celebrating her birth

Baby J’s birthday party and celebration are now behind us, and it was quite a weekend.

What began as an idea for a small gathering in our home to celebrate our little girl’s first year of life turned into an invitation to over 60 of some of our closest friends and family. We figured with the holiday weekend, most people would be away or otherwise committed, and some were. Still, over 45 people replied yes (including 11 kids), and about 35 made it, after some last minute cancellations due to sick kids, sleeping babies and absent partners.

We went all out, made a ton of food and ordered in some platters once the numbers grew. We bought a case of wine and two cases of beer (which barely got drunk; go figure. no infertiles present, I guess?). We rented an extra table, set up lawn chairs and blankets and coolers in the yard, and brought out the hammock, toys, bubbles and a wagon for the kids. I made Baby J her own cake (plain white with fresh whipped cream frosting) and we brought in a sheet cake for everyone else since I didn’t have a pan big enough to make one.

It was an interesting mix of relatives, friends old and new, close long-time colleagues (who have followed our journey), families from our adoption group, and Baby J’s birth family on K’s side. In fact, K’s parents were the only grandparents there, as neither of our mothers were well enough to travel, sadly.

For many, it was their first time meeting K. I usually proudly introduced her as Baby J’s birthmom, but once I said, “K is who brought this beautiful girl into the world,” which sounded much better, much more fitting. Several times I heard K’s mom explaining to friends and family how wonderful the open adoption has been for everyone. “Anyone else could have said ‘thanks for the baby, now bye!” she told our neighbor. “But here, they get a beautiful daughter, I get to see my first grandchild, and my daughter gets her life back.” Which is all true.

But I also experienced another glimpse into the other side.

We were so thrilled that K decided to come to the party. I was so happy she wanted to be there. Yet I also realize that what would be a joyful occasion for us might not be all roses for her. After all, even though she can still see this amazing little girl grow up and share in the joys of her life together with us, she is not the one parenting her baby. She is not the one who gets to sing our daughter to sleep each night or laugh with her each day. She does not get to comfort Baby J when she cries. She is not who Baby J calls Mama.

Some day J may get to spend more time with K. But right now, it is what it is.

There is a certain amount of every day grief that I imagine K must live with and accept as a natural part of placement. Yet she always puts a positive spin on the situation. She points to all she has gained rather than lost. She repeatedly says she could not be happier with the outcome.

Most days, that might be true.

But deep inside I wonder how it must feel to watch another set of parents be Baby J’s Mama and Papa. Specifically I wonder how it would be to watch another woman parent your baby — even one you love and entrusted such care to — especially on a special day like this, such an important milestone event. It’s not like the thought hadn’t crossed my mind before. Of course it has. That’s an inevitable part of adoption. Most days I accept that some times simply won’t be easy and resolve myself to doing whatever I can do to help us all through those challenging moments.

When I saw the photos of me holding our daughter as she indulged in her first ever cake, or thought about how I helped her blow out the candles, or comforted her when she was overwhelmed, once again it hit me hard how hard it may have been for K that day. Putting everything else aside about how happy K says she is with our adoption, it still must be so very difficult.

It didn’t help that Baby J is going through some serious separation anxiety these days and did not really want to be held by anyone but us. She was cranky when we tried to pass her to her grandparents, K’s parents. She did let K hold and feed her for a little while, but they didn’t get as much time together as K wanted.

Still, I found other ways to involve K during the day. She helped decorate the cake and had fun doing a beautiful job. We talked a lot about our relationship with K’s family and brought several guests to tears with our story.

But at the end of the day, K went home with her mom and little brother and decompressed in her own way. We checked in with her that night and again the next day, on Baby J’s actual birthday, and thanked her once again for bringing this beautiful child into the world. I told her how much we love her and how much it meant to us that she was there with us to celebrate the day, even if it was hard.

After everyone went home and Baby J awoke from her nap, the three of us opened her birthday presents and we sang to her once more. She got some awesome gifts — i.e., nothing big and plastic (thank you for listening, people!), just good books, cool wooden toys, some beautiful clothes, and a snuggly puppy puppet that looks just like our old sweet pup.

But best of all was a handmade card from K, who is quite creative and resourceful. She created a gorgeous collage for Baby J and wrote a beautifully moving message inside. When I saw it, tears just started streaming down my face at the thought of Baby J reading it some day, and also because K had taken such care to lovingly create it. What she wrote is for Baby J and not mine to share here, but what a loving gift to treasure. I feel so privileged to safeguard that incredible expression of her love and care for our daughter. We couldn’t have wished for anything more.

That night, as we recounted our day and said our goodnights before lullabyes, I told Baby J again about the night before she was born, about her birth, and how her whole family loves her so much.

And I felt so very grateful.

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~ by luna on June 1, 2010.

13 Responses to “celebrating her birth”

  1. Sounds like the day will be a wonderful day to remember. I am so happy for you all that K and her family were able to be with you as you celebrated such a momentous milestone. The card from K to Baby J sounds precious- I am sure that when Baby J reads it later in her life she will know just how lucky and loved that she is by so many people. Many blessings to your entire family- the first year was amazing and can only be a sign of the blessings and happiness to follow in the years to come. Much Love to You All!

  2. what a wonderful day! it will never be without the emotions but those are what make the day special as well.

  3. “There is a certain amount of every day grief that I imagine K must live with and accept as a natural part of placement.”

    I think we mothers in OA should be careful not to project our own hypothetical feelings (the ones you might have if you occupied her position) onto each other. YOUR experience with infertility makes your outlook on placing a child one way, while K’s experience with an unplanned pregnancy may be completely different.

    “Putting everything else aside about how happy K says she is with our adoption, it still must be so very difficult.” Is this you talking or her? Allow K to define her own feelings without anyone else assigning them to her.

    That is, if you are accepting assvice, which, is absolutely what this is.

    Sounds like a lovely party, and I wish I were there to help you with the case of wine!

    • thank you, lori, for your wisdom and insight.

      I’m afraid I’m not projecting, however. that is just how I feel most comfortable talking about some of these issues. in other words, rather than sharing K’s words or feelings here — which, to a large extent, I am uncomfortable doing — I feel more able to articulate my own experience. your point is very well taken, however. thanks.

  4. Just incredibly moved by all the emotions behind this day–and how many people from all parts of yours and Baby J’s life were there to celebrate. Special memories, indeed.

  5. […] Lori’s comment on my last post got me […]

  6. Wow – baby is 1! How cute and funny to see baby J smashing her cake up. Yes, I’m sure it was a bittersweet moment for K too. Incredibly sensitive of you to include her in this celebration. I trust she would have let you know if she wasn’t comfortable being a part of J’s special day.

  7. What a beautiful, fitting celebration.

  8. Amen!

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