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Bittersweet Anniversaries

I look at my phone and realize with a start that it is the 25th. A day, that in the past years has grown somber. Six years ago, my husband and I took legal guardianship of twin toddlers we would soon call our daughters. The road leading up to that day had been fraught with heartbreak and roller coaster emotions.
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I look at my phone and realize with a start that it is the 25th. A day, that in the past years has grown somber. Six years ago, my husband and I took legal guardianship of twin toddlers we would soon call our daughters. The road leading up to that day had been fraught with heartbreak and roller coaster emotions.

As someone who has just set out on the path to adopt, I had blinders on. Yes, I did read adoptee blogs and birth mother blogs but they were few and far in between as compared to the adoptive parent blogs I stalked. I vicariously lived through these couples who signed up with an agency, became paper pregnant, got the call, had baby showers and went on to bring a baby home. I cried with them as the experienced failed adoptions, adoption disruptions and battled to connect with the babies they brought home.

I worked on our application with a razor focus on what I wanted expectant parents to read. We were good people. We had what they wanted their children to have.

"Pick us!" screamed our adoption profile.

Months rolled past. We were matched with and went through failed adoptions. We flew for eight hours, landed in a strange town and learned as we checked into the hotel that the expectant mom who had given birth wanted to keep her baby after all. We stood in the hospital parking lot wondering if we wanted to go in at all.

New year dawned and I reconciled myself to the fact that adoption was not for us. Three weeks later, my husband and I signed forms declaring we would be bringing home not one but two babies. Our lives changed. The months following the girls' homecoming is a blur. I learned to mother on my feet. Between work, school, chores and children, I remember just the milestones. The first time they walked, the first words, the first day of daycare. The rest is all a blur. As the first anniversary rolled around, I marked it by baking a cake. It was a private celebration, mostly just for me.

By this time, follow up visits by the social worker from the agency were over and our adoption finalized in court. I heaved a sigh of relief and concentrated on the parenting part. My daughter's other mother and I were in touch. Our communication was random and centered on our daughters. I had committed to being open, to having our children's other family in their lives. But as days passed, I realized how little I was prepared. All the reading and theory only reinforced what I wanted to believe. I sought out books, blogs, literature that lent credence to my thoughts.

I stumbled on a transracial adoption group on Facebook. The whole world of transracial parenting forums opened up to me. Amid all the chaos, a few strident voices rang out. Insistent, wanting to be heard. I stilled the voices in my head and listened. I listened like my life depended on it. Perhaps it did.

Adoption in itself should be child centered. Is it? They asked. I looked back on my journey to becoming a mother. It had centered mostly on me. The path to getting there had involved birth mother expenses. It had involved pre-birth matching. It had involved rushing through things that in hindsight should have taken its time. I had checked off boxes that listed things I needed to do in order to make sure my children would be bonded to me. But did I step back and understand the bond they had with their family was broken? That they were survivors of trauma? That this fractured bond would impact every aspect of their lives? I am not sure I did.

I set out on a different path now, seeking dissonant voices. I sought out adoptee blogs that talked about the pain of being ripped off from their birth families, from their birth culture, from their identity. I read accounts from birth mothers from the baby scoop era. I read posts from birth mothers living through the trauma of relinquishment. I followed mothers and children as they navigated open adoption. Was open adoption the panacea to all things evil in adoption? I did not have the answer. Their pain however, leapt across the screen and lodged itself in my heart.

I looked at my children's other mother, their other family with new eyes. My decision to bombard them with pictures, to send constant updates had me second guessing. Would the pictures and updates reopen the wound each time? Am I hurting or helping? These questions have no answers. I reached out to other families who have traversed the path. The one thing that became clear is that no two families are on the same journey. Each child, each family (birth or adoptive) is unique. I would have to navigate this path relying on my innate sense of fairness.

The years rolled by. Our contact fell into fairly predictable patterns. Emails, Facebook updates and most recently, a visit. The visit was harder than I thought it would be. Watching my children with their family reinforced the magnitude of their loss. I returned home with my sense of balance askew.

Mother's day, National Adoption month, Depictions of adoption in mainstream media, all of these things which normally passed me by without provoking reaction now disturbed me. I resorted to writing about it. #FlipTheScript demanded the rising voices on Twitter and I heeded.

This January, as the days that once marked momentous events rolled past, I marked them in my head, mostly as a reminder of what is important. I held my children close and we talked about their life before they became our children. We talked about their family of origin. We talked about the differences in skin color, in race, in food habits. We looked at pictures from our visit to their family. We looked at pictures taken the day they came home. We talked about family and what it means. We celebrated the existence of our family the way it is. We also mourned the loss of the family that was. Of the life that could have been.

We let all these thoughts sit and percolate. It was a bittersweet anniversary and it always will be.