Many mothers will tell you that the most important day of their life was the day their child was born.
Yes, my daughter's birth date is hugely significant—without it, I obviously would not be her mother.
Yet my absence on the day she was born designates it to second place behind the day that I met her and the day after that day, when the magistrate signed the papers finalizing our adoption of her.
I think of those two days often—the photo capturing the moment sits on my bureau, putting a smile on my face and in my heart every morning when I open my eyes.
I remember the morning of September 29, 2009 with such clarity—how the girl who usually hugs the bed couldn't sleep and was up, showered, dressed, and paced the floor two hours before the bed-and-breakfast we were staying at was ready to feed us.
I remember the nervous anticipation I had never felt before in my life. My stomach doing cartwheels and my inability to hold my body still a new experience for me.
I recall the social worker picking us up and sitting in her car for the almost two-hour drive to the baby house where we would meet our new daughter. She and my husband chattered away in the front seat, but I couldn't concentrate, my mind was full of questions and worries. Would my new child be afraid of us? Would she cry? Would she smile? Would she even let us hold her?
I tried to be sympathetic to what our child was about to experience. I hoped I could be sensitive to her fear and confusion that two strangers who looked nothing like her suddenly wanted to hold her, kiss her, and talk to her in a language she only heard occasionally. Our arrival into her life would be yet another monumental change in her eighteen months of monumental changes, and it broke my heart to think of how she would be feeling about us initially, in sharp contrast to all the joy, love, and excitement we were already feeling about her.
I remember seeing the sign for the baby house and turning off the street onto a dirt road through a grove of lemons and oranges. The two-minute drive to the house of the Director lasted that proverbial eternity.
Then, a clearing with a house and a large porch, with the Director holding what looked like a little bear, only because the little girl in her arms was wearing a brown coat with ears and a tail on it, fashioned to look like a teddy.
Our tiny daughter turned her head to observe our approaching car.
I was lost.
I knew from the pictures we had received that she was gorgeous, but I hadn't expected those eyes. Her eyes were so deeply dark that even she cannot discern her own pupils from her iris and often tells me she has no pupil. The moment I looked at them, I knew she was a force. A fighter. A brilliant observer and analyzer, with the teeny spark that showed then that she would also be a lover of merriment.
Despite coaching myself all the way there not to, I burst into tears. The tears my daughter still calls "love bubbles," because that's how I described them to her when she asked me why I was sad to meet her. They weren't sad tears, but all the love and joy of meeting her was too overwhelming for my heart to hold and it came bubbling out of my eyes in love bubbles.
I approached her with shaking hands and legs, hoping they wouldn't give out. The raw emotion of knowing that after ten years of trying, I was finally a mother, pounded in my head. I had been gifted the privilege of mothering this astounding little soul staring at me and soaking up every detail.
I held out my arms, and despite my snot-cry face, she opened her arms to me and came willingly.
That is where the story of our first meeting really ends . . . with the beginning. The beginning of a love that I never fathomed could exist before I met her, a love that detonated inside of me that moment.
Today we celebrate the five year anniversary of that meeting—the day I held my most precious connection for the first time. The moment I learned, at the age of 39, what real love is. The moment I felt that the journey to that point had finally been worth it all.
I love you to infinity and back, infinity times, my darling Baby Girl. Happy Adoption Family Day. I can't wait to discover the next five years and longer of adventures as your mama.
Do you remember your first meeting with your child? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I love reading other first meeting stories!
Thanks for reading my blog! If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out this story about my encounter with a stranger's opinion about international adoption, or you may also like to read about one woman's misinterpretation of why we adopted our daughter.
Ipsita Paul, author of the fantastic new children's book, I'm Awesome Because (Friesen Press), knows about "mixed." No, not mixed up, perfectly mixed in a gorgeous array of cultural heritages—she comes from a Spanish, Irish, Jamaican, and West Indian background and was adopted by an East Indian family. She prefers the term "mixed" versus "biracial," because "biracial" just doesn't adequately cover the rainbow of cultures that many mixed families reflect.
