Written by: Amanda Hadfield It seems like for most birth moms, birthday time is the biggest trigger for emotions. I know for me life will seem like it’s smooth sailing and then January hits and I’m in a sea of emotions that I thought I had overcome. I really don’t know why, I don’t prepare myself for it better. I know her birthday is in February, I know it’s going to come every year but I seem to let myself get swallowed up in it over and over again.
This year hit me particularly hard. It was the first year that I really didn’t feel like “celebrating” my T’s birthday. Every other year I would buy a small cake and celebrate her in my own private way. I’d sing her happy birthday even though she couldn’t hear me and I’d blow out her candles. I’ve always sent her a gift each year, something sentimental that in some way represents me but this year, my mind was blank, I felt like there was nothing I could give her that would stand out from all of her other birthday gifts. Her birthday came and it went, I didn’t send anything. I felt guilty. I felt guilty before the day even passed. I knew I was struggling and I didn’t want to face the emotions.
After swimming through the waves of grief and finally reaching shore, I realized that even though I was struggling, T was expecting a present. Her mom had reached out to me saying that she had wondered where it was and I knew I had disappointed her. Suddenly, it hit me, that despite the fact that we only share a semi-open adoption and that I haven’t seen her or actually talked to her in 9 years, my present still mattered to her. Unfortunately I was still dealing with not knowing how I could possibly get her anything she didn’t already have. In came the words of encouragement from my new friend Tamra:
“They can’t give her a gift from you and that is what will make it stand out, that it’s from her birth mom.”
Why had I never thought of it this way before? Why did I feel like because I couldn’t get her something “big and shiny” it wouldn’t mean anything to her? That it wouldn’t stand out? Reality is, nothing can replace what her and I have and Tamra was right, no one can give her a gift from her birth mom but me.
I think it’s 100% healthy to grieve and face our emotions with each passing year or each moment that triggers us to go back to that place of remembrance of our little ones but for me I’ve learned it’s not ok to let it get in the way of our healing and our relationships we share with the children we placed. Guilt is never an emotion we should feel and I felt guilty, because I knew I wasn’t doing what was right for my birth daughter. When I say we should never feel guilt, I mean it in the best possible way. Of course we are going to feel guilt. There are going to be questions and moments of trying to figure out how we feel; what is right or wrong in our own adoption story. Did we do everything we could possible do to ensure we made the BEST possible decision for our child? However, when it comes to grieving and working through our emotions I have found that owning how we feel and striving our hardest at understanding the waves we are hit with, during our swim back to shore, is the best possible way to heal. With guilt comes regret and regret welcomes pain.
When I placed T in the arms of her parents, I placed her with the trust that they would let her know that I loved her and that I wanted what was best for her. I knew that as long as I lived she would ALWAYS know that I loved her. Why I doubt she felt like I didn’t love her anymore, I know that not sending her birthday gift on time hurt her heart and that wasn’t fair. Regardless of what I was going through emotionally, it wasn’t fair for me to turn away from something I had done for her every year without explanation. I disappointed her. Something I never wanted to do.
We each celebrate our littles in our own way. Some of us have more closed adoptions than others and while there is no right or wrong way to celebrate, I think for me, I’ve realized that the only way to get through the emotions is to find happiness and not guilt; guilt that we aren’t good enough or can’t possibly do enough. It’s now been almost 2 months since T’s birthday and I finally sent her birthday present yesterday. The moment I left the post office with the knowledge that her gift was finally on it’s way; a weight was lifted. I felt okay again. The guilt was gone and I knew that what I had to give was enough.
I allowed myself to get so caught up in what I couldn’t give her, that I lost sight of what I could give her. We have something to offer our birth children that no one else can, and we should embrace it. I am thankful for Tamra and for her words. There is so much to celebrate, and while it’s okay to grieve (Heaven knows I grieve) it’s also okay to celebrate; it’s okay to find peace with who we are and what we have to give.
I am T’s birth mom, and no one can take that from me. You are your child’s birthparent and no one else can be that but you.