Pieces of morning light stream in through the window and fill up the room.
The glider goes back and forth, back and forth as I stare into his small, perfect face.
His heavy eyelids begin to close as I brush my fingertips over his hairline. My mom used to do this to me.
I can remember distinctly being a young girl lying between my parents in their bed, after a nightmare or during a thunderstorm. Their bed, between them, was the safest place in the world. She would run her fingers over my hair and that would always help me fall asleep.
Isn’t it interesting, how the way we remember being loved the most is often the way we choose to project love onto others, particularly our children?
It was in this moment that I had a flashback to a few months ago. In Mississippi, on the day that we were finally united with Jayden at Ms. Carol’s home on the lake, I held him on my chest, in a gliding chair in her living room. I began to stroke his hair from the tip of his forehead back towards his ears. “That’s exactly what I do,” she said.
I was quiet. I could only think about what relief I felt that we could always tell him how loved he was in his first month of life. I thought about how hard it was going to be for Carol to say goodbye to him. And then my thoughts turned to Jayden’s birth mother. The one that we had gotten to meet a couple months before. If it was hard for Carol to say goodbye, I could only imagine the turmoil that occurred in his birth mom’s heart.
Carol told me that God somehow grants her the ability to say goodbye each time she parts with a child she took care of in the interim. He gives her the love for each of them that allows her to fully take care of them as their mother would. And then He gives her the strength she needs to send them on their way.
I wonder if Jayden’s birth mother felt God’s strength on the day she had to say goodbye. There are lots of things I wonder about that day, and about the days leading up to it. But there are things that I know with absolute certainty. She loved him, and still does, with her whole heart. She wanted to protect him, to keep him close. In a perfect world, she would have never had to say goodbye at all.
You see, that’s the thing about adoption. Whether the child was left on a doorstep, abandoned in a third world country, or left with a meticulously chosen adoptive family, there is loss. Even if the loss isn’t witnessed first-hand by the ones taking the child in, it is there.
And it doesn’t just go away.
I can only imagine that this type of loss is accompanied by a unique brand of grief. Not easier or more difficult than the loss of a loved one per se, but different. You’re placing an entire life, a whole human that you have created, into the hands of a person that you believe will love them the way you would love them.
The grief is not only for the loss of a child that would otherwise be yours, in your future family, but it encompasses all of the things that make up a life together. The birth mother places it all in your hands: the good days and the bad, the special occasions, traditions, the big moments and the small ones.
This privilege, of being the one on the receiving end of that kind of sacrifice, is one that I don’t think I’ll ever fully wrap my mind around or “get over.”
Yes, the process of adopting is difficult. In hindsight; however, every ‘rejection,’ every period of waiting, and every difficult ‘no’ that we faced along the way makes us appreciate the ultimate intersection of our lives with Jayden’s even more. Though the process was long and involved, emotionally and otherwise, I hope that we will never let our striving or our actions in any of this outweigh the sacrifice of Jayden’s birth mother in our minds.
She is the hero in this story.
For the record, for any who do not know about our specific adoption journey, Jayden’s birth mom is beautiful. Her spirit is one of strength and determination to advocate for the ones she loves, particularly this baby who we now hold dear to our both of our hearts.
She is strong. But I know that the days surrounding his birth, and every day since, have not been easy for her. One of the reasons I know this is from our conversation about his name.
“Do you want to talk about names?”
The pregnancy counselor looked at Jayden’s birth mother and asked this question. She was facilitating our meeting, as all of the hearts in the room beat at a hundred miles an hour.
“Well, I’ve been calling him Jayden,” she said in a very undemanding, kind way. I knew she wanted to be respectful of us, and of any names we had already planned out in our minds. “But please name him whatever you would like.”
Tucker and I looked at each other, and just smiled at her. I might have nodded my head. We hadn’t planned a name yet. We didn’t have a spirit-filled “aha” moment. But we saw his birth mom’s spirit toward us. She wanted to give her baby boy the best life. She loved him enough to want to call him by name, and she wasn’t afraid of forming a connection with the child she was carrying.
This struck me as a great service toward our future son.
Previously we had talked about how much we’d like to honor the birth mom’s decision about a name, if it worked out that way.
When we got in the car after our meeting, we talked about the name Jayden. It was oddly similar to one of the names we had almost landed on earlier that day.
Then, I googled it.
It means “thankful.”
His birth mom was thankful for him.
We couldn’t think of a better meaning to represent how we felt about him.
It was perfect.
Jayden Michael Burke.
His middle name carries significance in representing his grandfather on his dad’s side, David Michael. He will carry on the legacy of strong men on both sides of his adoptive family, and we know that his birth family is made up of a strong legacy to begin with.
He is one special kid.
When I rock him, stroke his hair, and look at his beautiful features, I am in awe of the fact that I get to be his mom.
I just want everyone that knows him, and everyone that knows our family to understand what led to that privilege being placed in our hands. It was wrought with a sacrifice greater than any of us can imagine.