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Adoption Blog: Improv Mom
“Our Girl”: Learning What It Means to Share Our Daughter With Her Birth Family
Before we left for Indiana to visit our daughter’s biological mom, Kim, I called to check in. Kim wasn’t home, but I did speak to her grandmother, Mary, whom we never met before. It was a standard conversation covering all the expected pleasantries: “Heard so much about you.” “Looking forward to meeting you.” That sort of thing. However, there was one query that gave me pause. She asked, “How’s our girl doing?” Our girl. Hmmm … interesting choice of words, I thought.
Those were the precise words I wanted to say to Kim. I thought our girl would convey the depth of gratitude and affection my husband and I felt for Kim. That those two little words would let Kim know she was part of a far bigger picture—that the daughter she entrusted to us would always be a part of her life, and that all of us, my family and Kim’s, would be forever connected.
Alone in my bathroom and filled with emotion, I tested it out, casually slipping our girl into my pretend Kim conversation—“You should see what our girl is up to now” and “Oh, that girl of ours...” But it was no good. The intention to say it might be genuine, but any way you toss it out, our girl was ripe for misinterpretation, and ultimately, uneasiness. Our girl could in fact mean just that—our girl, not yours. Not the way I wanted to start our more open, open adoption.
So what did Kim's grandma mean when she asked,“How’s our girl doing?” What was her intention? To be inclusive, as in Beth belonged to all of our hearts? Or exclusive, as in Beth was their girl,merely on loan to us? Soon I would learn exactly what she meant.
It’s getting dark and time for us to leave Kim’s mom’s house. After a full day of traveling and having our first open-adoption visit with Beth’s biological family, my husband Tony, Beth, and I are pooped! Before we head back to the hotel, Kim invites us inside the house she shares with her mother, grandmother, and Beth's three biological siblings (we've been outside playing in the backyard).
At once, I’m struck by the array of family photos arranged above the big-screen TV. Surrounded by school portraits and holiday photos of Kim’s children are baby pictures of our daughter, Beth. I’m surprised to see her prominently displayed as part of their family, but pleased that her pictures hadn't been hidden away in some drawer.
As we hug everyone goodnight, Great-Grandma Mary says to me, “Thanks for taking care of our girl.”
There it is again—our girl. But as quickly as the words tumble out of her mouth, she stops and says, “I mean, your girl.”
So here I am standing face-to-face with my child’s biological great-grandma. A great-grandma who obviously loves and misses (and is missing out on) watching her great-granddaughter grow up. It’s the very reason my husband and I wanted to make this trip in the first place.
“No,” I say glancing toward the family photos, “you’re right. She is our girl.” And we hug again, tightly this time.
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Barbara HerelNew York
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