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Adoption Diaries: Dear Birthmother, Thank you.

Updated on October 26, 2011

The gift of a lifetime

Our son was born in late October - the eve of the season of giving. We were adoptive parents who had learned he was on the way just days earlier; his birth was both long awaited and a bit unexpected. He arrived healthy and strong, and we anxiously hustled through the paperwork, the legalities and formalities.

He was just 32 hours old when we bundled him home. In an instant, we wrapped our hearts around him and wove him into the fabric of our family.

Friends and family flocked to our home. he was cuddled and kissed and patted and primped. Visitors spoke only the unabashed truth.

"He's beautiful," they ooohed.

"Such a pleasant and happy baby," they aahed.

"And all this wonderful hair," they would say, smoothing the thick crop that framed his angel face. We could only nod in agreement.

Over the weeks, then months, we reveled and soared. But standing, always, at the fringes of our joy has been Elizabeth, the birth mother we left at the hospital that autumn day. Though very young, Elizabeth had accepted her inability to parent her child with a quiet detachment born, I am certain, of a complicated braid of fear, logic and love.

In many ways, her calm acceptance of her decision made our roles easier, but as we prepared to take the baby home, we still faced territory uncharted by most parents. Dare we show our excitement in front of her? We didn't want the strength of our happiness to only reinforce her loss. And what could we possibly say to her? Thank you for giving us your baby? Nothing sounded quite right.

We managed to navigate our way through it. Elizabeth has since seen pictures of our son, and even seen him in person a handful of times. Meanwhile, I have embraced the challenges and rewards of parenthood, as most do. But even in the whir and buzz of it all, I know my experience as a mother - indeed, the very fact I am a mother - is different because of her. At the crossroads of her young life, she chose to give us her baby. The magnitude of that gift shapes my perspective on parenthood.

The reality is this: the deep and sparkling blue of my son's eyes was not inherited from my grandfather. The blond hair so similar to mine as a baby is pure coincidence, not a genetic link. The simple knowledge of this does not bother me. This child is mine in every way that matters. But he is mine because of Elizabeth.

As time broadens the distance between his birth and now, my list of things to say to her stretches to the stars. I have Elizabeth to thank for letting me be the first to hold this boy whose constant giggles launch from the tips of his toes, erupt into a room and bounce down the hallways. For tiny hands that press into mine, leading to adventures unknown. For helping me discover emotions I didn't know I had. For making grandparents of my parents.

We are the most intimate of strangers, Elizabeth and I. Fates of opposition brought us crashing together, but her actions created a new family for us and a future of possibilities for her. We offer in return the promise that our son's life will be filled with love and knowledge that his roots grow not from a single family tree but from an entire orchard.

For now, I am still basking in the glow that is my son's baby-verging-on-toddlerhood. Our days together are the typical whirlwind, but each night I tiptoe to his room to lean over his crib, listen to the melody of his breathing - and whisper a thousand thank yous to the fates that dropped him in my arms.


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