I still can't believe she picked me.
I think this often when Carmen is looking at me with her joyful, bright brown eyes. Somewhere out there is a mother with empty arms. Not only does she not have the opportunity to watch her baby grow or reach all of her milestones, but she chose that inexplicable pain for the sake of her baby. For our daughter. Our daughter. She carried our daughter in her body and nourished her as best as she could and then gave birth to her and said goodbye. She did that because she loved our daughter too much to let her go without.
Sometimes when people scrunch up their noses and say "what kind of person would give up that beautiful baby?" or "I hope she knows this is your baby now," I wonder if they process that. If they can process that, even half of it. I wonder -- especially when they have children -- if they can understand the magnitude of the sacrifice the mother of our daughter made. I can't imagine the strength it took to admit that you did not have what it takes to provide to your child, that you weren't in the position to mother your child as they deserved to be mothered. I can't imagine the strength it took to knowingly choose someone else to parent your child, knowing the milestones you would be forever missing and the fact that your baby was calling someone else mommy forever. What kind of person, they wonder? Well, a magnificent one. A brave one. A pretty special one, even.
I mean, step back for a minute. Imagine looking through stacks of books and flipping through pictures and reading stories and looking for the people who would become your child's parents. Think about that for a minute. And understand not only the magnitude of the strength and bravery that Carmen's birth mother possesses, but the depth of the honor I carry.
She read our story, she saw our pictures and she chose us. She saw me and said "that's the one" and I'm still waiting for that to fully sink in, to feel remotely worthy. I can assure you that she isn't confused, and she understands with her tattered heart that we are Carmen's parents.
But she is her mother, too. You don't just stop being a mother when your child dies, or when you place (not give up, please) your baby into another family. To think such is to completely discredit the unrelenting bond between mother and child. Carmen will always be made up of the love of her biological mother. No time or distance or adoption will be able to take that away, and that is a comfort that brings me warmth, too. What kind of monster would want their child to feel unwanted, unloved?
Unlike most of the friends I've made in the online adoption circuit, we do not have an open adoption. There is anonymity for the most part, some level of privacy for every aspect of life except our electronically submitted photos and updates. There is loss in never having met Carmen's birth father, a loss I carry deep in my heart. I was never able to see his face -- which resembles Carmen so, so very much -- in person. When people "what kind of person" me, I wonder what part they're missing. I wonder why they can't understand the unconditional love that I feel for Carmen's birth mother who will always be without, for her siblings who will always be without, for her father who will always be without. They are related by blood to our daughter, to our world, our stars, our sunshine, our rainbow. I mean, they picked us.
They saw our pictures and they picked us. They sacrificed the first smile, sibling relationships, the warm sighs of a milk drunk baby ready for sleep. They sacrificed because they love Carmen with the fierceness that we do. They love her as much as we do and they picked us to love her.
Too often, the birth mother figure is painted as a villain. Someone who was inadequate, who failed somehow, who couldn't pull things together because they didn't care or didn't want to. Too often, a birth mother is someone careless and dirty, someone who is not worthy. Part of me blames the "innocent, pregnant teenager" fallacy for this -- too often, this is the only acceptable form of birth mother and, yet, statistically, it is one that truly doesn't exist as portrayed in film and on television. Carmen's birth mother is not our mortal enemy. She is not an opponent, a rival, someone on another team competing against our own.
She is the woman who gave birth to our daughter and asked me to be her mother. She picked me. And I will spend the entirety of my life fighting for her honor, and the honor of all birth families who are too often not represented fairly. How can I express my gratitude to the woman who, bleeding and stomach stapled from surgery, fought her tears and handed our daughter to us?
She picked us. She picked me. And I pick a lifetime of existing to make her proud.