November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and every year, I think about posting something different on the blog than the following paragraphs. But every year, I keep coming back to the fact that this is some of the best, most raw writing I've ever done, and this is a story that needs to be told. So, once again, I'm posting this letter to my daughter's birth parents that I drafted over four years ago.
Though we have an open adoption, we haven't had contact with Piper's birth father since 2013, and we only connect with her birth mother a couple of times a year (on her terms). Despite rarely seeing them, the feelings below remain the same. We will always love Piper's birth parents for choosing life for their daughter and choosing us as her mom and dad.
Dear Amanda and Conner,
I have no idea if you'll ever read these words, but I have to write them. I have to hope that, even if you never stumble across this blog or open the card that we sent on your court day, you somehow know the way that we feel about you.
I remember getting the call that you were at the hospital, Amanda. It was June 28th, the day that we would meet our girl. I had simultaneously anticipated and dreaded this day since May 16th, when I first heard your voice on the phone. Although I was grateful to be allowed in the delivery room when Piper was born, I was also unsure of myself.
Would I say something stupid? Would I pass out at the sight of a live birth? Would I be able to convey my excitement about bringing home Baby Girl without rubbing salt in your wounds?
At least our case worker would be there to help us know how to navigate this situation that most people never face...
Except that when Andrew and I arrived at the hospital, you only wanted the two of us back there with you.
I was honored that you and Conner trusted and loved us enough to let us experience something so special, but up to this point, we had depended on Bonni to help us know what to say to you and how to act. Andrew put his arm around my shoulders, and I quickly prayed for the kind of strength and wisdom that could never come from me.
Please don't act like an idiot, please don't act like an idiot.
When we walked in the room, my fears were gone, and I immediately felt at home. "Hey guys!" you grinned. Even in labor, you were beautiful and calm.
In a few minutes, the nurse came in to check you. She looked at Andrew and me, hinting with her eyes that we should step out. We took the clue and started to leave the room when you, Conner, stopped her and said, "No, it's okay. They're family."
I wonder if you know how much those words meant.
Time seemed to stand still as we spent the next hour or so talking with both of you and trying to wrap our minds around this huge thing that was about to happen. Though we had met you before, those moments in the delivery room were especially precious to me as we actually got to know the parents of our little girl. In the moments away from the agency, the paperwork, and the caseworkers, you became my friends and not just the couple who had chosen our profile book.
When the nurse came back later, it was "go time." Andrew and I stood awkwardly at your head and stroked your hair as we tried to think of something to offer other than, "You're doing great!" Conner, you were a natural. You knew exactly what to say and do to help your girl. And Amanda, wow. You made labor and delivery look like a walk in the park. I honestly expected so much anger and frustration, but all I saw in that situation was love.
I wish there was a way for you to have stood back and watched the scene like we did. Your relationship with each other is inspiring, and your affection for a baby who you bore for someone else is, frankly, earth-shattering. Those words that Conner whispered as you pushed, "Come on, Amanda, this is the last thing we can do for her," melted my heart in more ways than you'll ever realize.
Just 30 minutes after you started pushing, Piper was here. I cried the happiest tears of my life as I took in her thick hair, her chubby cheeks, and her perfect little body. Then I watched as the two of you held her, and my heart broke.
This was the reason why I had been so afraid of our time together in the hospital. You clearly loved her as much as I did, yet you knew that she wasn't yours to keep.
You said that we deserved her, and I knew that wasn't true.
The nurses came in and out to check on Piper as the four of us bounced back and forth in our conversation between the trivial and the significant. Andrew and I left for about an hour to pick up some food and to give you two time alone with Piper. We got back to the room and ate dinner together, and I found myself wishing (though I knew the impossibility of my idea) that there was a way for the five of us to be the little family who lived happily ever after.
