"She asked what we had named her" - The day we met my daughter's birth mother
Adoption has been an enormous learning curve for us, despite the fact that we went all in from the start.
But we’ve learned that just because we love adoption and have no fear about loving a baby we didn’t grow or give birth to ourselves doesn’t mean that there aren’t ongoing fears and wonders and worries associated with the process. Maya became our daughter the moment we laid eyes on her, but I don’t think either of us realised half of the emotions or thoughts we’d have as time goes on, and that they would involve more people than just one baby. I have been so surprised that there are parts of the process that just come like waves out of nowhere, triggered by holidays or comments from strangers.
I was talking to my mom the other day about all the thoughts and wonders and worries I have about Maya’s hair, of all things, which is, as you may know if you follow me on Instagram, curly as all get out. I was attempting to explain that none of what I think about Maya’s hair is in any way bad. It’s just surprising. I’m surprised I think about her hair so much. When we decided to adopt I thought only about loving a baby with all my heart. I just didn’t think about the fact that I’d have no idea what to do with her hair – or that we might not even know what ethnicity our child was and where she even got all that curly hair.
That leads me to the latest adventure on this adoption journey that Michael and I embarked upon last summer: we looked for and found Maya’s birth mom for the first time. When we met Maya in the hospital when she was three days old, her birth mom had already relinquished her rights and left the hospital. For 20 months, I wondered about her and prayed for her – what she looks like, where she’s from, whether Maya has her nose or her eyes, prayed for her safety and for her heart to heal from the enormous loss of not knowing our sweet Maya and from whatever wounds that made placing her daughter for adoption her best option at that time.
On Mother’s Day this year, I felt really strongly for the first time that we needed to look for her. Oddly, I spent more of Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it thinking not about myself as a mother but about Maya’s birth mother.
Honestly, I struggled with the idea that anyone could ever reject my sweet girl, or that we couldn’t protect her from something that happened before we arrived on the scene. It broke my heart for both of them and I started to think about what it would mean to find her – both for Michael and I now and for Maya ten or fifteen years from now.
Michael and I realised a month or so earlier that no matter how amazing we are and continue to be as her parents, and how wonderful we can make Maya’s life, she will still have questions about where she came from or what her birth parents were like. And those questions will be a natural result of the situation of adoption, and of her adoption in particular.
For Maya, we do not have an open adoption where we have regular contact with her birth mother, nor do we have a closed adoption, with zero information at all or a request from her birth mom not to be found. We had minimal information – a name and an address – and the most minimal information about the night Maya was born.
But overall, we had a hole.
And over time we realised that future Maya’s future questions mean nothing about how we will have raised her; they shouldn’t be insulting or scary. They are a natural reaction to being grown by one woman and being loved and raised by two different people. They mean that she is going to need to fill that hole, that identity gap, somehow. And because we love her millions and trillions, as I tell her every night before bed, we wanted to help her fill that hole while we had the best chance of doing so.
Michael and I also realised that most likely, when Maya is old enough to start asking real questions about her birth mom and to start wanting to look for her, we’ll be living in Ireland. And because Maya’s mom was and is homeless, I knew that the odds of finding her were exponentially higher now than they will be a decade from now. Honestly, I really did not think we would be able to find her now, simply because a lot can happen in 20 months when your life is unstable in a city of 4 million people.
We started our search with the only information we had about her whereabouts, an address for an abandoned lot in a neighborhood only fifteen minutes from our sweet little Houston apartment. I couldn’t believe it was so close, when, in my head for the better part of two years, it had been a million miles away and wholly unattainable.
We knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked for her by name, and were totally shocked to learn that she still lived in the same place, ten yards from where we were standing. It took several laps around the neighborhood and asking just about everyone we met if they knew her or where she was, but we eventually found her.
I’m not sure I have words for the feeling of seeing Maya’s birth mother walk through the gate. I honestly hadn’t prepared myself to meet her; I thought perhaps we’d meet a neighbour whom we knew was kind to her throughout her pregnancy, and we hoped to learn just a few simple facts about her. I just didn’t expect to be learning those facts from her. I had no idea what to say, so I babbled and pulled my phone out to show her photos and videos. She asked what we had named her, and I just couldn’t believe she didn’t know her name. But of course, she didn’t know her name.
Michael stood stoically and protectively behind me while I struggled to find the words to express my gratitude for making me a mother, to the person who made me a mother. She and I were both overcome with the emotion of the enormity of the meeting, at one point crying and hugging. She loved the name Maya, and she remarked how beautiful and tiny our girl is.
She is tiny herself, with brown hair and smooth skin. She was gracious and kind, thanking us for taking such good care of her baby girl. She explained that she was born in Houston but her people were from Mexico, she gave us a piece of cultural identity that we can now definitively encourage in Maya as she grows.
As I tried to explain, first to Michael and then to my family and friends my desire to find Maya’s birth mother, I said that my goal was simply been to find a sliver of information about her that I could pass along to Maya one day. I simply wanted to try to fill the identity gap that will naturally form in the absence of any details at all about the woman who knew her for nine months before we did. “You know, like does Maya have her eyes, or something like that,” I’d say.
Well, wouldn’t you know, Maya has her eyes. And one day, we can’t wait to share that with our sweet girl. Along with all the other slivers we picked up on that gift of a day.