In January 2012, after nearly a year, Sloane* and Elise* saw their birth mother. She knew about the adoption plan and was granted a farewell visit. Sloane returned to me annoyed. Trying to make sense of life, she’d started calling her birth mother by her first name.
“She made me call her mom. But I didn’t want to,” the nearly four year old said. That’s what she took away from the hour they spent together.
Elise, only two and somewhat delayed, didn’t seem to understand who the woman was. But that night, putting her to bed she let out a torrent of tears. For nearly 30mins she wailed with gut wrenching grief. I held her and cried. The entire situation is heartbreaking.
A year later, the adoption was complete. The girls were mine. Sloane was beginning to grieve the loss of her birth family. At first I dismissed her requests to see her birth mother again.
“Just one more time,” she pleaded. “I need to tell her I’m adopted. She doesn’t know my name anymore. She won’t be able to find me.”
That was the whole point of a closed adoption through Children’s Aid. I’m in contact with my daughters’ maternal birth grandmother. While visiting, she let me know their birth mother was living about 20mins away instead of 800kms as she had been the entire time the kids were in foster care. Her distance had made adoption the course taken. Had she been close by, willing to work with the system, the kids likely would have gone back to her. What will my girls think of this when they’re old enough to make some sense of it? Sloane loves me but would rather be with her birth mom. I get that. The biggest surprise in adopting is the sadness. My daughters didn’t come to me because of a selfless act – a birth mother recognizing her own limitations and choosing better for her child. We’re a family because of tragic circumstances. I sincerely mean it when I tell Sloane, “I wish life could have been different for you.” I wish her mom didn’t struggle with addictions. I wish she hadn’t run away when her kids were apprehended by Children’s Aid. I wish she’d gotten clean before, as she apparently is now. It’s too late for my girls.
Sloane’s requests didn’t dissipate. In January 2013, contacted the birth mother. She and I met at a coffee shop. Her new boyfriend came along. I gave her a scrapbook of the girls since they’d come to me as foster children nearly two years ago. She cried. Graciously, the woman thanked me for loving her kids. I explained a bit about the adoption process – not being chosen and fighting to keep them (see Adoption post). This deeply moved the boyfriend. The two were rough around the edges, typical of the downtown core they live in. I explained how hard things have been for Sloane.
“I’ll do anything to help her. I want her to be happy with you,” the woman exclaimed.
“She needs to know it’s ok for her to be adopted,” I replied.
We left with hugs and another meeting set up.
I carefully dressed Sloane the morning of the visit. She and I arrived at McDonald’s quite early. Her birth mother was late. When Sloane spotted her, she ran to my side. Her tiny hands clung to me. Very outgoing, Sloane is quick to run to anyone who looks her way. I didn’t expect this reaction. My heart melted. It’s been a hard go with Sloane. Most days I wonder if I’m anywhere near her heavily guarded heart. In that moment, I finally felt like she’d chosen me as her mom – where she goes to feel safe.
Gradually inching towards her birth mother, Sloane let her know, “I’m adopted. I have a new last name and middle names.” She recited her full name.
“That’s beautiful. I really like that name,” birth mother answered.
Sloane shared pertinent information about her life including the fact that her 17yr old foster sister recently got blond highlights. Months after she came to me, Sloane said she wanted to see her birth mom, “to tell her I live with you now. And I’m always staying with you.” This is something she didn’t express in the farewell visit organized by Children’s Aid. Though I knew legally the birth mother couldn’t take the girls, I worried in seeing her I’d lose the tentative grip I have on Sloane. Hearing my daughter’s beautiful description of her life with me, the fear diminished.
“You have a really good mom,” her birth mother repeatedly assured.
“Yeah,” Sloane agreed, smiling up at me.