Sinner for Christ: Forgiveness
Forgiveness is one of those words we throw around very casually as a culture. Us mother's hurry and busy ourselves to tell our children to "say you're sorry" when our child accidentally (completely intentionally) hits another kid. We communicate to our children that forgiveness is something that can and should be given quickly and easily. The reality is that forgiveness isn't something that comes easily to any of us. Bitterness comes quickly and easily, and it is very easy to allow bitterness to harden our hearts in the name of "punishing" our oppressors. We don't even realize that we are harming ourselves so much more.
When I finally did forgive and move on I thought that was it for me, and that was the foundation. I needed to be healthy. I needed to forgive. I needed to be able to wake up every day, get dressed, go to work and not be thinking about the wrongs that were done to me. I needed to be able to be alone without falling apart. I needed to forgive the people who harmed me. My bitterness was not harming them, it was harming me! I was experiencing depression on a massive scale. I was suicidal, I didn't even know it, but I was (you can read about this in another post)! I didn't know that I was exempting myself from God's love and his blessing in my life. I thought and I felt that what I was doing was completely normal and natural, and to some extent it was. But here is the thing folks about being a Christian. What is normal and natural for the world is bizarre and undesirable to a Christian. And now I'm not saying you cannot be a Christian and still have bitterness in your heart. I knew and kept Christ close to me all through my depression and bitter years. But, the life I was living was not a Christ filled life. The life I was living was a bitterness filled life, and it wasn't until I finally laid that down at Christ's feet and said "here Lord, you can take this. I've made an idol of it. It was mine to carry. But no, you've already paid the price so I don't have to. So I won't carry this anymore, because you already gave me grace and you already forgave me."
I thank God every day that he shook some sense into me. After I forgave and laid my bitterness down I was finally ready to start building on the foundation Christ had already put there for me. I had another child, Arthur and then a third child, David. We struggled with fertility prior. Once I gave up the bitterness and anger, we got pregnant almost immediately! I don't doubt that Christ was with holding blessing until I was ready to receive it!
So several more years passed and I didn't write to my daughters A parents anymore. They never wrote back, they never were interested in a relationship with me, there was not really any point. But every year, year after year, when Elizabeth's birthday approached I would get together a big box and go out getting her all the things I imagined a 7 year old, 10 year old, 12 year old girl would want. I didn't know her. I didn't know what she was into. I remember being that age and getting gifts that were ridiculous and so not me. I didn't want to do that to my own flesh and blood daughter! And yet, I wanted her to know that I love her. I love you. I love you Elizabeth. And I wanted you to know that I haven't forgotten you. And just because I don't write to your parents doesn't mean I've forgotten YOU! You are EVERYTHING to me, and I wanted you to know that.
I would get together whatever seemed appropriate, taking a page from my own 12 year old self. I would make sure to include items that were of interest to me at that age, hoping to share some secret connection. I always wondered if she got my packages. One year I managed to find a photo somewhere online of her holding a towel I had sent in one of these packages. Confirmation! She is getting my packages at least! Does she know they are from me? No matter, I had to do my due diligence and just hope and pray that she wanted to know me as badly as I wanted to know her.
To this day I couldn't tell you what came over me, but October of 2018 was approaching FAST and I was running out of time to get her package in the mail. I came home frustrated, depressed, exhausted from work and dealing with the challenges of my other 2 children and just ready to throw in the towel. I sat down to write Elizabeth a letter to include in her package. Something inside of me just broke and I spilled my whole heart all over the pages. I considered scrunching it up and throwing it in the trash, but no. I had nothing left to lose. I didn't have a relationship with this child. I didn't even know if she would get this letter. I knew nothing about her. Our "open adoption" was no more open than any closed adoption I had ever seen. All the information I had about my child and her family was pilfered. The only reason I even knew her last name was because that one time I met the family the father accidentally slipped and said something about the "K----" family reunion coming up. I took mental note of that last name, it was the first and last time I ever heard it. So I had nothing to lose, nothing at all.
I sent the package that year, with that letter that had bits of heart smeared all over it. I sent it off and didn't think of it again. It wasn't going to come to anything, I couldn't expect anything, to expect was setting myself up. So you can imagine my.... I don't have a word for it, maybe shock, but that doesn't seem a strong enough word.
