Had you asked me ten years ago, when my daughter Ashley was born, how I felt about adoption through foster care, I would have told you I felt bad for those poor kids. As I held that precious new life, I would have said "how could anyone lose their child forever" and "that only happens in dysfunctional families". How naive I was then. Never did I think I'd be one of "those" families, but I am. Today, after much self reflection, therapy, and recovery, I can say, I'm still a good mother, despite my children's adoption.
I think when the average person thinks of a "good mother", they picture someone who does everything for their children, the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, soccer games and dance class. A woman who puts her kids first, and would never give them up or allow someone else to raise them. When I think of a "good mother" I too think of these things, but I also see a woman who can admit she makes mistakes, and understands sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is step aside. I've seen this quality in myself, as well as in Ashley's adoptive mother, and I'm proud to say we both have it.
When I began this journey, I thought my daughter was lost to me forever. While Ashley was in foster care and prior to the finalization of her adoption, visits were painful. Although I was seeing my child, she really wasn't there. Whether it was from over-medication in the beginning and fear of betrayal later, our meetings were formal, lacking in conversation, physical contact and often felt scripted. I couldn't stand seeing her like that, it broke my heart. The beautiful child, with a curiosity and zest for life, that I had brought into this world was gone. Lost to a system that had, in many ways, broken her.
Then there was Rebecca and her husband. My daughter's saviors. I left our first meeting with a peace I hadn't felt in years. They were accepting Ashley for who she was and they weren't giving up, like many before them had. My mother often joked, "it takes someone special to love Ashley", and there they were. Those special people had found her, and better yet, they didn't hate me. The fear that whoever adopted Ashley would see me as a monster, had loomed in me for quite some time. I imagined they would keep her from me, with fear I might try to take her or damage her in some way. But not Ashley's parents, they were different.
It was obvious they had educated themselves in attachment, and shared my view, that in order to build a new bond, you have to nurture the first one. Not only that, but because Rebecca was an adoptee herself, she really understood the importance of maintaining Ashley's relationship with me, her birth mother. I have to say, it wasn't easy! I will never forget the first time I received a picture from Ashley, on the envelope "Mom" had been crossed out and the words "bio mom" were written in it's place. I cried for hours, but it was through those tears that I accepted my new role in Ashley's life, as her first mom. After that I realized if I didn't move into the position of "birth mom", Ashley would never fully integrate into her new family. It was here that I believe I regained my title as a "good mother". I had truly stepped aside and let her go. It is in stepping aside that real love can begin. It was the most selfless act I could do for my child. Little did I know it would come with such a great reward.
Ultimately, by letting her go, I got her back. Rebecca and I became, what I consider to be, close friends, and I see her for who she is, Ashley's mom. My visits with Ashley went from awful to amazing! I began to see my beautiful child re-emerge from the ashes of the fire I had started years ago. The tension that was ever present at previous visits was replaced with joy and love. My child and I had rekindled the bond that can only be shared between a mother and daughter, and I owe it all to Rebecca. She has given us a gift that I could never repay, but intend to spend my life trying.
So ask me today how I feel about adoption through foster care, and I will tell you I owe my life to it. Every child, no matter where they started, deserves a forever family. Unconditional love can come from all places, and Ashley has found that she has more than most. Through trauma and suffering, has come peace and joy. My outlook on adoption and love has forever changed and I have Rebecca, her family, and adoption to thank, and for that I am eternally grateful.