“For nine years I grieved my firstborn daughter. After my guardians discovered I was a little over three months pregnant at 14 years old, I was given an ultimatum: make an adoption plan or go. I made an adoption plan and delivered my baby girl six months later, placing her in her mama’s arms and leaving the hospital with a deeper sadness than I had ever known.
For those unaware of how the adoption agencies can work, I was asked a host of hard questions, in a non-therapeutic setting, and then asked what I wanted out of the relationship. ‘Can I see her?’ was at the top of my list. ‘Why don’t we plan a one year visit and photo updates after that,’ I felt myself shrinking away. ‘So can I send letters and gifts and photos too?’ I managed to plead. ‘You don’t want to overwhelm the family, so maybe just twice a year. Her birthday and Christmas seem like a good compromise,’ I nodded. ‘So I can’t send something just because?’ I felt like a burden already. ‘That’s probably not a good idea…but here are three family profiles we think you might like.’
I eagerly counted down the days until I got to see my daughter again, knowing it would likely be both the first and last time. As a child of kinship care, estranged from my own biological mother, I was reminded often enough that she neither loved me or wanted me and so I assumed my daughter would grow up hearing the same. Our visit arrived as slow as molasses but seemed to linger for only a moment. She was happy, I could see she was happy and that gave my heart a bit of peace.
A long and wild eight years passed. I ran away from my abusive home, got emancipated, met an incredible man, got married, delivered our first child and gained custody of my infant half sister (another story for another day). I had the girls at the local splash pad when my flip-phone rang.
‘Yes, hello. Is this Raquel?’
‘This is Ruth from Christian Adoption Services. I’m calling on behalf of your birth daughter’s parents. It seems your birth daughter is eager to meet you and her sister, so her parents are requesting a visit if you’re comfortable doing so.’
‘I’m here. Ummm, sorry, I’m just a little taken aback. Did I hear you correctly? They want to meet me? In person?’
‘Yes, that’s correct.’
That was 10 years ago. For ten years we’ve been building a relationship, slowly at first. Softly, unaware of any invisible boundaries that may have been present and too nervous to accidentally cross one. We laugh about it now but I’ll never forget the time we were standing together for a photo and she looked at me, half annoyed and said, ‘Can you put your arm around me or something? We look so stiff.’ I had spent years wanting to squeeze her up in a tight hug, but too afraid the affection would make her uncomfortable…and here she was, brave and bold, vocalizing exactly what she needed in that moment.
That beautiful, strong-willed girl is a young woman now, 19 and full of life. We just got back from our first ever week-long vacation together. Over the past year, I’ve built an Instagram community around adoption education that is saturated in hope and healing. When I announced we were taking our first ever family vacation, an incredibly generous follower, Sarah Hutto, offered a complimentary photoshoot while we were near her home base in Florida. Y’all, I got our gallery back last night and I’m in tears. Unless you’re a birthmother, it may be hard to fully understand, but I’ll try to convey the weight of this moment…
I love all of my children deeply, but with my youngest two, I never had to question if I would have a place in their lives. It’s the reality of parenting. You have a front row seat to every first, last, and the plethora of mundane moments in between. With my oldest it was different. I spent nine years assuming I may never get the opportunity to know her, and the next nine years terrified her or her parents might change their minds about inviting me into their lives. Not because it was ever said, but because a birthmother’s involvement isn’t promised or protected. For 18 years I held my breath, and last night I opened up a gallery of family photos my firstborn chose to be a part of. I scrolled through candid snapshots of a vacation she wanted to be at. I watched videos of her, fully comfortable existing within our home, and I wept.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud. You can follow her family journey on Instagram and her website and you can purchase her new children’s book about adoption here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Raquel here:
‘We will not ask our daughter to celebrate when she feels the pangs of grief, nor will we tell her to grieve when she feels like dancing.’: Adoptive mom talks giving kids choice to celebrate adoption anniversaries
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