Saturday, August 17, 2013
This is a post I have been planning for a long time and it has taken me about 2 months to write it and finally decide to post it. I knew the time would come when I would need to share with the "world" or blog land, or Facebook land, or whoever happens to come upon this post a little something personal...I just didn't know it would all happen so soon or when the right time was to go public with it. Many of you know, many of you were there, but many of you might be a little surprised. Its not something I am ashamed of and its not a secret...I just wasn't ready. But now I am. So here it is...
Last October I got an unexpected, yet long-awaited letter, from someone who was a complete stranger but, in a sense, was my best friend. I had a faint memory of what she looked like after a really brief meeting some 18 years ago but otherwise knew very little about her. I saw that the return address on the letter was "LDS Family Services" and at that moment I am fairly certain my heart skipped a beat and I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. When I opened the letter this picture fell onto my lap and I knew IMMEDIATELY who it was. My eyes filled with tears. I might have passed out for a moment, I'm not sure.
This gorgeous red-head is my daughter. When I was 17 years old, I gave birth to her in St George, UT and put her up for adoption through LDS Family Services. She went to a couple that I was able to choose when she was 2 days old. They named her Delaney Anne. The letter was from her mom, Kim. I think I read it over and over probably about 50 times and spent the next week or so constructing a perfect response to her. I learned that Kim had decided to try to get a letter to me without Delaney knowing and thus started, or rekindled I should say, a beautiful friendship.
A little about my experience: I would never say to anyone that any of this was a cake-walk. Dealing with the social stigma of being a teenage pregnancy case at 17 and having to use the public health care system because dependent pregnancies were not covered on my parents insurance was slightly traumatizing. After a couple months of pretending that I was okay with the idea of trying to be a mom and a high school senior, it hit me that it wasn't reality. I made the choice to graduate early, leave my friends and the father of my baby in California to go to Utah and live with my grandparents so I could clear my head and make sure that adoption was the right choice. Sixteen hours of difficult labor, watching the social worker take her away and leaving the hospital empty-handed proved to be the most painful experiences of my life, both physically and emotionally but those following months I managed to get myself back into the swing of life. That and the years that followed made me who I am today.
It was strange at times, knowing there was a little girl out there somewhere that was half me, and I would regularly give 2nd glances to little red-haired girls that were about her age and wonder in large crowds if she could possibly be there too...but I always knew she was in good hands, I never worried, and I never once regretted my decision. I also had my family with me every step of the way. My mom and Grandma were holding my hands when she was born. I was never alone and still am not.
I spent 2 days in the hospital with her. Up until I received that letter, this is what she looked like to me. I still only remembered a newborn although I did receive a few letters and pictures from the family up until her 1st birthday. I didn't know their names or her name, or where they lived. I knew she had red hair and was darling and, most importantly, I knew that they wanted her more than anything in the world and that she was and has been a long awaited answer to their prayers.
After 4 months of getting acquainted with Kim through letters, emails, and then eventually Facebook and texts, sharing laughs and tears and learning all about her and Delaney from afar, sharing pictures and stories and secretly meeting Kim in December, I was finally able to go to Southern Utah, where they have always lived, and meet Delaney almost 18 years later.
Let me tell you, I darn near had a panic attack while I was driving up to their house that morning. It was just me and the voice on my GPS. I decided I needed to do this alone the first time. I was so nervous yet so excited. When I saw her, I just hugged her tight and just felt so much love and happiness in that room. Her mom, step-dad and Grandma were all there and greeted me like they had been missing me for years. They graciously let me spend the weekend with them and we had a great time, like we were all old friends.
After the weekend, my face hurt from smiling so much while meeting all the people that I was introduced to as "Amy, Delaney's Birth Mom". She always knew my first name so I learned that the name "Amy" was well-known to many as her birth-mom. I felt like all these people, who knew Delaney and Kim's story her whole life, knew me just as well. While they didn't actually know me personally, they knew the entire other side of the story that I never knew about this couple that desperately wanted to have children but were not able to after years of fertility treatments and whose prayers were answered one day when they got the call that they had been chosen by this 17 year old girl to take her baby. I heard over and over that they had always given second glances at any short blonde girl (that would be me) and in large crowds always wondered if I might be there too. I suppose it never really hit me that while I was wondering about her, she had been wondering about me too... It was so cool to hear the story about the day they got her. I had never heard it before and I realized that this was the piece of the entire story that I had been missing all those years. It gave a much deeper meaning to the entire experience to hear it...to know that I made a difference for them. It hadn't truly occurred to me before.
