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Sunday, September 14, 2014

When your joy is forever tangled up in someone else's grief

Today is a precious day for our family. Not only is it my oldest child's birthday, it is also the day that I walked out of the orphanage with my youngest child in my arms, bringing him with me to the guest house in Ethiopia where we'd live until we were given clearance to come home to the US and to the rest of our family.

We don't really do anything to "celebrate" this day. We have so many dates related to Amani joining our family: the day we received our referral and first learned who he was, the day we first met him, the day we passed court, the day he left the orphanage to live with me in Ethiopia, the day we finally landed at the Charlotte airport and came home to live all together as a family of five. And, of course, we celebrate Amani's birthday.


Riley first met Amani in Ethiopia in July 2011 when we were there for court
Allyn didn't meet him until we landed at the Charlotte airport in Oct 2011.
Her first big sister kiss!

So why is it hard to celebrate? Well, every step of that process is not only about our joy from adding a child to our family. It is also the tragedy and trauma of my child's life. It is the steps taken for him to lose his birth parents and his birth country. It's the terror he experienced when he was taken from the orphanage - the only place he knew as home - and into the arms of a strange woman who didn't speak his language, who didn't know how he liked to be held, or how to prepare the foods he was used to.

It is impossible to celebrate without acknowledging the loss. And not fair to my child to pretend that adoption is just joy. He has gained much in our family, of course, but that doesn't change the fact that he has also lost much.

So we don't over-celebrate adoption stuff. Of course we are overjoyed that Amani has joined our family. We just aren't overjoyed about why it had to happen and what he had to go through.  I will never forget that my joy is tangled up in another woman's grief.  As a mother, Amani's birthmom is on my mind all the time. Especially on days like today.

So, dear Birthmom. We love you. We love your boy. So much. He's growing up and loves to dance and play games. He loves his school and his friends. And everywhere we go, people tell me that his smile lights up the room. I imagine that same smile across the ocean on the faces of his birth family. Our boy embodies joy. And we will always honor you on days that we honor his adoption.  You will always have a special place in our family and in our hearts. Grace and peace to you, mama. Rest your heart, your boy is well loved.

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