The hospital prepared a room around the corner for Andrew, Piper, and me, and we slowly collected our belongings to spend our first night as a family of three. Before I went to bed, I walked down the hall to refill my water bottle. Your door was open, and I stopped. Conner, you were headed out for some fresh air, so I sat down in a chair next to the bed for some "girl time." Amanda, as I listened to you share your hopes and dreams, as you talked about your friends, and as you revealed your plans for college in the fall, I felt connected to you in a way that few people will probably ever be able to grasp.
Though we didn't always talk over the past nine months, we were in each other's hearts as we shared this journey. We have a unique bond: I wanted so badly to be in your place (to be pregnant), and you wanted to be in mine ("established" enough to raise a baby). There is no way to explain those feelings to anyone else, but I think you know.
The night passed uneventfully, and I began to think about how the two of you would be going home to a new "normal" in just a few hours. I started dreading those last moments in the hospital. Finally, around 2:30 the next day, both of you came down the hall. This was it. Andrew and I stepped out of the room to give you the space that you needed with Piper. We held each other tightly and prayed for the words to say as we waited for you to come out. About five minutes later, the two of you entered the hall with Piper, and all the tears that I had been holding back came flooding out as I looked at your faces.
I never guessed that goodbye would be so hard.
Amanda, I've thought that you are unbelievably strong throughout this entire journey, so seeing you dissolved by emotion was almost unbearable. It would have been wildly inappropriate to take pictures in the moments that followed, but the scene will forever be captured in my mind as you handed Piper to me for the last time and as you, Conner, hugged my husband like there was no tomorrow. In those moments, every word I had rehearsed was gone. Each of us knew that there was nothing to be said which could possibly convey the feelings we had. In shaky voices and through blinding tears, we all said how much we love each other. Amanda, you asked me to "take good care of her," and I promised that I would. Then the two of you went around the corner and back to your lives.
I still cannot fathom how a day can be so joyful and so gut-wrenching at the same time.
Andrew and I walked downstairs to the hospital's chapel, where I buried my head in his lap, and we both sobbed. I had thought that I would be filled with guilt when you two went home without a baby, but really I was overcome with profound sadness. I was sad for you because of the difficulty of your decision, and I was sad for us because I felt like we had just lost two people who, in a matter of days, had come to mean everything to our family.
"Be still and know that I am God," the walls of the chapel read, and this is ironically the verse tattooed on the wall of our bedroom at home. Both of us found it difficult to "be still," because our hearts were so heavy for you. We prayed over and over for God to give you peace, and I still pray every day that you've found it.
As I got ready to go home the next morning, I burst into tears all over again, and I wondered how many days would pass before I woke up without crying for you. In the weeks since we have been home with Piper, time has slowly eased the hurt, but I don't think of you any less. I have never once doubted that you would change your minds about the decision you made, but I have felt an unexplainable stillness in knowing that if you did, I would be okay because as much as I care about Piper, I care about the two of you equally.
Every night before bed, we tell Piper how many people love her, and the two of you are always at the top of the list because you will always be her parents, too.
I can't wait until she is old enough to ask questions about the picture of the four of us on the wall in her room, until she wonders how she got her beautiful black hair, and until she makes the connection that her middle name is the same as her birth mother's. I can't wait for that day because then I get to tell her, once again, the story of two people named Amanda and Conner who loved her so much that they made the greatest sacrifice two people could ever make.
People say that you can't understand true love until you have a baby. Although I don't fully agree with that statement, I do believe that I've experienced a fuller and deeper kind of love because I met you. In your words, Conner, this situation was just "meant to be."
Through our whole adoption journey, I have been the most worried about our relationship with our child's birth parents, and that has actually come to be the most beautiful part of it all.
You named our sweet girl Grace when she was with you for nine months, and grace has absolutely been the theme of our song. "Thank you" seems so inadequate for expressing the gratitude we daily feel for your selfless gift, Piper. Somehow I hope you know just how much you mean to us, not just for giving us a daughter who we could never have on our own, but because of the truly strong and special people that you are. I love you and respect you both, and because of you, my heart is full for the first time in years.