We'd already had our big celebration last weekend since my brother and his kids were in town. Still, we had to make a big deal of today, too! She brought cupcakes to share at school today, we had a family dinner with Mimi & GP this evening, and though she already got her "official" presents, she got little presents today, too -- a harmonica from her grandparents, a journal and fancy pens from me, a card that plays "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" when you open it from Maya.
As usual, Zoe's birth mother has been much on my mind today (all week, really). And she's obviously been on Zoe's mind, too. Zoe took her new journal to school today, and during free time she wrote a story:
Once upon a time there was a girl named Zoe who wondered about adoption. Her mother talked to her, and that made her cry, but her mom said, "It's okay if you cry. I understand." Zoe answered, "I just wonder about my other family." She knew that her other family would be thinking about her and be thinking how old she was getting. One night at midnight an angel came and put a dream into her head so she could dream about her birthparents. In the morning she told her mom what happened in her dream last night. Her mom was happy and said, "Do you understand adoption now?" She answered, "Yes. I think I understand now." And she really did. One night she wondered again about her birth family, and it happened again, and again, and again. The End.
It's been a while since Zoe wrote an adoption story, but I was kind of expecting one today on her birthday since it is such a common thing for adoptees to focus on birth families on the day of their birth. My focus on Zoe's birth mom right now is because of a coincidence of several things, and yes, one of them is Zoe's birthday. How could I not think of her today of all days?
But I'm also reading The Girls Who Went Away, an emotionally wrenching book about girls sent away to maternity homes in the time between WWII and legalized abortion, forced to relinquish their babies because they were not married. Reading their stories in their own voices has so highlighted the pain of relinquishment, that it bleeds over into Zoe's birth mother's very different story. I'm seeing the universality of the loss of a child, even if the birth mother made a free and unfettered choice, and I'm seeing little meaningful choice for most.
And I can't get my mind off that pain of loss because of another very different situation. I've gotten to know one of the other moms at the girls' gymnastics studio. We've talked a lot as she has been getting certified to foster children, and is looking to adopt, too. Last week she suddenly walks in with a baby -- a foster baby, not foster to adopt. CPS called her to take a 6-month-old baby with very little notice. She was given little information, just that the parents were young, under 18, that CPS suspected neglect but not abuse, and that the mother "wasn't making good choices" because she would not leave the father who beat her but not the child.
Yes, I felt sympathy for this child -- quite obviously her world has been turned upside down, in ways quite similar to our children's. Foster mom was understandably frazzled, since the baby wasn't sleeping, was crying most of the time, foster mom didn't know her schedule, whether she had a lovey or used a pacifier (starting to sound familiar, huh?!) And this African-American baby was thrust into a new world of Caucasian faces -- the first genuine smile we saw was when the baby spotted an African-American woman on a nearby bench! Sounds VERY familiar!
But I surprised myself with the pain I felt for that poor mother who had lost her child. Maybe it was because the baby probably wasn't really that neglected -- she's plump, with perfect skin, completely healthy, 50th percentile on height and weight, chubby little legs she'd bounce on when held upright. It's likely a case of an overwhelmed young mother who doesn't know a lot about caring for a child, but most importantly who needs to make a break with the father. I couldn't put her in the "bad mother" category that a CPS removal would usually conjure up. So all I could think about was how painful it must have been when they came for that child, and how much I hoped she'd do the right things so she could get her child back.
So, another birthday for Zoe, a day of sadness and joy for her and for her first family and for me. We concentrate on the joy, cakes and candles and cards and presents and friends and family. But there's always that touch of sadness. I can't imagine how it could be any other way.
Not a cheery birthday post, huh?! Don't worry, it wasn't a day of wretched crying and hair shirts and ashes! It reads more depressed than it was. But it does say it's time for me to put my exhausted mind and body to bed.
But first, a funny story to lighten the mood. Zoe was telling Mimi that "Ms. Charlotte (gymnastics coach) says I'm the best hand-stand-back-flopper in the class!" I'm trying to figure out if this is a good thing -- "Do you mean back-FLIP?" No, Zoe describes this maneuver where they end up falling on their backs -- a back FLOP. So I ask, "You fall on your back on PURPOSE?" Zoe's immediate response, "No, on the MAT!"
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ZOE!