Friday, April 18, 2014

I Could Breathe Again

I Could Breathe Again

I've been working on this painting all week. It's the next one in the Silent Voices series and is about the day I met my daughter for the first time.

Today is my daughter's 34th birthday and yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the first time we met face to face. We first reunited in 2002 but we didn't actually meet until 2003. It's hard to believe it's been so long. The memory of seeing her for the first time is so permanently etched in my brain. I think I held my breath for the entire flight to Ohio.

first hug

That night I wrote in my journal....

Well today has been many years in the making. I met my daughter for the first time. What a long day. I'ts been - up at 4:30 to get ready for the airport, 2 hour flight leaving at noon. Nothing can compare to the feeling of putting my arms around her for the first time. The relief was amazing - I could breathe again. When I got off the plane and made my way through the airport I thought I would faint! I couldn't breathe. I could hardly walk. I didn't see them up by the gates so I made it down to baggage claim. I spotted Josh first, then Cindy - oh my gosh - what a hug, and there were many more to come. Then I turned around and there she was - my Liz. She was just standing there smiling. I ran to her and then I just couldn't let go. We stood there for the longest time hugging and crying while Cindy ran around in circles shooting pictures and Sam handed us tissues. When I finally let go I couldn't take my eyes off her. Cindy was amazed at how much alike we look. She said we look like we belong together. Amy said we have some very similar expressions and mannerisms. 

So from the airport we went to get food. By this point the nerves had settled and we all got very hungry. Without knowing it I ordered Liz's favorite meal - meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. She said she had Cindy make it for her every birthday. Cindy cracked up when she heard my order.

The day we met really did feel like the first day I took a breath. It wasn't just the anxiety sitting on my chest and crushing me that day at the airport. When I finally put my arms around her it felt like I had been holding my breath for decades and at that moment I could finally take in air - as much as I wanted, expanding my lungs fully. I had been shallow breathing all that time and now I can take a deep, deep breath. 

Easter Sunday 2003

Do you remember the feeling when giving birth? - the hours of contractions, unrelenting pain and pressure, pushing and sweating, crowning, head pushes out and then shoulder and then finally the small body slips out and suddenly there's such a rush of relief. The agony is released and you go limp. The experience of meeting her was like birthing her a second time. The pressure had been building for decades, the emotion of waiting and wondering was constantly flowing in waves like the pain. The grief hitting like the tears released between contractions. And then all of a sudden - it's over. I could relax and look at her, touch her, talk to her.

It was the end of a phase and the beginning of a new one. It was the end of the unknown and the joyful beginning of a relationship. It was also the beginning of a new understanding of what was lost to both of us. Reunion brings with it a new set of  bags to carry. They're still the adoption bags but the weight has shifted a little. I could breathe again but the grief is still there. I don't think that ever goes away. Then there is the learning curve of how to fit into each other's lives. I think we've done pretty well. There are ups and downs, quiet times to get through, distance to deal with but I'm grateful.

I'm grateful I get to say Happy Birthday to her.