2 weeks ago, I got on a plane with my 5 year old daughter to fly half way around the country to meet her birth family. Just the two of us. Probably one of the craziest, yet bravest things I've ever done. After all, God did give me the word Brave this year as my word of 2016. I just didn't think that would mean getting on a plane and visiting my daughter's birth family, but He did.
If you follow me on Instagram at all, or if you are friends with me on Facebook, I mentioned that I'm not going to share much about Xiomara's birth family. As much as I'd love to share pictures that show how her eyes crinkle up just like her birth sister, or that her eyes are the same dark color as her birth brother, or that her chin is the same as her birth grandma, which was also the same as her birthmama. As much as I'd love to share those, this story is for Xiomara to tell. One day she may have a blog, or whatever is out there then, and she may choose to share all those pictures, or she may choose not to. Just because she is 5 years old, I'm not going to make that decision for her. I value her too much to do that. Even though her birth family gave me permission to share what I want of pictures, for now I'm choosing to allow that decision to be Xiomara's one day, not mine.
Since this blog is Xiomara's baby book in a way, I did want to share how God orchestrated this meeting in the first place.
A year ago, when Xiomara's birthmama died, I found out the night before her funeral. I frantically searched for plane tickets but being they live in Southern Georgia it was impossible to get there in time for the funeral. I was devastated not only at her death, but also because I wanted to be there to honor her life and the life she gave my daughter.
Chris and I talked of taking Xiomara to visit them last spring when she was 4, but it never really came about. Last Mother's Day, I got a call from the case worker from our adoption. We had sent Xiomara's birth grandma a little something for Mother's Day and she was so touched and wanted to know if we would be ok exchanging phone numbers. For some people, maybe this is an easy decision, but for this mama (and her daddy), that was a hard decision to make. But ultimately, love does. We decided to go ahead and share numbers because for Xiomara's sake this was the right thing to do. We texted here and there, and at some point, her birth grandma mentioned how she would love to meet Xiomara one day. I told her, we would love that too, and kind of just left it at that. I honestly have no idea when this became a reality, because all of a sudden we were talking about the possibility of actually doing this. Xiomara would be old enough to understand and remember this trip. This would be a chance to get pictures and questions answered. Most of all, this would be a blessing to her birth family, and although she doesn't realize it now, to her as well one day.
We flew into Atlanta because while her birth family does live in southern Georgia, it was a bit more spendy to fly to the closest airport there. This also gave us a bit of down time before the trip began and when it ended. We also were able to visit with my aunt and uncle in Atlanta, which was special being my uncle was the very first person in my family to meet Xiomara as we stayed with him after our placement. On Sunday morning we started our day out at church in Atlanta, and then began the drive through my daughter's birth state to southern Georgia. Some people may think I'm crazy, but I think in general this gave God a chance to show off because my very busy daughter was amazing the whole 4+ hour drive down and back.
We met her birth family for the first time Sunday afternoon. Words can't express the feelings flowing through my heart when I first saw her meet them. While I had met her birth grandma at placement, I did not meet her birth siblings, and this was a gift for me to be able to hug them.
Nothing can prepare you for the flood of various emotions of what adoption does to your heart. Turning this into an open adoption opened up emotions in me I never expected. Joy at seeing her with her birth family, wonder at the little things in which they were the same, and feelings of mama bear overprotectiveness that I never once thought I would feel.
Most of all, there was a bittersweet feeling of knowing her birthmama should be there. I was driving down the same roads she did when she was pregnant with Xiomara, I was in the home she grew up in, and where Xiomara lived in the womb. I visited the hospital where Xiomara was born so I could finally answer her question of, "Mama, where was I born?". I revisited the church where placement took place. The place I last saw J alive. And I saw where she was buried and got to say a final goodbye.
Monday these floods of emotions kind of broke me. It just was all too much and I became overwhelmed. Thankfully, the caseworker for our adoption was there, and helped me work through some of my feelings. Xiomara's birth family was gracious and understanding, and while this was a happy reunion for them, they understood that this was closure for me, and also a new realization that I was now going to share part of my heart with them.
As I've had time to reflect and try and think through those feelings these past few weeks, I've come to realize those same things that were the hardest things for me, are the most priceless things for her.
Because love does.
I will never once regret bringing her to meet her birth family. It was hard. It was brave. But it was worth it. In the end, I know Xiomara will appreciate having those pictures, those memories, and even a relationship with her birth family one day. I had to lay down my selfishness for her sake.
As I sat by her birthmama's grave reflecting on the life she lived and the life she gave, I couldn't help but think nothing is wasted.
It's from the deepest wounds
That beauty finds a place to bloom
And you will see before the end
That every broken piece is
Gathered in the heart of Jesus
And what's lost will be found again
Nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Reedemer
Nothing is wasted
Not a single part of J's life was wasted. God is using it for good. It's not at all the way we thought it would look, but I am choosing to believe and I have seen the beauty from the ashes. I'm so thankful Xiomara and I had this chance to do this trip together.
"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story never ends with ashes." ~Elisabeth Elliott