Monday, May 31, 2010

When Maya Looks Back

In the shower today alone (without Maya) for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed having the entire showerhead to myself. I imagined a day when I would be able to take a shower without Maya asking to get in with me. Then I thought, “Don’t hurry up these years by wishing them away. Savor the moments. Most people don’t get to do babyhood and toddler-hood a second time with the benefit of hindsight and having experienced it once before. You know how fast the years go.” And I thought about all the things I will miss when Maya gets older. I will miss how she plays at my feet and chatters to herself, singing songs she has recently heard and, sometimes, even practicing curse words she has heard. (Ooops!) I will miss how I hear her feet paddling along the wooden floors coming to my bed in the middle of the night and how, when she arrives eye level at my bedside she quietly, and in her best voice, asks if she can sleep next to me, “for just a little while.” I may even miss how she wears my Tupperware on her feet and skates around the kitchen floor or spreads every block and toy on the living room carpet.

Sometimes I am saddened for the mother who gave her life, her Mommy Nikki, because she misses a lot of these little milestones: Being able to open the refrigerator all by herself. Being able to identify all the vegetables on her plate – and liking them! Being able to pour a cup of juice. Being able to climb up onto the toilet to reach the sink and brush her teeth. Being able to take off her own clothes or put on her own seatbelt. Every day, Maya learns something new. I try to keep Nikki apprised and to let her enjoy in the small miracles of our life when she is here or when we go visit her. I have her brush Maya’s hair (Nikki is much better at that than I am). Or test her blood sugar or choose her clothes or read Maya’s favorite books or snuggle in bed with Maya during the night.

People ask if this isn’t confusing to Maya. I don’t think it is. It’s her normal. She will happily announce to people, “I have two mommies!” Most of the people we are with understand what she means. Sometimes people look at me wondering if I am a lesbian. I laugh and let them wonder. Lately Maya has been re-telling the story of her birth and that of her siblings, Trent and Michela., checking with me in a questioning tone to see if she has it right ‘”Mommy, Trent and Michela were taken from your stomach by the doctors and then brought to you to take care of them?” I answer, “Yes, Maya.” “I was taken by the doctors from my Mommy Nikki’s stomach and then brought to you?” Even though this is a pretty shorthand version of the truth, I agree with her because this is how she seems happy envisioning things at the moment. Little by little she will understand the full details.

How will she come to view the circumstances of her life when she is older? I don’t think we can really know. Open adoption is still very much an “experiment” in some sense. (Although in another sense, it is a very tried and true tradition for family to raise another family member’s child, when the biological mother is unable. In our case, the only difference is that we became family with Nikki through Maya; we weren’t family prior to Maya’s birth.) Indeed, raising children in and of itself is as much an experiment. Before becoming a parent, no one has had experience in raising their children. And no one knows what the outcome of his or her efforts will be. That is the definition of what an experiment is, in my book. Trying something you’ve never done before and having faith that it will work out for the best.

Towards the middle or end of this "experiment" we call our lives, when Maya looks back, I hope that she sees that her mother and I worked at making the best choices for her life that we could. I hope she remembers the fondness that Nikki and I share for one another. I hope that Maya does not view my role as a person who has taken away another person's baby, but rather loved her enough to want to bring her and her family into my life. I hope that she sees that Nikki had little choice once the state got involved, but made the best choice for her under the circumstances. I hope that she sees how both her families worked hard to become one family for her sake -- because we all love her. And that both families compromised in order to make the situation work.

I hope that Maya will look back fondly on the times we took her to visit her brother and cousin and aunts and uncles and grandparents and mother and sisters -- on holidays, on their birthdays. I hope she sees how I always thoughtfully pick presents for her family and make sure that I don't forget them. And that I share the best photographs, pieces of artwork, and life stories with them, so they can be as proud of her as I am. I hope she will look fondly on the times her mother and other family members came to see her in her home, with her adopted family. That she enjoyed showing them her latest milestone: riding her tricycle; moving into a big girl bed; painting pictures and hanging them on "her" door in the kitchen.

I hope that she is proud of her birth family as much as her adoptive family. I hope she gains a skill for dealing with people from all walks of life, having walked between the two worlds of her two families. I hope she views the situation as lucky: to have two families even before she marries, when she will have three. (Unless by crazy coincidence, she marries a man from an open adoption who will also have two families! In which case she will have four families in her life!) Not to mention the family that she may one day create. I pray in my heart that she will not find any of us a burden. And that she will know that I did not find the openness of her adoption a burden. I hope she knows I enjoyed it -- I get to brag about her to the only other people in the world who love her as much as I do. I hope she knows that the openness was as much for me, as for her and her mother. I couldn't live with her adoption any other way. Maybe under some other circumstances, I would not have chosen this. But in this instance, for our entire extended family, the openness of the adoption is ideal.

***For other thoughts on how parents hope their children will view their open adoption, see here:


  1. Love this, Michelle: "I hope that she sees how both her families worked hard to become one family for her sake -- because we all love her."

    And also, I "get" bragging on your daughter with the other people who also love her as parents.

    Beautiful post.

  2. Thanks Lavender. My mother used to ask, "What if she runs away to live with her mother?" My first response was, "Then maybe I ought to have been a better mother." But that's not entirely fair, right? Even kids of good mothers run away. My husband, always looking outside the box, had a better thought. "So what if she does? What better place to run than where they love her as much as we do?" If she did run there, they would comfort her and send her home to me.

    All this projecting. . . . One day at a time.

  3. I love the layers that you uncover in the process here. I appreciate all the things you hope your daughter will appreciate and see in the end of this "experiment". It has been a joy to get to know your family here. I look forward to staying connected! Thanks for coming over to Mama C ville too!