Today my youngest son turns four years old. In the blink of an eye he grew from a tiny 24 month old into a strong and healthy four year old boy. In the blink of an eye he pushed away the bottles and pacifiers and grabbed onto trucks and games. While I was fending off chaos and blinking back the tears of exhaustion, frustration, and pain, my youngest son grew taller, sturdier. And today he turns another year older. Another year further away from the baby I never knew.
When a doctor or teacher asks me for my boys' birthdays I have to stop and think. I get odd looks when I do this. "How do you not know the birthday of your child?", I am sure they are thinking. But why would I? I wasn't there. I didn't wait for this day with anticipation and excitement. I didn't plan for this day of birth. So I have to think about it, when I am asked. Ask me their adoption dates, the dates they joined our families and I am quick to respond. Ask me a birthday and I pause.
So I don't think too much about the actual birthday. I don't look at my newly minted four year old and think back to his birth. I don't tell him the story of how long the labor was or what his daddy did while we waited for him to arrive. I do tell my boys these stories on their Family Days- how long we waited and prayed for them to come home, how Daddy paced around the room because the van you were riding in to meet us was late thanks to a flat tire, (the oldest), or how nervous and excited we were as we waited in the court house hallway, (the youngest). No, on the birthday of my boys, I don't think much about my actual boys. I think about the birth mothers I will never know.
Do they think about their lost little ones on this day? Is there a woman in Russia today thinking about the tiny baby she gave birth to four years ago? Does she think about this baby boy sometimes? Does the unknown Chinese birth mother think of the little boy with the cleft lip and cleft palate that she left on the steps of an old hotel? I have no answers. But I do know that if the tables were turned I wouldn't think about anything else.
On this day, on the fourth birthday of my youngest son, I send my thoughts to his birth mother. I want her to know that I am thankful to her. I wish she had found her way to better pre-natal care, yes. I wish she had been able to ignore the call of drugs and alcohol while carrying my son. But I am thankful he was born in a hospital. I am thankful that she knew she could not care for him. I am thankful that she carried the pregnancy to term. I am so very thankful to her, for my wonderful son.
She could have made so many other choices along the way. She could have ended the pregnancy. She could have refused to go to the hospital for the birth. She could have left her tiny, hours old baby in the street. She could have walked away from the hospital with that baby in her arms. She could have come back to claim him, dragging him down into her world. She could have said "no" when officials hunted her down and asked for her to sever her parental rights. She could have changed the course of my destiny.
If I could, I would tell her that my son is healthy. My son is funny. My son is smart. I would let her know that he is getting the help he needs. He is growing, both in body and in mind. He is learning about love, and family. He is learning about God. I would tell her about my son's amazing imagination and his love of Curious George. I would share with her his wit and how infectious his laughter can be. I would ask her if other members of my son's birth family cover their mouths when they get to laughing uncontrollably. I would ask her if his quick temper and "outie" belly button are birth family traits. I would ask her if she was aware of proper pre-natal care and simply chose not to care.
One thing I wouldn't ask her is "why". I would only say "thank you". On this, my youngest son's fourth birthday, to him I say "Happy Birthday!" And to the birth mother who gave me this great joy, I say "Thank You. To you I will always be grateful. I thank God for you."