I'm Awesome Because is Ipsita's first book. It's a celebration of multiracial families that promotes an uplifting message of self-esteem in all children. Ipsita's own "mixie," as she calls her daughter (and son), was told one day she couldn't play pretend with some friends because she didn't look like the character the girls were pretending to be. Ipsita looked for books to show her daughter that there were indeed characters that resembled her, but had a hard time finding any, so she wrote her own! How awesome is that?
With colourful artwork accurately portraying the hair texture and some of the facial features of some mixed-race kids and adults, I'm Awesome Because was a hit in my home. My daughter kept pointing out that the kids in the story looked like her, while the dad in the story looked a bit like her own daddy. Children of mixed heritage or trans-racial adoption often feel self-conscious because they don't look like either of their parents, or feel like they're "different" in a negative way because the members of their family don't all "match" one another. A book like this provides an opportunity for these children—and others who aren't mixed or weren't adopted—to see themselves reflected in a book and feel like they are not the only ones. It also helps the society and other children to accept that people in a family don't all have to match to still be a family.
There's also a great bonus—the last page of the book asks the reader(s) to make their own list of what is awesome about themselves and their family. Thought-provoking AND confidence-building—what's not to love?
I'm Awesome Because is a great way to educate kids from ANY type of family about what "mixed" means, to help embrace diversity as a family value, and, most importantly, to promote a sense of self-worth in children.
YummyMummyClub.ca is thrilled to be giving away a signed copy of I'm Awesome Because as an awesome addition to your child's library. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me why you want your child to read it. You have until September 22, 2014 to enter. You must be a YMC member, and please be sure you've registered your email address in our commenting system so we can contact you if you win.
Yummy Rules and Regs: You must be a YummyMummyClub.ca member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until September 22, 2014. Contest open to Canadian residents (excluding Quebec). Winners will be picked using www.random.org. See full contest rules.
You may have been watching recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, with sadness for the young man who was shot and his family, but also with a sense of detachment, because you may feel these event don't really have much to do with you personally.
You may even feel a bit smug, thinking that this sort of stuff just doesn't happen in your town or your country.
And you're totally wrong.
While your town or country may not have police shootings of young black men, racism is a problem that exists worldwide. Yes, we are very slowly moving in the right direction from where we were twenty years ago, but don't kid yourself—racism has not been eradicated.
Even if you are skeptical about the Ferguson police officer's racial motivation or firmly believe he shot only in self-defence, there is a very large group of people who do feel the shooting was racially motivated, so until everyone feels safe, heard, and valued as a part of society, racism is still a problem.
That's why we need to keep talking about racism and keep moving towards a more widespread appreciation of diversity.
Here are five things YOU can do to work towards embracing diversity with your family:
This may seem really obvious, but it's amazing how many people don't consider themselves "racist" yet still use words, phrases, or make comments that reflect negative attitudes towards diversity.
Make sure they understand what equality means. Discuss what happened in Ferguson with children who are old enough, as well as other stories in the media that have racial issues involved. Fear and ignorance can breed racism, so work together to expand your family's awareness and understanding of other races or cultures in the world.
While it is sometimes difficult to find these items, they do exist. Starting your child at a young age with toys and books depicting races or cultures outside of their own will create an organic awareness and appreciation for diversity.
This isn't the same as discussing diversity! Do some research and read firsthand accounts of racism to raise your own awareness of its existence and its effects. Make sure your kids know what qualifies as racism or stereotyping, and teach them to stand up against racism.
Make sure you are not rejecting people simply on the basis that they are different from you in some way. Enjoy friendships from diverse backgrounds and proactively encourage your children to build relationships with children of different races than their own. Kids imitate what they see and hear their parents doing, so YOU are the best person to teach your child to embrace diversity, simply by doing so yourself.
Racism is a multi-layered, complicated social issue. It will not disappear overnight, nor will it disappear even if you constantly practice all of the suggestions on this list, but it's a start.
What do you do to ensure your kids understand that all people are equal?
Hi! Thanks for reading my blog. If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out this one about a celebrity's take on race, or this post about an important lesson my daughter taught me about race.