January 10, 2008 was the first time I saw a picture of my new daughters. I can remember Paul and I opening up the email and seeing the top of a picture at the bottom of the screen. We took a deep breath and scrolled down…They were so beautiful! We printed the pictures off and looked at them constantly. I had wallets made and 4×6’s printed for the grandparents once we accepted the referral. Dreaming of their personalities behind the smile or lack thereof. I scoured Snapfish to find pictures that others from our agency had posted. We had them up all over the house.
Ten months after placement I wince when I see the pictures. Now our house is full of new pictures of Mita and Enu together with our family and at various school and scout activities. I also have made copies of pictures of them when they were babies and toddlers and put them up in the house. Happy times from Ethiopia.
Why do I wince at this picture I once held so precious. I can now see the pain in their faces. This picture was taken within two weeks of their beloved father relinquishing them. Mita’s smile is an anxious one of obedience, trying to make the picture taker happy. Enu has her left lip turned up in a half smile and her eyes tell me that she is not liking this at all. I couldn’t see this last January, but now I can hold and love my girls in person. I can see grief in these pictures.
I will always keep my referral pictures, tucked away somewhere. They are apart of my daughters, taken at the most pivotal time in their young lives. I mourn with them over their loss, I celebrate their triumphs but I can never “fix” what I long most to “fix” and I can never erase that time in their lives that hurt the most.
I can, however, choose not to keep up pictures that remind them daily of a painful time. It hit me hard one day. It hurts me that I felt so much joy while they were going through so much pain.
Sometimes in the adoption process, we forget the pain our kids may be going through and fixate on how things will be “better soon”. Adoption is a celebration, a special gift that gives a child a family. It is also a time of loss. Loss of a parent, loss of a biological connection. If we recognize this and respect adoption for all that it entails I think our kids will be stronger for it.