The very first time I met my now adopted daughters’ first mama, I knew it was her before we were even introduced. I walked into the waiting room of the local social services office and I saw her sitting alone looking at the floor. She had the same nose, same eyes, and same smile that I saw every day in the little girl I was growing to love already. I could have picked her out of a crowd of 5000 people.
There were a lot of emotions running through my head that day. I was scared, frustrated, nervous, anxious, hopeful, excited, and a little overwhelmed. What would I say to her? There were a million questions running through my head. How did she allow this to happen? Did she even care? Why didn’t she just ask for help? How is she going to make this right?
I had a lot of questions, but I didn’t ask a single one. They weren’t really that important. After all, would it change the situation if I had an answer to them? Likely not. Instead I took a deep breath, walked over to her, and simply said “Hey! You are Ruby’s mom, right?” (Name changed for safety) She looked down and just nodded. She was ashamed. Embarrassed. Defeated. She didn’t need me to tell her she had done something wrong or hurtful. She already knew that. What she needed from me was to be treated with grace and like a real person with feelings; so, all of my questions changed. How could I extend the most grace possible? How would I be able to get to know her and let her know I was not fighting against her, but with her?
For 30 minutes we talked about her daughter and she shared all of the things that made her laugh, her favorite song, her favorite food, things that she loved as a baby. I shared pictures and listened a lot. In those moments I not only learned about her daughter, I also saw a love that was fierce and strong.
This was the worst moment of her life and it would have been easy for me to remind her of that. It would have been easy for me to tell her she had made one of the biggest mistakes a parent could make, but she already knew that. She didn’t need another person telling her what a disaster this was. She needed someone to cheer her on, to fight for her, and to believe the best.
That’s what we did. We fought for her and with her. We cheered her on and we believed that she could do it. There were a lot of tears, a lot of frustration, and a lot of days where we were pushing and fighting for her- even when she wasn’t fighting herself.
We fought even harder when we found out she was expecting her second child. We went to doctor visits with her, we gave pregnancy tips for a healthy baby, we shared guesses on if it would be a boy or a girl, we talked about names, her cravings, and all things a pregnant mom wants to discuss with her friends or family. The plan was never to have her second child come into foster care, but things change. At just three days old, Ruby’s little sister came into our care. We brought baby Taylor (name changed for safety) home and we loved her from day one.
It wasn’t because she didn’t love her girls. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to be their mom. It was so many other things. We fought long and hard in the trenches and at the end of the day we did everything we could. And I truly believe she did too. The details of her fight and the things that she wasn’t willing to do in order to keep her girls safe isn’t entirely my story to tell. She herself grew up in foster care, she didn’t have a support system, and she was so young at the time of their births. In her heart she wanted to do better and I think she tried hard to break the cycle.
Two-and-a-half years after her girls came into foster care she relinquished her rights. She decided that she couldn’t give them the life they needed and in that moment I saw that same fierce and steadfast love that I saw the very first time we met. Her love ran deep and we will always tell our girls that their first mama loved them something fierce.
Even though we tried extremely hard to build a relationship with her while the girls were in foster care, our efforts were not as successful after we adopted. I can only imagine how hard it is to relinquish the rights of your children (no matter how life has taken a turn for you); but then on top of that to continue to spend time with the person who gets to be their mom forever, I can’t even fathom. We still have each other’s contact information. We still make efforts on occasion to send pictures and check in while always assessing if it is safe for our girls considering circumstances. We are waiting and one day I know that we will reach a point where it is safe and it is an option to rebuild that relationship, because it’s important. We still have hope. We show the girls pictures of all of us at dinner, the park, birthday parties. We talk about how they have her eyes, her smile, and her nose. We celebrate that our family got to know her enough that we can share part of their family history with them and they have connections to people that share their DNA. It wasn’t easy and at times it was messy, but it was worth the effort because now when they are older we have a part of their story that they will be looking for.