The Weight of a “Happy Birthday”


Each year on this day I have a dialogue in my head about the child who feels like she’s dead…

It all started with a phone call.

“We have an immediate need for a placement of two sisters, 13 and 14, will you take them?”

Even as the memories unfold my chest begins to tighten, is it anxiety or grief or both today? I know that for the few who journey down this road it becomes clear; outsiders don’t understand and no one really shares when the story is not a fairytale. Public silence is the rule.

Today is your birthday, and I just keep flashing back to that day we stood before the judge and you signed on that line that you had chosen the family that had chosen you, fought for you, and hoped for forever with you. The adoption couldn’t have happened without your consent, not at the age you were. And now, 14 years later, I have watched you replace us and choose a new family time and time again. And despite years of therapy to process all that has taken place I find I can’t make my heart understand that love was never going to be enough.

“Mom” number 5.

Therapeutic  parenting?

It swirls in my head every time I try to understand this story; our story.

I know it was never about us but we still have to figure out a way through all of these roads labeled HARD.

We can’t just mute our love for you because you have walked away.

I never saw the story unfolding the way it has. I flash back to adoption workers saying words like “unadoptable,” and my stomach still churns at the thought. No child should ever be labeled that way and yet, now I wonder, what did it mean after all? What was it all for? What was the point  of it all if this is how the story goes?

The girls ask me if you think about them, they ask why can’t they know you and love your children. It has been years since we last had moments with you and we all have to walk our road through the grief. How am I supposed to answer questions like, “doesn’t she miss me?”  Then the adoption worker’s words echo through my head again, “why would you want to adopt them? You don’t have to.”

At 25 and 28, we thought that with enough love, and counseling, and training, and Jesus, it was all going to be a messy but wonderful happily-ever-after.  That is not the reality today.

We didn’t “save you,” we couldn’t heal all the wounds, if any, and today I am not sure we did much of anything for you and your sister at all. I replay all the professionals saying the same “it was too late, there was nothing you could do.” But I can’t tell my heart that, not yesterday, or today, and even if it understood what will that give me?

But we did choose you and therein lies all that was in our control and has the aroma of obedience to the God who drew our paths together and wove you into our hearts.

Why did I ever think a sacred path would be without suffering?

I will cry today, for the millionth time, and replay so much pain, and feel it all again. I will remember your laugh and your smile and I will cry harder.  It is the only way through.  I will answer your younger sister’s questions, and then try again to explain to the youngest who you even are while my heart breaks anew. I will hold them as they cry, and pray again for you, even when my words run dry, because that is the best that I can do. Your dad and I will once again wonder to God “why?” Why did He choose us to choose you if the journey runs this way?

And God will patiently remind us that He doesn’t owe us an explanation for all of our why’s, instead he faithfully holds us in our hard so we can continue to hold you in our hearts. For each of us may not have your DNA but we are still choosing you today.

So Happy Birthday to the one who never had to earn our love but was given all the imperfect that we are from the very start. And has taught us more about God’s unconditional love and how he holds an ever bleeding heart.