Sometimes it breaks my heart, all the things I don’t know about you.
For all of the wonderful things that come out of an adoption, the most heartbreaking part is not having been there from the very beginning. It’s knowing that there was a whole season of your life that happened before we got to be part of it forever.
You ask your innocent questions about that season and you look at me with your trusting eyes, and it’s like I can actually feel a piece of my heart break away because I do not and may never have the answers you’re seeking.
What day was I born? Sweet girl, I don’t know. I know you’re looking for me to say “December 1,” but tonight the words caught in my throat when you asked that question because I really don’t know if the day that we celebrate your birthday is the actual day you were born or not. I don’t know if you were born in the middle of the night or early in the morning or around dinner time. I don’t know if was snowing or unseasonably warm. I only know what some people in an orphanage decided your birthday should be after they found you. I don’t know your actual birthday.
Where was I born? Precious one, I don’t know. I don’t know if you were born in a hospital, at someone’s home, or even outside. I don’t know how much you weighed. I don’t know if there were tears of joy and celebration or tears of sadness and despair at your medical condition or both. I don’t know if you were born in the country or the city. I don’t know if you were born near the area where you found or if you were born far away and brought there to protect your birth parents’ anonymity. I don’t know where you were born.
Who took care of me when I was born? Beloved child, I don’t know. I don’t know if your birth mother was alone when she had you or if she was with your birth father or a friend. I don’t know if any doctors or nurses were there, or if a family member or midwife was present to help. I don’t know if you cried when you got your first diaper change, if you were breast-fed, or if you took to the bottle right away. I don’t know who took care of you.
Did my mom in China have dark brown skin? Baby girl, I don’t know. I don’t know what the woman who gave me one of the greatest treasures of my life looks like. I don’t know if she is young or old. I don’t know if she is rich or poor. I don’t know if you were her first child or if you have siblings. I don’t know what she looks like. I don’t know if that beautiful brown skin of yours that darkens so stunningly in the warmth of the sun and remains pure and clear for the rest of the year comes from her or from your birth father or a combination of the two. I don’t know if she shares your button nose or you got his chin. I don’t know if she laughs with her whole body like you do or if your love of art came from him. I don’t know if your voice sounds like hers or if you look just like he did when he was a child. There are tests now that might one day help us find them, but the likelihood that we need to prepare ourselves for is that we may never know who they are. I don’t know who you get your features from.
These are all questions that I feel like I should know the answer to, questions for which I have answers when your brothers ask about the day that they were born. I know their stories and their heritage and where their facial features came from and what their first minutes were like and what their quirks were as babies.
I don’t know whether your birth mother cries for you on Mother’s Day or your birth father feels a pang of loss on Father’s Day.
I don’t know if your grandparents mark your actual birthday with a cupcake or if they light a candle or if they wonder about you or if they even know about you at all.
I don’t know if your birth parents have a picture of you or if they keep a piece of clothing you once wore or if they go back to the spot where they left you and wonder where in the world you are right now.
I don’t know if they have a copy of your finding ad or if they tracked you at all while you were in China or if you take over their dreams.
There are so many questions for which I have no answer. But for all of the things I don’t know about the two years before you were ours, there are so very many things that I do know about you. And when you grieve for the answers you don’t have and can’t find, my prayer is that you will take just a small bit of comfort and peace from the answers that I do know.
I know that you are most ticklish about two inches under your chin.
I know that you would eat macaroni and cheese for every meal.
I know that you love to be included and that if you can’t think of something to say to get yourself into a conversation, you will always ask what time it is just so you can be part of the discussion.
I know that nothing – nothing – on this earth makes you laugh harder than potty humor of any and all kinds.
I know the difference between your normal cry and your I’m-going-to-hyperventilate cry, and that the only sure way to get you to settle down is to mention barfing.
I know that you love to be the center of attention.
I know that you have been ready to start school with your brothers since you first came home three and a half years ago.
I know that you hate roller coasters but love the swings at the amusement parks.
I know that you love to color and snuggle and read stories.
I know that you prefer pants to a dress or a skirt.
I know that you have a crazy good imagination and that you love to play.
I know that you are scared of all loud noises and you put your fingers in your ears any time you even think one might happen.
I know that you adore playdates with your friends.
I know that you wave any time and every time you see me watching you – whether it’s playing in the backyard, watching you play t-ball, or sitting in the audience for your school performances.
I know that you love to be in the kitchen with me.
I know that you love to talk about how things were when you a baby and what we all did before you became part of us.
I know that you linger over meals and can take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to chew even the tiniest piece of meat.
I know that you are loved and adored and treasured by your family, friends, teachers, therapists, and classmates.
I know that you are brave beyond words for enduring what you have in this life and coming through everything with your joyful spirit wholly intact.
For the things I don’t know, for all of the things I may never know, there are so many that I do. Those are the things that a mother knows. I promise that I will continue to learn all I can about you for the rest of your life.
And while what I do know will never, ever make up for what I do not know, my hope and prayer is that you can one day find peace with the unknown. I don’t presume that will be easy, but I will stand with you while you grieve for what you do not know about your life before us, just as I will be standing with you for everything that is to come.
That much I know for sure.