Delaney is awesome. Did I say that already? She is so spunky, and funny, and amazingly smart and driven. She is a friend to everyone she knows and believe me, she knows ALOT of people. Its hard to believe she is a teenager. It has been so fun to identify the things that she and I have in common physically, personality-wise, and so many other ways...you can tell we are related and I see ALOT of her birth-dad in her. But then again, if one didn't know she was adopted, they would never ask. She is a puzzle piece that fits perfectly into her family and her home. I want to be like her when I grow up.
Braiden, my oldest, and now 14 year old son, learned about Delaney shortly after I met her in February. That was quite an experience, getting him to even believe that I wasn't pulling his chain, but he quickly made his own contact with her through Facebook and they immediately became pals. Whew. That was a dreaded conversation that went surprisingly well and in the end, he has handled it all much better than I imagined.
|~This middle picture is the first of all 5 of my children together. I love it.~|
We went to their house for a quick trip in March where the kids and my husband Eric also were able to meet Delaney and her family. We took that opportunity to tell Paige and Cameron they have an older sister since I thought it would be easier to explain it with her and Kim sitting right there. That was, and continues to be, a challenge to help their little minds understand how that all works but they have come to accept her as a sister and ask about her regularly. Max even asks where "Way-nee" is.
D has quite the large family. She certainly hasn't been in isolation these past 18 years. Because of their family dynamics, she has family for days..5 brothers and sisters, lots of grandparents, lots of crazy aunts and uncles (the best kind) and parents that would move Heaven and Earth for her. I cant believe how many people there are that love this girl. Its really amazing and even better when you add in all the biological families. Wow....what a family reunion that would make.
Since February, or maybe October, my life has been turned upside-down...in a good way mostly. I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions that nobody could even imagine...except maybe Kim. Before last October, I did not even fathom that I would be meeting her so soon. I had no idea what to expect because I had always known that I wanted her to come to me when she was ready. It needed to be her decision and I never wanted to intrude. I know of many stories where it just never happens for one reason or another. So I had prepared myself for the possibility that I might never meet her, if not much later in life. What a pleasant surprise.
NEVER, NEVER, did I think I would get to surprise her on her 18th birthday with a visit from her birth-dad or get to see her perform in a choir competition, or see her graduate from high school (below).
Quite certainly I never imagined that we would get to take her with us on a family road trip to California to visit my dad and go to our favorite place (below). This time has been a blessing without a doubt. What a fun trip!! I hope there are more in the future.
So here I am now. The wildness of it all has worn off a bit and we are trying to settle into life with this new "thing". Its hard. I'm not gonna lie. I get sad sometimes and I miss her all the time...maybe its because since her, I have had 4 other babies and I know how I treasure every second with them... so now that I know her and love her even more than I imagined, the reality of it sets in that she isn't mine and I missed so much and that while her family is loving and generous beyond compare, she belongs to them and not me.
...then I stop myself and think hard about how many people have been blessed by how this has all played out. While her biological family all missed that little red head baby and wondered about her all this time, her adoptive family has had the opportunity to raise an amazing woman. She is who she is because of them, no doubt. While my genes might have determined her hair color, her double-jointed fingers, her shoe size, her smile and maybe a little bit of her demeanor... her heart has been nurtured and taught and loved like I would not have been able to. Everything is just as it should be...and I'm not sad. I am overjoyed. I would never claim that these results are typical. I know that most people in the same situation may have had a completely different outcome. But that's why I had to share this story.
I plan to nurture my relationship with her while she continues to progress through young woman-hood and hope that we eventually will become close. She is still really young and has a lot to learn from her own mother but I want to be there for her if she should need me. I have a lot to look forward to and I am so grateful that my kids will get to know her. This is so much better than I imagined.
So much better...