see in myself. We’re both the oldest children and comfortable in the role of assistant caregiver to mom, eager to pitch in with the younger siblings. Although it expresses itself as bossiness sometimes (sorry, to my sis and bros!), we both assumed the role of leader, the first to experience milestones, the one who knows and follows the rules (most of the time). We’re both a silly mix of girly and tomboy, liking dresses and nail polish but apt to bounce gleefully through muddy puddles without caring if we get messy.
Over the years, our family continued to grow. Our other three children were also adopted out of the foster care system, at varying ages. They are all of a different ethnicity than my husband and me, yet I can find pieces of us in them just as easily.
My second daughter is an absolute chatterbox; I’ve been told I never shut up as a child. An early reader, she is never without either a book to read or an empty notebook to write in – an echo of me growing up to a tee. She has such a desperate desire to please people, which I know from experience will need to be balanced as she grows with learning self-respect and dignity. Appearing fearless and confident to those who might be observing her, but easily prone to disappointment in herself and self-doubt in quieter moments. I know, sweet one, how having a complex personality can be hard to understand yourself. And we love you.
The little guy has found his stride in sports over the last few years, especially soccer. He was blessed with incredible athletic ability – most apparent is his amazing speed. Like his Mama, he is one of the littlest, if not THE littlest, on every team. I definitely will be able to relate to any frustrations he feels about his height. He will learn that sometimes being short can be a good thing, if it means they can’t see you sneaking down the field.
Our baby girl is now a toddler who sings all the live-long day, everywhere she goes – a girl after Mama’s own heart. Weekly music class is one of BOTH of our favorite places to be. She has started to show a desire for things around her to be neat and orderly, a quirk/flaw I have as well. One of my favorite things lately has been how much she appreciates my house cleaning. (At least someone does!) She burst into a room the other day after I finished vacuuming it and stopped herself in awe, saying “Oh, Mama, floor look ‘mazing!” And thanked me repeatedly that day for vacuuming. Yes, honey. Thank you for appreciating those vacuum lines just as much as I do.
Four children, all with different DNA. All loved, all a part of our family, all with pieces of us in their make-up as well as pieces of their biological relatives. And we celebrate it all.
The amazing gift that adoption is has touched the lives of countless people throughout history. Love isn’t divided when shared in this way, but multiplied. Children are a precious piece of our histories, little people who are their own unique person while at the same time being a product and mirror of us. What a blessing to know we will live on in our children regardless of genetics, and that we can learn from them as much as they learn from us. What a joy to ponder the legacies we leave.