I was having a particularly bad day at work. I was texting my husband crying at him about how horrible my day was going. I was depressed. I was overwhelmed and tired and the day was only halfway through. I still had to go home to deal with all of that mess. I was wiped out and tired and sad and not having it. My husband, he has such a way of announcing things, it would make you cringe (he once told me one of our pet's died by saying excitedly "Guess what Michelle kitten did today!?"). So he responds to my whining with "I have something that will make your day better". My thought - Fat chance. He follows that text with a photo of the letter. My heart stopped. It stopped, it really did. I stopped breathing. Addressed to Michelle and Daniel Stoddard, the return address read from Elizabeth.
I broke. I didn't need to see the letter. I broke. I cried, I wasn't breathing but I sure as hell was crying. My brother and sister (whom I work with) looked at me like I was crazy. "What is going on!?" they yelled at me. But I couldn't say anything. My child, my baby, my first baby, she knew I existed. Confirmation. Confirmation, she knows I'm alive. She knows I love her. She heard what I said. Was she receptive to it? It almost didn't matter. I couldn't believe it, she knew I was alive and she wrote me back, in her own handwriting! My baby was writing by the way (and she has beautiful penmanship)! And I mean of course she was writing. She was 13! She was doing a lot more than writing. She was gossiping and playing sports and making friends. She was planning for her future, thinking about High School next year, wondering if that boy in her Spanish class liked her. But see (and you birth moms will get this) that was all theoretical, and this, This was actual genuine proof that she was alive and writing! And to me. To Me. She wrote to me. By name.
You know that feeling you get when you idolize a celebrity, and then you get to go backstage at some concert and meet them face to face. You know how nervous you are, knowing full well they aren't going to remember you, but you are going to forever remember this moment when you met them. See I'd always been that fan girl. The one who remembered that moment when I met you, and when I held you, and when you were mine. But you never knew me, and you never remembered me. So when I got that letter, hand written, and addressed to me, by name, I couldn't do anything else but sob and forget to breathe.
Since that letter, which I received on October 22, 2018, Elizabeth and I have written to each other a few times. She is a very busy teenager. She has a lot going on in her life. I have a lot going on in mine. I like to think we write as often as we can. Some days I wish it were more, but I am so grateful for what I get. I never imagined, never, never imagined that I was going to have a relationship with this child. I didn't even know if she knew I existed. I am so grateful for her letters. They are little packages of joy sealed up and sent off addressed to me personally. And guys did I mention she loves me? She wrote it in her letters, and personally addressed it to me. I love you!! (with the exclamations made into a smiley face). Guys my daughter loves me. I never thought I was going to be loved by my daughter, but she loves me.
Now some people would cry for me. And yeah it is sad. To think that I am so grateful to know that my daughter loves me, which is something most mothers know immediately from their children. Their first words are "Mama" as they come toddling into your arms. You know it, they love you. But see that's what it is to be a Birth Mom. You never know. You might never know. I count myself among the luckiest of birth moms. I love my daughter, and she loves me back, and I know that because she told me herself in her own words. So many birth moms don't get the chance to know their children. So many never will know these babies that they loved. So many adoptee's will never know their birth mom. They will never know how much she loves them, and wanted them, and prayed for them. They will never know that she still cries over them 20, 40, 60 years later. They don't know how much it would mean if they could reach out, if they would reach out, if they had a way.
Through all of this I do have one point to make, adoption is horrific. It's just awful. It really is. Even if your child has to worlds most loving parents. Even if they have the happiest life. Even if those parents are wealthy whereas they would have been dirt poor with you, or if those parents are just the sweetest most loving people on earth, and you don't feel you could measure up, or if they are deserving of a child because they have wanted one for so long and now here you are, even then, Adoption is really horrific. It's so painful, not just for the birth parents but for the adoptee as well. I can't speak on behalf of my daughter, but research shows (and I will write more on this topic later with some hard facts) that adoptees live more depressed lives and suicide rates are 4 times higher in adoptees than they are in people who are raised by their biological parents. It makes sense too, to start your life off with this sense of rejection.
I feel so sad for my sweet daughter about the decision that was made for both of us. I feel so so sad for her. The fact that her father and I are together, and married, and happy, and raising 2 biological full blood brothers, and she isn't here with us. It feels to us like someone is missing from our home constantly. I do still catch myself driving and looking for her in the back seat, imagining where she would be sitting and what she would be doing. I can only imagine how it must feel for her. I hope she isn't bitter at me, I wouldn't blame her if she was. Rejection is something that we all go through at some time in life, but I never wanted her to feel that from me. I've loved this child, I wanted this child, I prayed for this child. I was lied to. I was manipulated and taken advantage of. I hope she can forgive me, for her own sake, not for mine.
And isn't forgiveness what started us all of this journey, Christ's forgiveness. I've forgiven and been forgiven, and I am loved.