One week after getting "the call" - the call telling me that my daughter had been found and she wanted contact with me - I received a package in the mail. It was a large envelope from Ohio. I was home alone at the time and it was a cool November day. The sun was shining and the world outside was moving along at it's usual autumn pace. I took the envelope to the dining room table and just sat there staring. It took a minute before I could open it. On the outside was the handwriting of the woman who raised my daughter. This was the closest I had come to my own child in 22 years. Although Liz wanted contact we were taking things slowly. We hadn't actually had any contact yet. I spoke with her adoptive mother on the phone the same night as "the call" but this was the first time I was holding something physical from my daughter's world.
It's hard to put into words what that feeling was like. My heart stopped, a sudden intake of breath, I was dazed. I was about to see pictures of the baby I longed for, the child I carried and loved but had never seen. The lump in my throat grew until I was choking. No more waiting. I ripped it open and there she was. Photo after photo, I saw my own eyes looking back at me. The resemblance to my own baby pictures was uncanny - pictures of her as a baby, a toddler, outside playing, sitting by the Christmas tree, celebrating birthdays, hair in pigtails, standing in her new shiny red galoshes, at a party with her cousins, opening gifts, blowing out more birthday candles, her first day of kindergarten, school photos, Easter Sundays, her prom and graduation, holding her own first born child.
I hungrily scanned the photos through my tears. I spread them out all over the table covering the entire surface. I looked at them again and again trying to memorize my daughter's childhood. I couldn't get enough of them, I wanted to inhale them, make them part of me somehow. I tried to be there. I tried to put myself in her life, experience what she experienced. It hit me. It would never happen. Her childhood was in front of me but I could never know it. I could only know it in 2 dimensions. The sounds and sensations, the physicality and emotion of it were going to remain in another world. For a small moment in time, in the past, we were connected as one being but we have 2 different family histories. She'll never know what it would have been like to grow up with her brother and sister or with me. I'll never know what her little girl voice sounded like or what it was like to have her come home from school and tell me about her day or comfort her when she got hurt. I'll never experience her bringing me the latest picture she drew or a valentine that her teacher helped her to make. I'll never feel the weight of her little body on my lap or her child arms wrapped around my neck in a hug.
All of those experiences belong to another family, another mother. I have my daughter in my life now. I am forever grateful for that but I will never experience her childhood. All of those years were taken from me and reunion doesn't repair that damage. In spite of today's gratitude I will forever be angry at a system that cares more for money and catering to the wants of adopters than the sacred bond between mother and child, a business that takes newborn babies away from their mothers by convincing young women that they're not good enough for their own children. My heart breaks for not only what was done to me and my daughter but for the millions of other mothers and children who were separated so cruelly in the past and so coercively in the present.